The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement states that the NHL regular season is to be 185 days long. Each team is to play 82 games spanning from the beginning of October to the beginning of April. If I’m going to watch every game my favorite team plays (which I usually do), then that still leaves over 100 days that I’ll need to fill my hockey void. Like most big hockey fans, I watch more than just MY team play. Between Center Ice, TiVo, insomnia and a hockey website—I watch as much hockey as anyone I know. I’m confident that this season will be no different.
Each year, I end up following another team more than the rest. For whatever reason, I’ll start flipping through the upper 700’s on DirecTV and stumble on the same team for the most of the season. Two seasons ago, I watched a ton of Penguins games. Last season, I watched a ton of Flyers games. It’s not that I particularly like or dislike either team, I just ended up becoming familiar with their teams and started following them.
Apparently, I’m not the only one that does this. Eddie and Doug over at the Puck Podcast have quantified this entire concept by calling it their Girlfriend Team for the year. Until I heard them talking about their Girlfriend Teams, I never realized that I’ve been doing it for years—but I too end up following other teams throughout the season.
(Sidenote: If you listen to podcasts, you should be listening to them on a weekly basis. The guys do a great job with their news, insights and interviews. On top of that, Eddie is a Kings fan—it’s almost a perfect podcast. Then again, Doug can’t hide the fact that he’s a Ducks fan. Nothing’s perfect.)
Before I get into the guidelines for my potential teams this season, I should clear something up first. The name “Girlfriend Team” is a little bit of a misnomer. If you’re anything like me, you’re married to your favorite team. You stand by them—“for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, ‘Til death do you part.” If that’s the case for you too, then you need to realize that you’re not dealing with a Girlfriend Team here. You’re dealing with a Mistress Team. If you start watching a ton of games, start following their 3rd line combinations, etc., it’s going to be like an affair. You’ll never leave your favorite team for your mistress, but it’s still an affair.
So if you’re like me, here are some guidelines for you to start picking your Mistress Team for the upcoming season:
1. Someone that doesn’t play most of their games at 7:00 (10:00 Eastern). For anyone that has been around here for any extended period of time, I’m watching the Kings 82 times per season. I’m looking for a team to follow for those earlier games. For my Mistress Team’s home games, 5:00 PST is the latest I want to go.
2. HD is a must. It’s sad, but if there are two games on and one is in HD and one is in Standard Def, I’ll watch the HD game 99% of the time. I don’t care if it’s an Islanders vs. Lightning game; the HD game usually wins out. So those teams that don’t broadcast the VAST majority of their games in HD are out.
3. They should have some compelling storylines and/or players this season.
4. I’d prefer that they had a fanbase that likes to communicate and interact online. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather hang with people while I’m watching the games—but there isn’t exactly a huge Carolina Hurricanes contingent in Southern California.
5. It can’t be a team that you have had an affair with in the recent past. If you followed the Flyers (like I did last season), then you can’t follow them again. If you do, that starts to blur the line between your Mistress Team and your Real Team. You might start having REAL feelings for them. That’s not what this is about.
6. I’d much rather find a team that wasn’t shoved down my throat. Unfortunately, that immediately eliminates the Maple Leafs, Penguins and Capitals.
First and foremost, the Flyers were my Mistress Team last season—so they’re out. They’re talent up front and physical play intrigued me, so I thought I’d give them a try. My best friend is a huge Flyer fan, so that made it a little easier to follow them. When he called me and told me how much he loved Scott Hartnell, I had no problem agreeing with him. And I know how good Luca Sbisa is. That’s not something you learn without watching a ton of games.
I’ve considered following the Devils and the Bruins for differing reasons. The Devils have a young team that showed they could win last year without Martin Brodeur for the majority of the regular season. I’m curious to see how they’ll play with him this season. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could watch a Jacques Lemaire team play 82 games. The move may prove to be successful in the WIN column, but it won’t be any more entertaining than it was in Minnesota.
I’m on the fence about the Bruins as well. Their HD is as good as it gets on Center Ice and their team plays a high paced brand of hockey. Add in the rough stuff and they could be a lot of fun for a season long fling. But I’m not sure I’m willing to commit to Jack Edwards’ telecasts for 82 games.
Right now, my two serious candidates are the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues. Both teams have plenty of young talent on their roster, both start their home games at 5:00 PST and both are flying under the national media’s radar right now. Really, they have everything I’m looking for.
If there were no other factors to consider, I’d be leaning towards the Blues. If they can get any kind of goaltending, I think they could surprise some people and take the next step as one of the truly elite teams in the West. Last season, they finished 6th in the West with their kids and this season they get to add Erik Johnson into the mix. Hell, Alex Pietrangelo might even make the team. They’re showing all the signs.
But on the other hand, the Predators have a GREAT blogging community that makes it extremely easy to follow their team. They have 5 fantastic blogs and 2 great podcasts that would help augment my hockey watching experience. They too have a young team: a great young goaltender, one of the strongest young bluelines in the league and a young forward that has the potential to compete for the Calder Trophy. And I put some money on them at 50 to 1.
So there’s my dilemma. Do you have any other suggestions for me? What about you? Aside from your favorite team, who are the teams that YOU are going to follow this season?