It's the mix of emotions equally filled with nerves and excitement that we have all missed as hockey fans since the Stanley Cup was lifted by the Los Angeles Kings on June 11th, 2012. On the eve of the 2012-2013 NHL season starting 100 days later than the original opening night on October 11th 2012, NHL players, owners and hockey fans can finally rejoice that tomorrow we will wake up to hockey games where the points actually matter. With the start of the season looming, the question that hangs in the balance is whether the fans will come back. As the Black and Gold Game at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday evening proved, Pittsburgh is a hockey town and the Penguins streak of consecutive sellouts should continue strong into this season. Are you really going to boycott the game you love and refuse the temptation of watching a healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin fresh off an MVP season in their prime? Are you going to watch Marc-Andre Fleury make a ridiculous glove save only to dwell on the lockout that lasted 119 days too long? Or are you going to celebrate the fact that much unlike the end of the NHL lockout that cancelled the 2004-2005 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a permanent home and have been primed to be an early contender capable of adding to their collection of Stanley Cups.
As the puck drops at Wells Fargo Center and the Pittsburgh Penguins face off against their cross state rivals Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, it's time to forget about the embarrassing labour negotiation that was a tarnishing moment in NHL history. It's time to focus on the highlight reel goals, the sound of the ringing ping of metal when the puck goes off the cross bar and all these moments that make us proud to call ourselves hockey fans. Instead of focusing on the millions of dollars that the NHL and NHLPA fought over, focus on the employees off the ice that will finally get to cash a pay cheque that is very well overdue. Focus on the blood, sweat and the tears that go into building a Stanley Cup champion. Forget about the millions of dollars and the negotiation sessions in the fall that lasted less than the time of a minor penalty. Forget the fact that we were robbed of over 600 regular-season games. It's hard to hate the game that you have grown to love.
There is no reason to boycott the NHL because realistically you will not be able to resist it. When you hear that there was a highlight reel goal, a come from behind victory or a dazzling save, I beg to differ if you say that you will still not come back to this game. On the eve of the opening day in the National Hockey League, it's time to forget what has happened since Gary Bettman locked the doors on September 15th and it is time to focus on what is yet to come. If you have laughed, cried and rejoiced over the Pittsburgh Penguins there is no closing the door on the NHL now. Tomorrow begins the heartache, the roller coaster of emotions and all the highs and lows of a NHL season following the team that you love. After all, it has been nine months since we last saw Sidney Crosby score a goal. We are overdue for a couple of those.