The loss of the beloved Canadiens is breaking hearts around Montreal.
The season should be taking shape.
Storylines should be starting to appear.
It's shouldn't be about hockey's past, It should be about hockey's present.
The lockout means that there is nothing going on, except palaver between the league and the NHL Players' Association...and there's not much of that at present.
It hurts all NHL cities quite a bit, but in this piece we look at 10 NHL cities—five from the U.S. and five from Canada—that are feeling the pain deeper than others.
The Detroit Red Wings have been the best team in the NHL over the last 20 years.
Hockey has been resurgent in the Motor City since the early 1990s.
The retirement of future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom probably means the Red Wings were not going to have one of their classic seasons in 2012-13, but that doesn't mean the fans don't want their hockey.
While other towns can debate the merits of the title, Detroit is known as "Hockeytown."
You can have an American League pennant from the Tigers and a resurgent University of Michigan football team.
However, the fans want their hockey and nothing is going to change that.
When the Red Wings are not playing, the city is going through a major adjustment period.
It's been a lot of close but no cigar for the Vancouver Canucks.
The team has been eliminated from the playoffs by the last three Stanley Cup champions, but they are resilient.
The defeats may have been painful and ego-bruising, but the Canucks are still standing.
If (and when) the 2012-13 season gets underway, the Canucks will have as good a chance as anyone to win the Stanley Cup.
The fans are hungry for a title but even more ravenous for the game itself.
That's the way it is in all Canadian cities where hockey is religion, but it is especially true in Vancouver.
Losing hockey this year would be especially painful for Vancouver.
The 2011-12 season was a renaissance year for the St. Louis Blues.
The team was off to a miserable start when team president John Davidson decided to make a change at the head coaching slot.
He fired Davis Payne and brought in veteran Ken Hitchcock.
While Hitchcock preached the same type of defense and accountability that Payne had done before him, his message got through in a more effective manner.
Instead of losing and stumbling, the Blues started to play effective hockey. They rose from the ranks of playoff outsiders to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The fans of St. Louis responded with a passionate frenzy. They couldn't wait for the 2012-13 season to begin.
However, the lockout has taken the start of the 2012-13 season from them. It may take much more than that.
The city of St. Louis loves the Blues and wants to see them start playing once again.
The lockout is unfair to all hockey fans.
It's a little bit more unfair to the fans in Winnipeg, who waited for 15 years to get a team back after their original Jets left for Phoenix in 1996.
The Jets were not stellar in 2011-12, but they had their moments. They had their best moments when playing in front of their passionate fans at home.
Taking the Jets away from the long-suffering Winnipeg fans is simply wrong.
They waited a long time to see NHL hockey again and they shouldn't have it taken away from them again.
Sometimes a team has taken as much as it can and it decides it's not going to take any more.
The Minnesota Wild was just another opponent on the schedule for most NHL teams.
They had missed the playoffs the last four years and were fairly dull and uninspiring most nights.
That's not way for a hockey team to play from the state of Minnesota is supposed to play. General manager Chuck Fletcher decided the time had come for the Wild to step up.
The idea was that the Wild were going to play with the big boys in the NHL and wouldn't run away from the battle.
Would they immediately become Stanley Cup contenders?
But would they become exciting, interesting and have a shot at making the playoffs?
No NHL hockey in the Twin Cities is unacceptable.
There's going to be an eruption in Edmonton very soon.
It may be this season or it might be the next, but the Oilers are overflowing with young talent.
When this group of young players led by Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins matures and ripens, who is going to stop them?
The Edmonton Oilers have been sleep-walking for a long time and have not won a Stanley Cup since 1990.
However, the young players in Edmonton have a chance to write their own legacy.
It may not be good enough for Eberle, Hall & Co. to join Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey, but it may get them a lot closer than many NHL observers think.
The people of Edmonton are dying to see this young team play once again.
The beloved Black and Gold.
There's plenty of sports activity in Boston to keep addicted fans busy, but Boston must have its Bruins in action if there is going to be full satisfaction.
The leather-lunged fans in Boston appreciate Tom Brady and the Patriots and love Paul Pierce and the Celtics.
The Red Sox have tortured souls for years and will continue to do so.
However, there's nothing like the joy of a great Bruins team to bring the fans out of their seats.
Two years ago, the Bruins did what many fans thought was impossible.
They ended 39 years of frustration and brought home the Stanley Cup for the first time since Bobby Orr was skating in his familiar No. 4 jersey.
The Bruins showed flashes in 2011-12, but didn't have enough push in the playoffs to get past Washington in the first round.
Despite the loss, the Bruins have one of the most talented rosters in the NHL.
Boston fans can't wait to see their Bruins take the ice once again to see if they can bring back their 2011 success.
The dry spell has gone on since 1967.
Every Maple Leafs fan knows the significance of that year.
The 1966-67 season was the last year the NHL was a six-team league and it was the last year the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
Each season brings new hope and taking NHL hockey away from Toronto just isn't right. It's the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame and much more than that.
The Leafs don't look like Stanley Cup contenders in 2012-13, but this could be the season that they make the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04.
Whether or not they do, NHL hockey is a staple in Toronto and it needs to be played for the city to feel whole once again.
The New York Rangers were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference last year and were in a great position to win the Stanley Cup.
However, they fell short in the postseason. They were stopped by the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals and the pain of that loss lingered throughout the offseason.
The Rangers lost because they were outplayed by the Devils and because they did not have enough goal-scoring threats.
Team president and GM Glen Sather attempted to remedy that problem in the offseason by trading for Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Throwing Nash into the mix with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik should give the Rangers a new identity in 2012-13.
Nothing will be given to them, but they appear to have as strong a chance as any team to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.
The fans of New York are dying to see this team play again.
They may have the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and the Knicks have gotten off to a strong start, but few teams get the passionate response from their fans that Rangers do when the fans know they have a real chance to win.
This team has that chance and the New York fans want to see them compete once again.
The 2011-12 season was one of the worst ever for the Montreal Canadiens.
They finished dead last in the Eastern Conference.
Team management cleaned house and brought in a new coach and general manager. Losing like that is unacceptable in Montreal.
Just a year before, the Canadiens had pushed the Boston Bruins to the seventh game of their opening round playoff series.
They lost that finale in overtime. The Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup. That means the Canadiens were not that far away.
Regardless of what kind of team the Canadiens have in 2012-13, the NHL is wrong to take hockey away from the fans of that city.
Gary Bettman may be trying to increase the profits for each team and improve the bottom line, but he has to realize by now that hockey in Canada is not about money. It is about passion and love.
This is especially true in Montreal, where fans have worshipped their Glorieux for decades.
That apparently doesn't matter for those who are locking out the players. They see the lock out as a business maneuver.
It is breaking the hearts of all the Montreal fans.