Yes we have been without NHL hockey for far too long now. Longer than any sports fan should have to endure.
While the petty bickering at the top-level continues on into early January, the Manchester Monarchs are right in the thick of things in a season that is just over a third way through. The Kings' AHL affiliate sit in eighth place in a tight race in the Eastern Conference of the league. First and 10th are separated by just 10 points.
There are a lot of NHL players down there playing out the season. Some, like Dwight King, Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov and Jordan Nolan, you know from face-time on the Kings. But there is a whole group of burgeoning young talent that you don't know, and should really get to know soon.