NHL season gets underway
2014-2015 season shaping up to be a great one
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
Whether you knew it or not, the NHL season has begun. The defending champion LA Kings opened the season at home against San Jose on Oct. 8 and were promptly shut out 4-0. The early loss will quickly be forgotten, as the game was just the first of 82 in the season. But the Kings’ Stanley Cup run will forever be remembered, immortalized by the championship banner that was just added to the arena’s rafters.
Although the Kings will never reach the same level of popularity as its Staples Center co-inhabitants change word, the Lakers and the Clippers of the NBA, they are building a team with a very solid championship foundation. It seems like the Kings are the forgotten sons of the Los Angeles sports scene, but they have unquestionably been LA’s most successful team of the 2010s.
Of course, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the Kings’ success goes largely unnoticed. Even if the team wins the next five Stanley Cups, the people of Los Angeles will still be more devoted to the city’s other, more historic sports franchises. It is simply too hard to turn Southern Californians into “hockey people.” This is not to say that die-hard Kings fans don’t exist, they are just a minority.
The great irony here is that the state of California has all of a sudden become home to some of the best teams in the Western Conference. Aside from the Kings, who have won two of the last three Stanley Cups, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also boast very talented rosters.
The NHL has firmly planted itself behind the NFL, NBA and MLB in terms of popularity in America, especially here on the West Coast where the rabid hockey fans, like those of the Midwest and Northeastern states, are scarce. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “hockey person” it is easy to get excited about this current version of the NHL.
The 2014-15 season is shaping up to be a good one as the league is chock-full of exciting players and talented teams with dreams of lifting the Stanley Cup in June. If you’re a new fan of the NHL or the sport of hockey entirely, it is important to enter the new season with some preliminary knowledge.
1. Hockey is an incredibly fast and vicious sport.
These are hockey’s most defining characteristics, and some of the first things noticed when watching the sport for the first time. Lost teeth and broken bones are commonplace, as are fights and bone-rattling checks. Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who stands nearly seven feet tall when wearing skates, is one of the game’s most fearsome hitters.
2. The Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings will win the Western Conference
Death, taxes and the Blackhawks or Kings conquering the West; these are the only certainties in life. These two giants of the Western Conference have alternated winning the last three championships. One of the two has appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in four of the last five years.
The Blackhawks are powered by forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, a tag team of superstars who signed matching eight-year contract extensions this summer. For the Kings, it’s all about defense. Led by brick wall goaltender Jonathan Quick, and top-notch defender Drew Doughty, the Kings excel at preventing their opponent from scoring.
3. The Montreal Canadiens are Canada’s best team
The Canadiens, or Les Habitants as they’re known in Montreal, represent Canada’s best chances of bringing the Stanley Cup back home for the first time since 1993. Defenseman PK Subban is the new face of the franchise.
He is coming off a 2014 postseason in which he tallied five goals and nine assists in 17 games while the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
4. Sidney Crosby is still hockey’s best player
Chances are even if you’ve never watched a single minute of hockey, you’ve heard of Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby. From the moment he entered the league, Crosby had the spotlight on him and he did not shy away from the big stage. In only his second season he won the league’s MVP trophy. In his fourth season he captained a Penguins team that won the Stanley Cup. The most amazing thing about Crosby is that this will be his 10th season in the NHL and he is still only 27 years old. Also, he appears to finally be healthy after battling concussions and a broken jaw in recent years. Look for Sid the Kid to dominate everyone in his way this year.
5. The playoffs will be awesome.
This is the one guarantee about every NHL season. Every year in the playoffs we see improbable comebacks, jaw-dropping goals and stellar performances from goaltenders. If you can’t wait until April when the playoffs start, immerse yourself in the sport during the regular season. Whether you’ve been a lifelong fan, recently jumped on the bandwagon or have zero knowledge about the game, now is a great time to be a “hockey person.”