An NHL Fan's Guide to Getting Through the Summer
Although the NHL schedule has been out since the end of June, it has not quite been enough to cure hockey fans of their summer withdrawal.
Fans are looking for anything to keep them going until the regular season kicks off in October. Whether it's watching YouTube highlight videos or following their favorite players on Twitter for amusing summer vacation updates, there is always some sort of temporary fix in sight.
As the calendar continues to head towards fall, what are some things you can do to finish getting through the offseason?
Here are some ideas.
Select Your Games for Next Season
Even though teams don't put individual game tickets on sale until September, that doesn't mean you can't determine what games you want to go to. The schedule is out, after all.
This is a good time to sit down with a friend and pick a day to go see your favorite team in action. If you don't set a date in stone, you can always throw ideas around and settle on something when you have a better idea of what your schedule is like.
But if you do luck out and can pick a game, you will have something to put on your calendar and start a countdown for.
Plan a Road Trip
Again, just because you can't buy the game tickets doesn't mean you can't start to plan a road trip.
Think about what NHL cities you want to go to, and if you know anyone adventurous enough to go with you. From there, take a look at hotels and (if needed) flights within your budget and before or after the game hot spots to get a meal or an adult beverage.
Many NHL cities have plenty to do outside of hockey games. New York City's Times Square is a tourist mecca, while Pittsburgh has incline cars that take passengers up a hill to give them great views of the city. Riders can get off at the top and look down at the city skyline and take pictures before heading back down.
Each city will have restaurants and other attractions that you won't get anywhere else. Although I am not one to begrudge anyone of a quick McDonald's meal if needed, it's always good to see and try new things.
I guarantee that after one road trip, you will be addicted to supporting your team when they're away.
Get in the (Social Media) Game
These days, almost everyone and their mother has a Facebook and/or a Twitter page, and your favorite team is likely no exception.
Team social media pages provide a great place to get the latest news on your favorite team. They may also include tidbits on your team's history and feature stories on your favorite players and coaches. Even in the offseason, sports social media pages always find something to talk about.
If you are on either or both of these websites, make sure to "like" or "follow" your team. Aside from keeping up with the news, you will get to interact with other hardcore fans, making for some interesting discussion. It will give you something to look forward to each time you log in to your profile page.
Plus, many NHL players now use Twitter to interact with fans by providing interesting updates on their personal lives. Some even respond to fans' tweets and answer questions. Many players have gained large followings, and more are signing up as the offseason continues.
Read a Good Hockey Book
In the 2010 offseason, I wrote an article about books all hockey fans should have on their bookshelf. If you want to know what I suggest, you can flip through it, and yes, my recommendations still stand almost a year after I published that slideshow.
Reading a hockey book is a way to get insights you will not hear anyone else. A great story is one that team websites and Wikipedia don't tell you. If you thought you knew everything about your favorite player or team, a book about them will make you think again.
There are many different hockey books available. Some are just history books on the NHL or a specific team. Others tell the story of a standout player or involve the march towards the Stanley Cup.
And of course, there are many available for those of you that want to learn how to play hockey or improve your skills in the sport.
Going down to your local bookstore or buying a hockey book online, or even downloading one to your e-reader, is a great way to pass the offseason. Buy the right book, and you'll have a hard time putting it down.
Watch a Hockey Movie
Like any other season, summer has its share of bad weather days. Whether you're tired of the high heat and humidity and want to sit in the air conditioning or get out of the rain, come on inside and watch a good hockey movie.
Obviously, Miracle, the story of the 1980 USA Olympic team, is a classic. The Mighty Ducks series or even The Cutting Edge, which tells the story of a hockey player who trains to be a pairs figure skater, are also fine choices.
NHL teams may also have DVDs available about players or a Stanley Cup run. If your team has won a Stanley Cup at any point, it's likely that there is a DVD about that championship. They are sold at almost any place that has DVDs.
A movie is always a good way to spend your time when you have nothing on your calendar or just want to have a lazy day. For hockey fans, this is another way we can get ourselves stoked for the upcoming season.
Read the Stanley Cup Journal
Every year, the Hockey Hall of Fame website puts together the Stanley Cup Journal. The journal follows the Stanley Cup from the time before it is awarded to the champions all the way to the banner raising ceremony.
In between, stories are told about how each player and hockey operations person spent their day with the Cup.
Even if your team didn't win the Cup, this is still a great read. The Cup goes to many interesting places on water, land and air. The photographs also grab your attention and make you want to keep reading the stories.
At the end of each journal entry, you get a sneak preview as to who is getting the Cup next and where it is going. You will find yourself coming back for more and will have something to for a good chunk of the offseason.
To check out the Stanley Cup Journal, go here.
Watch YouTube Videos
Did you see a goal or an amazing save that you just can't get out of your mind? Are you addicted to getting behind the scenes information or watching embarrassing bloopers made by other teams?
YouTube is the place to look.
The NHL has a YouTube channel where they upload highlights of all of the league's 30 teams. These are in high definition, and the NHL's page is the best place to look for your team's best moments.
However, typing the name of the team or the player you are looking for video of is the easiest way to find great videos.
Other searches that yield results worth a view (or multiple views) include NHL commercials, hockey fights or hockey bloopers. Of course, you're not limited to what you can look for, so if there's something else you want to see, don't let me stop you.
Start a Hockey Collection
You're likely reading this because you're a hardcore hockey fan, so why not show it by collecting something related to the game?
There's no limit on what you can collect if you're interested in doing so. While collecting hockey jerseys is a popular hobby (and a pretty serious one for some), you do not have to go that route if you don't want to or can't afford the expense.
You can start in on game programs, ticket stubs, trading cards, hockey sticks, hockey pucks, bobbleheads, pennants, photos and many more items.
An Internet or Ebay search for your item of choice will give you plenty of choices to buy things or interact with other hobbyists. Plus, when you buy something for your collection, you get to look forward to receiving a package.
And since most of us here are adults and our mail is either junk or bills, knowing a package is coming is like Christmas.