Are you ready for some hockey?
I have never been sure why a P.A. announcer would ask the question “Are you ready for some hockey?” because obviously every hockey fan is ready for hockey. The months of June-September are the longest three and a half months for any hockey fan. So to answer the question, we have our drinks, our jerseys and our hats (always useful to bring one or two to a game, just in case someone scores three goals and a hat trick breaks out), so yes that makes us ready for some hockey.
This season, the 75th of the American Hockey League, promises to be a good one. The league welcomes the Barons in Oklahoma City, the Checkers in Charlotte, and the Devils in Albany, to the league. There is youth and talent throughout the league and hopefully those skills can be showcased nationwide, with the possibility of players getting the call up to the NHL.
Once again, the Hershey Bears are stocked and are poised to reach the playoffs again, but this season may not be a complete runaway. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins stocked up on talent and the Norfolk Admirals are under new leadership, and after missing the playoffs by less than one game last season, are ready for to take that extra step into the playoffs. The rest of the East Division (including new comer the Charlotte Checkers, formerly Albany River Rats) all have one more year of experience under their belts and should make the Bears and Penguins route to the playoffs a little more difficult.
The Worcester Sharks, behind the goaltending of Alex Stalock and the veteran presence of Jonathan Cheechoo, have a good shot at winning their division once again, along with the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Chicago Wolves, who are almost guaranteed playoff spots. All three teams will be challenged by opponents day in and day out, as almost every team in the league have made improvements.
Boys, let’s play hockey and to those of you who have always wanted to attend a hockey game but never have, make this year different. Attend one game and there is a pretty good chance that you’ll be back for more. Remember fans, wait for the stoppage in play before leaving your seats and enjoy the next nine months, because before you know it, summer will be here once again.
East Division—Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins/Hershey Bears
West Division—Texas Stars/Chicago Wolves
North Division—Abbotsford Heat/Hamilton Bulldogs
Atlantic Division—Worcester Sharks
Calder Cup Champion—Hershey Bears (No matter how much I hate to say it)
I’ll be back in throughout the season to update everyone and to update my predictions.