NHL season coming back with a bang

Bradley Piros, Courier Staff

This 2017-2018 NHL season looks to be the best one yet, but why? After last season and all of the Centennial festivities, and some rather spectacular playoff series, the league is looking to move on to even bigger and better things.

Everything about last season was amazing: for instance the 2017 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Busch Stadium with the heated rivalry of the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks; or the 2017 Coors Light Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field; and let’s not forget about the first ever NHL Centennial Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, a rivalry that dates back 1927, at BMO Field in Toronto.

All of those special outdoor games, as well as a stellar post season, led to an exciting season, so how does the league plan on doing it better? To me it’s up to the players. The NHL draws out the best hockey players in the world, and it is by far the most difficult hockey league in the world. Some would even say,

including myself, that the NHL is the greatest sports league in the world. Now with that in mind, the season has already started off great for some players.

Wednesday night, the opening night for the season, there were already some spectacular games. The Toronto Maple Leafs took on and beat the Winnipeg Jets 7-2, the St. Louis Blues beat the returning two-straight Stanley Cup winners, the Penguins 5-4 in overtime. Another game that happened was a 3-0 victory for the Edmonton Oilers against the Calgary Flames, sounds normal enough, right? Well this is the NHL where anything can happen, and Connor McDavid showed just what can take place. McDavid scored all three of those goals for a home opening hat trick. It’s the high scoring games and players like these that really define the NHL and the way the game is played.

Without the greatest hockey players in the world, there obviously would be no such thing as the NHL. However, the league is signing better and better players every year, coming out of the American Hockey League (AHL), as well as the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), a league hosting Belarus, China, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia. Primarily, the AHL is the minor leagues, players get straight out of college and go to these teams to get better and hopefully get drafted to the NHL, just look at Patrik Laine and Auston Mathews for example. On the other hand, you have the KHL; where players will leave for a couple months or years just to keep playing and stay in shape, such as Alex Ovechkin during the 2012-2013 NHL lockout.

Continuing along with that idea, stars are made in the NHL. Right winger for the St. Louis Blues, Vladimir Tarasenko, made his debut in the NHL during the lockout season, and scored two goals to lift them up over the Redwings 6-0 back in 2012. Where did he start playing? You guessed it, the KHL in Russia. Tarasenko is just one of many players who had the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the league, but most importantly, it’s the players like him that make the NHL what it is.

Another example of an exceptional player making a name for himself in the NHL, McDavid. If there is one player in the NHL that you should know, it’s this guy. When he was 15 he was already playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), as an exceptional center forward. This gained him so much attention that by the age of 18, he was starting and the new captain of the Edmonton Oilers and scoring hat tricks on opening night.

Now we could spend all day going on and on about how good the players are, but that isn’t the point. Everyone knows they are good. Hockey fans know who and what they are looking for. The point is, that after the Centennial NHL season, the league has some extremely high expectations to live up to.

Sure, we have two confirmed outdoor games already and those are guaranteed a good time, but nothing in the league really matters if the players aren’t out there playing to their full potential each and every one of those 82 regular season games, and say if their team reaches the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fan expectations just keep going up and up.

Luckily, the NHL has the best players in the world for us to watch week in and week out who go out and perform for their teams, and more importantly, their fans. So, with that, it is only up to the players to keep improving the league, because in the end, it all starts
with them.