10 Events to Help Boston Bruins Fans Hold Up Through an NHL Lockout
If he is unable to delve, without delay, into his first season as a Boston Bruin, budding blueliner Dougie Hamilton could return to Team Canada for this year’s World Junior Championship tournament.
Goaltender Malcolm Subban, the team’s top draft choice this past spring at No. 24 overall, is a candidate for the Canadian crease in the same tournament. He is fresh off of joining Hamilton in the talent-laden Canada-Russia Hockey Challenge.
Perhaps fittingly, the region that roots for America’s oldest NHL franchise has one of the broadest selections of hockey at other levels, all of which are immune to NHL labor stalemates.
New England boasts seven minor-pro, 10 junior, more than a dozen men’s and women’s Division I college programs, and a nominally professional women’s team.
The top 10 leagues, teams, tournaments, and other special events occurring this coming season around the Bruins’ sphere of influence are as follows. If fortune comes through in a timely manner, some of these will overlap with a delayed NHL season, but they will likewise be there even in a worst-case scenario.
The Triple-A Team
The AHL’s Providence Bruins will have 38 regular-season home games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center plus 29 away games in one of the league’s six other New England cities.
They will make their usual rounds of anywhere between three and six visits apiece to Bridgeport, Hartford, Manchester, Portland, Springfield and Worcester.
The franchise’s top prospects of an appropriate age and level of seasoning will easily be AHL fixtures for as long as the NHL is on hiatus. These would include Matt Bartkowski, Chris Bourque, Jared Knight, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Max Sauve and Ryan Spooner.
The Eastern Junior League
The Boston Blades
The lone U.S.-based member of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the nomadic Blades will host 14 home games in various venues throughout the region between Dec. 1 and March 6.
Boston’s roster currently lists seven past U.S. Olympians, including the legendary Angela Ruggiero and two celestial Boston College alumnae in forward Kelli Stack and goaltender Molly Schaus.
The AHL All-Star Game
Bruins prospect Alexander Fallstrom will skate over the Spoked-B for his last two times as an amateur on the first two Mondays of February. Fallstrom’s Harvard Crimson will engage Boston College in the second semifinal on Feb. 4 immediately after Boston University and Northeastern wage a civic dogfight.
The losers and winners will reconvene at TD Garden on Feb. 11 for the consolation and title tilts.
The MIAA Championships
The Women’s Hockey East Championship
Both have already seen action in past IIHF World Championship tournaments.
The Men’s Hockey East Championship
The NCAA Tournament
Two of the four men’s tournament regional sites will be in New England―Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. and the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
By this stage, in the highly likely event of the BC Eagles’ participation, there are two choices for those outside of their fanbase.
One option is to express one’s love to hate the team that, beginning in 2008, has made a habit of winning the national title every even-numbered year and will be vying for a repeat in 2013.
The other, if BC is once again the last Hockey East and/or New England program standing, is to get behind them out of conference and/or regional pride.
The AHL Playoffs
Since the turn of the century, no fewer than three New England-based teams have seen action in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Although, the region is fairly title-starved at this level as no one in the five represented states has brought home the Cup since the Hartford Wolf Pack (now Connecticut Whale) in 2000.
There has not been a finalist from the area since the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of 2002.
Regardless, the AHL’s regular season will extend to April 21 and the odds the eight Eastern Conference playoff entrants being all of the eight teams from Atlantic Canada, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia are safe to scoff at.
If a worst-case scenario materializes for the Bruins and the NHL, New England puckheads will still have something to follow and root for beyond the first full month of next spring.