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Golden age for hockey fans

by John Kreiser / NHL.com
Because our schedules usually don't overlap, I can go weeks at a time without seeing Phil Coffey, our senior editorial director here at NHL.com and someone I've known since we were covering Rangers games at the Garden a couple decades ago.

But with the arrival of the playoffs and a lot of our staff out on the road, he's been here later and I've been coming in earlier (my other job here is night editor). We actually got a chance to talk this week, and Phil came up with an observation that I'd never thought of.

After giving me the rundown on what was going on in each of the eight playoff series, Phil looked around at our computer-filled newsroom, the TVs showing the NHL Network, the reams of information that we take for granted these days and asked rhetorically, "Where was all this when I was young?"

Since we're about the same age (hint: In the first NHL game I covered, one of the teams was the California Golden Seals), that remark stopped me in my tracks.

I've been a hockey fan for a lot longer than I've been a writer -- and believe me, this really is a golden age for hockey fans. A lot of the stuff that younger fans, in particular, take for granted wasn't around not all that long ago.

On the ice, the game is faster and more intense than ever (watch a game now and one from 20 or 30 years ago and see what you think), and it's easier to watch than ever. Between our own GameCenter (invaluable for the serious fan) and the Center Ice package (ditto), you can watch every playoff game (and almost every regular-season contest) that's not televised nationally -- most of them in high-def (a big change from the fuzzy black-and-white sets of my youth). Don't forget the ability for those who have satellite radio to listen to any game on XM. It's a far cry from the days, not all that long ago, when you were lucky to be able to see road games on Saturday nights, as we were in the New York area for years.

Then, of course, there's the Internet. Don't want to wait until the morning to check on your fantasy hockey team? A few clicks of your mouse and you can get just about any stat you want from NHL.com. Goals, assists, PIMs, hits (what were those?), faceoffs -- they're all there, updated constantly during games. Of course, you can also get all the late scores that you used to have to get the next morning -- what I would have given for an easy way to find those late Rangers scores back in my college years!

But there's more -- lots more. Want to see that spectacular Alex Ovechkin goal? That amazing Martin Brodeur save? Who needs TV (which probably would ignore it anyway)? Just go to NHL.com (or the team's Web site), make a few clicks, and there's Ovi lighting up the scoreboard or Marty robbing someone else, right on your computer. Miss a highlight from a game last week, or did a buddy tell you to check something out from a game you missed when you were away for the weekend? It's all there -- any time you want it.

Newspapers may have cut back on covering hockey, but there are actually more places than ever to read about the NHL.

Of course, we'll start with NHL.com -- something I would have killed for in my younger years. For those of us who grew up before the Information Age, the idea of having a cornucopia of hockey stories, stats and information available at your fingertips is mind-boggling -- a lot better than hoping the Sunday paper might  do more than a couple of hundred words on the game being played that night.

Of course, if you're enamored of a particular team, a trip to its website will provide you with anything you want to know about your team -- who's hot, who's cold, who's the latest call-up, what's that new player we just traded for like? There's also something to be said for being able to buy tickets without having to actually go to the box office -- what a boon that would have been for those of us raised in the suburbs!

A lot of the hockey magazines I grew up reading (and later writing for) are no more -- but they've been more than adequately supplanted by the blogs, research sites and other online hockey resources that have popped up. Even better -- have your say: Lots of blogs and other sites let you express your opinions and see what other fans have to say. Imagine being able to read, write and talk hockey 24 hours a day.

So where was all this stuff when we was young? In a lot of cases, the person who invented or designed it wasn't even born yet. As a fan, I'm just glad it's here now. It's an era the likes of which hockey fans have never seen -- and it's getting better every year.
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