Minor league hockey can be an alternative for fans.
Training camps have not even reached their scheduled start date yet, yet hockey fans are already missing their sport.
We are praying that it won't be a full-year lockout once again, as was the case in the dreadful season that was 2004-05.
Many of us believed that we wouldn't survive without the NHL.
But somehow, we got through it, even if we took a huge hit on the entertainment front.
There are other things for hockey fans to do.
You go into the equation knowing that you will not see the equal of the Bruins-Canadiens, Rangers-Flyers, Hawk-Wings or Canucks-Kings. Once you accept that, you can lower your standards and start making other plans.
There's a speed and ferociousness to college hockey that will shock you the first time you see it in person.
Watching these talented young players skate up and down the ice will remind you of the hockey that you see in the NHL.
You know it's not quite the same thing, and if you want to get technical, the skill level is not as high.
However, from a fan's experience, it is almost always thrilling.
It won't cost anywhere near as much and you will leave with a smile on your face.
Recommended viewing: Boston University-Boston College. This is a true hockey hatefest.
Minor league hockey will surprise you.
No, these players don't have the skill level of NHL players. That's no surprise.
There's usually a difference in the skating ability of players at the minor league level.
However, you will find quite a few young players who are climbing the ladder and will be in the NHL in a year, two or three.
It's fun to try to scout those players out and figure out which ones are NHL-bound.
If you like on-ice fights, you will find plenty at the minor league level (see video above).
If you like shootouts, the minor leagues like the American Hockey League will give you more. Instead of three shooters participating per team, five skaters per team break these ties.
One of the best things about the sport of hockey is how well it's played around the world.
While the hockey in the NHL is considered the best in the world, there are elite hockey leagues throughout Europe.
The best hockey outside the NHL is in the Russian KHL (source: TheSportingNews.com). If you have the wherewithal to fund such a vacation, you could go to Russia to watch top-level hockey.
Hockey is also played at the professional level in Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
You probably are a football fan already.
Hockey may be your favorite sport, but pro football offers much of the same color, excitement, athletic ability and warrior-like mentality.
Instead of watching football until hockey starts, devote yourself to following the NFL and raise your passion level.
By the time the playoffs start, they should be playing hockey again.
Since they aren't playing right now, use the time to brush up on your hockey history.
Go up to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to see the fine exhibits honoring the game's history. You can learn about the great players, coaches and teams of the past.
Watch highlights from the greatest teams in NHL history. Many consider the 1977 Montreal Canadiens to be the greatest team that ever played. They finished with a 60-8-12 record, and they swept the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
There may be one thing better than watching hockey.
You don't have to be a great skater. You don't have to skate at all.
You can play street hockey, roller hockey or ice hockey.
No matter what version of the game you play, you can know the joy of competing. If you can play in a rink and you get the puck on your forehand and you have time and space, you can fire the puck into the upper corner, watch the net bulge and learn the first-hand joy of scoring a goal.
You may have scored a touchdown, hit a home run or nailed a three-point shot in basketball. However, nothing compares with the joy of scoring a goal in hockey.
You may want to play so you can experience that joy yourself.
You've seen the celebrations. Now go do it yourself.