This is not news to anyone who follows hockey, but, just in case you have been on a long extended summer vacation – We are Locked Out. The NHL players are locked out and the fans are locked out. As the players scramble to find a team in Europe, or just scramble to find a local rink to rent in order to continue their practices, fans are left befuddled and bewildered. The withdrawal is already settling in, and realistically, the season would not even have started yet, however, training camps would have been in full session.
What can you do? Believe it or not, there is still plenty of hockey left to watch! Hop, skip and jump over to United States of Hockey and locate your area and browse through Chris Peters’s lists of hockey available in your region. Minor leagues, collegiate, junior and pee wee leagues. It is all covered. Chris is still working on some regions, so be patient!
Luckily, I live close to one of the top AHL teams – the Oklahoma City Barons – and with the NHL lockout, we will see some of the top Edmonton Oilers young guns down here for at least part of the season. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz were recently assigned to the team, and when you combine those three with the normal roster, the team should be great fun to watch this coming season. On the minus side, having the NHL players assigned to their AHL affiliates bumps a good many AHL players from the system in a trickle down effect. Some of that group signed in Europe very quickly during the summer while others are waiting for their window of opportunity once the NHL returns.
Per the American Hockey League, AHL team training camps begin on September 28th, and the on-ice portion will take place a few days later. Check with your local team for their dates and if you have the opportunity, attend a few practices during training camp! I will be there. Following the OKC Barons this season, I will also be able to watch the Abbotsford Heat, Charlotte Checkers, Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapid Griffins, Hamilton Bulldogs, Houston Aeros, Lake Erie Monsters, Milwaukee Admirals, Peoria Rivermen, Rochester Americans, Rockford IceHogs, San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars and the Toronto Marlies.
For all NHL hockey fans, this is the season to revel in the minor leagues and collegiate hockey. Enjoy the teams, the ability to talk to the players, the local fans, and the much lower ticket prices! You do not have to give up hockey this season. It is there waiting for you. I invite Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators fans to OKC! The three cities are close enough for a road trip, or a quick flight. Spend the weekend, and watch your minor league teams and their prospects play in OKC!