A Hockey Fan’s Guide to Coping During the Off-Season


Who are we kidding? The NHL off-season makes us all a little nutty. Knowing that there is a serious possibility that the regular season might not even start on time puts us even higher on the “Crazy Meter.” It has been programmed into our brains since our early school days that summer is the best and most anticipated time of the year, but for hockey fans the long, sunshine-filled days can bring with them the rain cloud of unwanted anxiety.

Let it be known and understood that while hockey fans constantly get knocked for being smaller in number than many other sports, it doesn’t mean the fan base is any less passionate. I’ll admit to getting a little superstitious and downright loopy following a Panthers’ playoff win. After they took a 3-2 series lead in the opening round against the Devils with their Game 5 victory, what did I do for Game 6? In hopes that I’d watch them close out the series and advance, I went to the exact same sports bar for the game, forced (ahem, politely asked) the same two friends to come with me, ordered the exact same meal and wore the exact same Panthers t-shirt. The troubling lesson? Superstition only gets you so far. Sad face.

But don’t act like you haven’t done it! Don’t act like when your team was on a winning streak you didn’t purposely fall asleep on your stomach instead of your side on the nights following those five games. So, now that it’s been established that we’re all a little kooky, what do you do for the four+ months that the one thing you invest all your emotion is nowhere to be found? Find below some friendly suggestions:

1.) Plan ahead. One good thing about the off-season is that the schedule for the upcoming season is released. For the 29 teams that didn’t win the Stanley Cup last season, this upcoming year is your shot (unless you’re Columbus, sorry). It’s a clean slate, and it’s there in writing. Have some fun and pick the games that you MUST be at. You might as well start by just going ahead and purchasing your home opener tickets. When they arrive in the mail, stick those puppies up on the bulliten board and admire them every day until October. If you’ve bypassed this with a season ticket plan, go shopping for some new tailgate items.  Also, look at road games in particular and plan any out-of-state business/family trips around when your team will be in whatever town you’re headed to. If you’re an occassional sign-maker, brainstorm some ideas for clever game specific slogans or just start your arts and crafts session right away. You can never be too prepared.

2.) Relive the past. This is touchy, especially if you weren’t pleased with how your team’s season ended (again, the case for the fans of 29 teams). However, even if your season didn’t end with the shine of the Stanley Cup, there were probably still some really great moments that you wouldn’t mind seeing again. For me, I would definitely not oppose to watching Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs when the Panthers came back from a 3-0 deficit with 4 unanswered goals to jump to a 2-1 series lead. Even though I know the tragic end result (curse you Adam Henrique and your stupid OT game-winners), nothing changes the fact that it was an amazing game. Thankfully, the NHL Network has been replaying the postseason so we can do just that. And if you don’t have access or would prefer to relive the season elsewhere, there is always Youtube.

3.) Sit in the dark and sulk.

4.) Chat/tweet with fellow fans. Even though there are no games to obsess over, plenty of major events still occur during the off-season that always cause a stir. Of course there’s the Draft, the first day of free agency, the usual unforseen trades/signings and this year, there is the bonus of an entire labor dispute that we can yelp about! The world of hashtags makes it beyond easy to get the discussion going about, really, anything you want. Did you just have a flashback to the Panthers’ only OT win of the regular season last year? Talk about it! Tweet at strangers: “Hey, remember last year’s home opener when we beat the Lightning in a shootout? How awesome was that! Man I can’t stand Lecavalier…” Each team in the league has a tight-knit community connected by social media, and we’re all just as crazy as the rest of them, so embrace it together in 140 characters or less.

If these suggestions fail you, kindly disregard this entire post and do what the players do: hit the golf course.

Thanks for reading! As always, we welcome any comments.

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