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10 Positive Hockey Stories from the First 10 Weeks of the NHL Lockout

Al DanielCorrespondent IIOctober 5, 2015

10 Positive Hockey Stories from the First 10 Weeks of the NHL Lockout

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    Last Saturday was the 10-week mark of the evaporation of the NHL’s previous CBA and the resultant beginning of the ongoing lockout. This Friday will mark exactly 10 weeks since NHL teams would have convened for training camp had a replacement CBA been installed.

    Amidst the exponentially agonizing wait for normalcy to return to hockey’s top circuit, puckheads have been able to find solace elsewhere in the sport.

    Locked-out players have reached out to their supporters in creative and charitable ways and NHL franchises have secured long-term existence in their current market, while others have helped to promote interest in their fledgling female equivalents.

    Meanwhile, amateur leagues and at least some annual rituals have gone on without interruption. Or, in some cases of cancellation, parties who would have been involved have defiantly taken alternative routes to keep stoking interest in the sport.

    Naturally, all enthusiasts want the NHL’s labor stalemate resolved in a hurry, but there have still been appreciable hockey headlines through the first 10 weeks of what should have been the preseason and regular season.

    The best stories are recounted as follows in chronological order.

September 24

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    Brendan Shanahan, whose second season as the NHL’s top disciplinarian is still on hold, made an impeccable assessment regarding the United States League’s push for a safer, cleaner game.

    “Instilling the proper approach to the game at the junior level is critical both to improving player safety and developing players who someday will become effective NHL players,” Shanahan told nhl.com’s Mike G. Morreale.

    The USHL, a hotbed for NHL draft picks and a popular skill-honing destination for college commitments, announced its comprehensive plan on the cusp of this season.

    If it works and other amateur leagues follow suit, it could pay long-term dividends in the professional ranks as players come in with better habits.

October 17

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    Total donations reached six figures when fans came to a professional-collegiate crossover scrimmage organized by Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa.

    A conglomeration of NHL players, known as Bieksa’s Buddies on this night, shook off initial rust and claimed an 8-7 decision against the host University of British Columbia varsity team before an audience of 5,000-plus.

October 24 and November 27

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    Two NHL fanbases in as many months have taken a breather from their worries about this particular season and breathed easier about future campaigns.

    First, the New York Islanders cemented their deal to move into Brooklyn’s pristine Barclays Center in 2015. Almost exactly five weeks later, the Phoenix Coyotes declared that they are prepared to extend their lease at Glendale’s Jobing.com Arena.

November 1

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    Over their first weekend of action following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on the Northeastern coast, the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers offered free admission to two home games.

    Two nights after the announcement, they played to capacity crowd of 8,525 in a 3-2 win over the Hershey Bears, then drew another full house the next afternoon when they engaged the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The front office later noted that concomitant collections had amassed more than $3,000 for local storm recovery.

November 9

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    Indiana’s two most legendary puck products intersected when Mike Emrick, the quintessential NHL play-by-play announcer, stepped into the Fort Wayne Komets broadcast booth for one night.

    The Komets have existed in one form or another, either as a Triple-A or Double-A team, every season since 1952 and Emrick’s top influence, Bob Chase, has been their broadcaster for the majority of that period.

    Both men were openly humbled to share the duties of calling a game earlier this month. In addition, it is safe to assume that local listeners were thrilled to consume Emrick’s services while the nation waits for him to return to his regular job at the NBC Sports Network.

November 12

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    No work stoppage barring current players from generating fresh stories could stop the Hockey Hall of Fame’s annual night of reflection on the chronicles of its newest inductees.

November 13

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    At least one hockey matchup saturated with Olympic-caliber talent has taken place in an NHL arena this season.

    As part of their NHL counterparts’ new pledges to offer financial and PR boosters, the Toronto Furies and Team Alberta of the Canadian Women’s League faced off at the Air Canada Centre before an appreciable audience of 5,000-plus earlier this month.

November 13

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    Who needs a bird call these days when you have Twitter?

    That was precisely how Andrew Ladd and Mike Richards attracted some 200 fans to join them, along with Ladd’s Winnipeg Jets teammates Jim Slater and Mark Stuart for an impromptu pickup game.

November 20

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    Along with the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, another NHL tradition has officially melted off of the 2012-13 itinerary with the cancellation of the Kraft Hockeyville contest in Canada.

    It took little time for Kraft Canada to jump on the rebound and simply pledge $1 million to youth hockey programs around the country. They weren’t going to ride the PR pine for a whole year just because the NHL is sitting out indefinitely.

November 22

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    More charity game action and more moves for Hurricane Sandy relief made headlines last week when a nucleus of Rangers and Flyers players announced they will join a sprinkling of other NHLers for a scrimmage in Atlantic City, N.J.

    The said game was conducted this past Saturday in a packed Boardwalk Hall with a team captained by Brad Richards skating past a Scott Hartnell-led group, 10-6. Within moments of the final buzzer, participants blamelessly started to propose another charity tilt for the same cause in the near future.

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