LONG DISTANCE THOUGHTS

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As we started the new year, as hockey fans we could look back at 2020 and think, what a crappy year. And don’t get me wrong, it was. It was a lot closer to crappy than it was to good. There was no NCAA tournament, no ACHA tournament, all of the international tournaments at the end of the 19-20 season were cancelled. 

Plenty of 20-21 hockey has been cancelled, too. The IIHF cancelled the women’s junior tournament. A decision that was completely wrong in my opinion. You spent the money on the men’s tournament, and told the women, “you’re not good enough” even though women’s hockey is growing rapidly. And if it was really about the money, why cut off half the population? The Ivy League teams have all cancelled their seasons, as have the Alaska schools. In the case of the Alaska schools, maybe forever.

On the plus side, there were lots and lots of bubbles & pods. And lots & lots of days with three or four games a day to watch. There were days in August, when you had as many as six NHL playoff games. Are you kidding me? And in the first three rounds you would normally have a minimum of three games. 

Then, just as you got desperate for hockey, the ASU season started. Are they scheduled to play 28 games, all on the road? Yes. Is it better than no season? 100%. To this point in the season (halfway), is their record as good as we would like. No. 4-8-2 could just as easily be 8-4-2, but unfortunately it is not. ASU has lost some leads late, & lost in OTs. They have not really been blown out since the opener at Michigan.With 14 games left on the schedule, they have time to turn it around and see if they can convince whoever decides, that they are worthy of an NCAA bid. Just as important…well, not really just…probably more so, they officially announced their new on campus “multi-purpose” arena. No one can question the university’s commitment to the program any more. Who’s got next, ladies? (Just seed to plant to the school that’s number one in innovation)

As the ASU season got started, then came the NCHC pod in Omaha. Back to triple & quadruple headers. YES! And outside of Colorado College having to quarantine for the last two weeks before it, they got in 38 of the originally scheduled 40 games. They did a tremendous job in the pod & the hockey was great. Very few blowouts. 

Now the NHL is just about a week from starting up again, and it will feel like the “original six” no matter what team you root for. All games against your own division as well as the first two rounds of the playoffs. That mean you might face a team as few as 12 times or as many as 15 times. I can feel the hate already. 

By the time September rolls around, things might go back to “normal” whatever that means any more.Which is something we all crave, but for now, I will try to take the hockey positives that come out of this crazy pandemic world.

Finally, kudos to Team USA for winning the World Junior Championships. Everyone knew they were good. Just no one expected anyone to beat Team Canada and those 19 players on the ice that were first round NHL picks. Let alone pitch a shutout.

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