The National Hockey League is back
is the start of the National Hockey League
and after losing the whole of last season to a strike it looks like fans are hungry for it as most clubs report increased
season ticket sales.
Last season's lockout
due to differences over a proposed salary cap only helped disguise the fact that the sport was on its knees. Crowds were down and television figures lagged behind those for American Football, Baseball, Basketball, NASCAR and some college sports.
Trouble is the sport is only really popular in certain parts of the country, the Mid West and North East in particular, and there was never enough ardour or momentum from either supporters or the media to enforce an early end to the dispute.
So it just lingered and it was weird during the whole of the enforced lockout, no one I spoke to during the winter was in the slightest bit bothered. Newspaper's and TV got very bored with the ongoing bargaining discussions and relegated the bickering to few column inches.
Ice Hockey, which was evented by Brits who after conquering Canada in 1763 played field hockey on frozen ground, was once big amongst the blue collar workers of Chicago. The Blackhawks
were one of the original six
franchises but have won diddly for 40+ years.
Last time out, season 2003 / 04, they were the worst team in the Western Conference
and I was at the last home game of the season when a sparse crowd at the United Center
booed their every move. But this time the experts expect better things and they have made the coup of the summer by signing Stanley Cup Championship goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
I hope to get to a few games this season, it's funny because it was the American sport I thought I would get the most into but because of the 310 day strike it's been the least.
I have linked to the Chicago Blackhawks
over on the left hand side there. One interesting fact. Out of the 26 players on the Blackhawks roster
, only 3 are American.
The Blackhawks puck-off at home to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks