Today marks the 74th day that the NHL is locked out. Games have been cancelled through December 14, the Winter Classic has been cancelled, All‐Star weekend in Columbus has been cancelled. This is something that does not sit well with anyone who is a fan of the league and who is employed by the league or a team.
What can the hockey fan do in this time of need to get their fix?
First off, if you want to watch a game you can try to go to your local team’s AHL affiliate. If you’re an Islanders fan, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are located in Bridgeport, CT, just a quick ride on the metro north railroad from Grand Central. The Rangers AHL affiliate is the CT Whale, located in Hartford, CT easily reached by car and by Amtrak train. The NJ Devils AHL team is the Albany Devils, located in Albany, NY. This is a farther commute but can be fun if you make a weekend of it.
Usually referred to as a step below the AHL, the ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League) is the only other league with collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ties to the NHL. Meaning when a player is drafted by an NHL team they are at times first sent to play with the team’s AHL or ECHL affiliate. 25 of the 30 NHL teams have an ECHL affiliate. Although these leagues have their ties with the NHL CBA, the current lockout is not affecting their play. The Trenton Titans play at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, NJ. They are the ECHL affiliate of the NHL Philadelphia Flyers and AHL Adirondack Phantoms.
You can get some great NHL style hockey by attending one of the local AHL or ECHL games.
Another option is to tune into the NHL Network, where they are broadcasting KHL games. The KHL is the Kontinental Hockey League based in Russia. The majority of the players in this league are Russian, having played or been offered to play in the US for the NHL. This is a great way to see some NHL players who have gone to Europe to escape the lockout, hopefully giving us fans a sliver of hockey action to just barely satisfy our much needed craving for the game.
Locally, you can skate at one of the many skating rinks, preferably wearing your favorite NHL jersey while sporting some fresh CCM’s. Just rocking your team’s jersey in this desperate time hopefully can turn your hockey frown upside down. Bryant Park in Manhattan, 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, has a FREE skating rink, but if you do not own your own skates you will be paying for a rental pair. I will just clarify that they will be figure skates, so my suggestion is to invest in some hockey skates.
At another NYC location in midtown, Rockefeller Center skating ranges around $20 per session. This can also be a fun holiday past time skating beneath NYC’s own Christmas tree.
As talks between the league and players continue, so we hope, we cannot do anything to affect the outcome. We can only embrace every which way hockey can be brought into our lives until this disagreement is resolved, and then of course hopefully we say bye bye to Gary Bettman.