So that is it, a new champion has been crowned. During the time from October to now, someone could have conceived and given birth to a child. A 9 month ride is now behind us and the hockey season is officially over.
The 2011-2012 season, or rather the off season cast a dark shadow over the hockey world as we lost the likes of Wade Belak, Derek Boogard and Rick Rypien from the ranks. The entire hockey world was ground to a halt on September 17th 2011, when the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team lost its lives in a plane crash just before their opening game of the season.
The game itself is the best way to celebrate the lives of those we lost and what a ride it has been. I guess at the start of the season, no-one had pegged LA Kings and New Jersey Devils as the Stanley Cup finalists, but once again, hockey shows us why nothing is ever certain. There have been many upsets during the year and some great battles. Perhaps few of the most memorable ones of the season will be the Winter Classic between the Rangers and Flyers (and its accompanying HBO documentary) or the battle of Pennsylvania in the first round of the playoffs.
However, there was some doubt whether the European continent would be able to watch the season as the NHL kicked off the regular season with no TV deal in place for Europe and it wasn’t until a lot later on to October that things started to unfold and deals were put in place. For the Scandinavian/Nordic countries, the TV deal was quite sensational as they had the option to watch every single game if they so chose.
For the UK, the rights moved from ESPN America to Premier Sports. At first I was sceptical of Premier Sports’ capability and to be fair, it took the guys there some time to find their feet with the sport, but as the season went on, the coverage got better. The only thing that Premier Sports needs, is availability on the Virgin Media TV package as at the moment it is not an option. Also, the techie nerd in me wants the channel to get an HD channel to its ranks. All in all, I think they have done admirably well after getting started with no experience for hockey and covering ten games per week. Now that’s pretty good going for a non-hockey market TV channel.
On a team level, I think the Penguins are one of the most talked about teams of the season, even if they fell at the first round. If the season showed anything of the Penguins roster is that it is deep. With Sidney Crosby sidelined again for long period of time, Yevgeni Malkin pretty much single handedly put the team on his back and took a big leadership role. He was dominant the whole season and carried on dominating in the World Championships as well.
The other individual effort that probably came through this season was the emergence of Flyers’ Claude Giroux. The Flyers team was embattled and faced a lot of adversity with injuries and played without captain Chris Pronger the whole year. Giroux, despite his young age showed tremendous leadership and the play he showed through the Flyers’ playoff run was a true showing of what he is capable of. He is definitely one of the leagues’ brightest stars going forwards.
I can only say, what a season it has been. It has been (on most part) a fitting tribute to hockey and the thrills it provides. Right now, I think the two main benefactors of the season wrapping up is the family and my sleep rhythm as I don’t need to stay up till the early hours of the morning to watch games.
I could wax poetic about the season and its nuances till the cows come home, but in the tired state, it is difficult to recall all the highlights and lowlights of the season. In either case, it’s only 52 days to go till the next puck drop and the season I follow starts with the traditional Pitsi Tournament in Finland.
Is it October yet?