This is an easy 10-step program to ensure you survive the hottest months of the year and reach the beginning of next season with minimal psychological damage.
1. Like any other huge task, the first step is always one of the most important. The way you handle the NHL Draft will go a long way towards determining how well you’ll handle the rest of the offseason. It’s easy to look at these 17-year-old kids and think about how they’re going to change your franchise. But just because McKeen’s and ISS tell you everything about your new hotshot prospect, you might have just drafted Alexandre Daigle or Fat Palloon. For your own mental health, you might want to hope for the best, but expect the worst. We’re talking about survival here.
2. Amateurs will tell you that a hockey fan can not survive without the Free Agent Frenzy of July 1st. It’s a day that finds everyone counting down to the final hour, getting the TSN trackers up, refreshing Twitter’s API until it runs out – and then getting nothing. Professional hockey fans that have been through this before have some insider knowledge. They know that instead of it being a one-day thing, sometimes that one-day Free Agent Frenzy can be more like a 60-day Free Agent Fizzle. Pace yourself.
3. It’s easy to fill the absent hours of July and August with the prospects in your organization. You shouldn’t spend a disproportionate amount of time learning (and obsessing) about young players who will probably never play an NHL game for your team. Instead, you should obsess about things like, “We don’t have a goalie,” “I would kill for a decent defenseman,” and “Who the hell is going to score for us this year?” No one cares about that 6th round pick you got from the Blue Jackets for a 29-year-old, no-name prospect. Like anything else in life, it’s imperative to focus on the important stuff.
4. Under no circumstance should you follow Ilya Kovalchuk, any of his potential contracts, Lou Lamoriello’s smirk, the league’s definition of “circumvention,” or Gary Bettman’s motives for more than 17 hours over the offseason. It’s OK to dabble, but if you get too much it can become a serious problem. Like anything else, the key is moderation.
5. In order to keep sanity, hockey fans should never expect anything important to come of something called a World Hockey Summit. They shouldn’t expect anything noteworthy either. Nor useful. Take it for what it is: An artificial excuse for people to talk about hockey in the middle of the offseason. And for Brian Burke to put his face in front of cameras before he spontaneously combusts from lack of attention.
6. When the NHL is considering a few rule changes, take a deep breath and relax. Keep in mind that all of these are only suggestions to make the game better. Yes, things like the shootout and the trapezoid started as ideas to help make the game better, only to blossom into the fantastic concepts that all hockey fans know and love today. None of these ideas are any different. (Most importantly, if you see the picture of a rink with only one faceoff circle in the attacking zone, resist the urge to rip one of your eyeballs out of your head so you can look like a Cyclops.)
7. Thankfully, the NHL and its Players Association have tackled social media to help fans make it through the darkest days of the offseason. On that note, here’s a great survival tip: Pick up their latest effort to help make hockey fans feel better about their situation, “Homeless Today by Paul BizNasty.” Featured on the premiere issue’s cover is the NHL’s very own Ilya Kovalchuk.
8. Another great way to maintain sanity throughout the offseason is to pick up other hobbies to help pass the time. I find that gambling on hockey futures is a great way to prove I can be a degenerate in multiple facets of life. All I have to say is this, “Atlanta Thrashers, 75/1 baby!” Don’t judge me.
9. It’s important to note that the correct answer to “Is it October yet?” is NOT “At least there’s preseason!” Just stop it right now. Preseason games matter about as much as Willa Ford’s acting skills. When you’re trying to get through the summer, remember what you’re striving towards! It’s NOT a game between ECHLers in Kraft’s Hockeyville in September.
10. Blackhawks fans need to stop and inhale has much as they can. Breathe in the offseason. Enjoy being on top of the world. Focus on the fact that you’re #1 for the first time in 49 years. And when you remember that half of your team will be wearing a Thrashers jersey next season, resist the urge to drink bleach.
In the end, the most important thing to understand is that nothing happens during the offseason. Draft Day trades? Not really. Free Agent Frenzy? More like Free Agent Flop. Nothing will happen at the World Hockey Summit, and nothing will happen with Ilya Kovalchuk no matter how many days you follow his drama. All you have to do is remember that these three months are supposed to be a time of rest—for both players and fans. So next time you see someone post: Jeff Carter for Jason Spezza (e3), remember you should be kicking back and relaxing.
Together, we can get through this.