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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I thought the next time we'd see the NHL would have been in October.

Things looked bleak and the folks who like to think they're in the know thought the ice had already melted.

As it turns out, we'll get NHL hockey back in a couple of days.

That fact begs the question, who is happiest about that happening?

Undoubtedly, the fans of the game are the most pleased (not to mention all of the folks who work at the arenas and will get their jobs back).

Fans will love, like they did in 1994-95, the condensed 48-game schedule. They'll get their hockey at least three, and usually four, times a week for three months. Every time they turn around, their team will be playing.

But what about the players? The guess here is that they're a little bit happy and a little bit not so.

It will sure be nice to start getting paid again. That's never a bad thing. But having to play four dozen games in about three days is not so good.

Injuries are going to be more prevalent. So many games so quickly will just wear these guys down in a hurry.

And how about the owners? These dudes are all rich (to varying degrees) so even if the season had been wiped out, they'd still have very expensive bread on their tables.

But now that it's coming back, they'd like the opposite of the players, more games.

A shortened season means fewer home dates. So, instead of 41 home games (and let's not forget the preseason games lost because a hot dog and beer in preseason costs the same as it does when the games count), there will be only 24. Seventeen regular season games lost is a big hit no matter how large your 401K is.

And what of the league office? They lost their biggest non-playoff event, the Winter Classic, and the All-Star game. That's two pretty big PR hits to a sport that was turning the corner in this country as far as popularity goes.

So, we have degrees of happiness and unhappiness all around, but to the folks like us, fans of the game, we just want the game.

And what will we see when the big boys finally lace 'em up beginning Saturday? Because even in a shortened season, if your team wins the Stanley Cup, you're not going to be worried about any asterisk being attached.

Remember, there are no asterisks on Lord Stanley's mug.

So, which team hoists the Cup come June (or July?).

The chic pick seemingly every season is the same, the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the Pens are the most high profile, and are plenty talented, but I just don't see it. Crosby, in a shortened season, better get some time off because of his injury risk.

But the problem with that is no team can afford to keep its stars off the ice because every game, when you only play 48 of them, is big. I just see the injury bug biting Pittsburgh.

And what's laughable to me is the "experts" thinking the Edmonton Oilers will be a player. Really.

There's a really good reason why the Oilers have been drafting so high lately, they're not very good. Their offense will be explosive and so will their defense. And having your defense explode in any sports spells trouble.

As for the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, sorry but there won't be a repeat. Winning once is hard enough. Winning back-to-back in this day and age, forget it.

It will come down to the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers and the Canucks win the Cup in five games.

Most pundits believe younger teams will be able to deal more easily with the lack of rest the shortened season will bring. And I buy that, too.

But a veteran Canucks team will be smart enough to survive the regular season and then be savvy enough in the playoffs to get it done. They've been close for a while and now will finally get it done.



Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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