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The wait is over, it's time to play

by Paul Kukla

The puck drops Thursday, just after 7 p.m. ET, and it has been a long time coming.

I don't know why, but the last month or so sure has crawled by for me. Maybe I just wanted hockey back on my radar, and thankfully now it is.

Now the real games begin, and isn't that what we have waited for since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final? I don't know about you, but I have had enough talk, predictions, chest beating and roster analysis to last a lifetime. When the NHL season kicks off Thursday, we finally will be able to make our own observations and then we can start breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the NHL teams we follow.

I am looking forward to the action on the ice and less action off the ice. You see, to me the game of hockey should be played and decided on the ice. Man against man, skill vs. skill and elite athletes all over the ice. There is nothing better than watching these highly skilled players perform at the highest level and do it on a nightly basis.

I remember my early years of hockey watching and recall what attracted me to the game.  Besides watching the greatest all-round hockey player, Gordie Howe, on a regular basis, it was the athleticism of these great players that reeled me in to the sport of hockey. 

We have speed, we have physical, non-stop play, all of which should attract any sports fan to our game. Yet, some people just don't understand or "get" what it is all about. But we know what those people are missing and have tried and continue to try and convert them into NHL fans. At times I say, too bad, your loss, you are missing out on the greatest game but then begin again spreading the word about our game.

Give me a hockey game, any time of day or night, and I am there. Most nights during the season, I am watching games for roughly six hours and then watching games I may have missed early in the morning the next day.

You see, I love this game and at times it does control me, instead of the other way around. But that is the path I have chosen, one that is filled with cheering crowds, unbelievable individual efforts, and most importantly, a game in which every player must play as one. Without teamwork, a team is destined to fail and maybe, just maybe, that is the single most important factor when determining your team's outlook for the season.

It is all about teamwork for me. Individual statistics are great -- they bring attention to the player and are a measuring stick on just how great a player really is. But how a team plays together wins championships, and isn't that the goal? It should be, and if a team has the ultimate success, winning the Stanley Cup, individual success will follow.

As we enter the 2009-10 NHL season, my wish is for great hockey every shift, every period and every game. I hope you are prepared for the ups and downs we all will experience and you understand it is a long season. So don't get too high when your team is on a winning streak and don't get too low if your team is suffering through a rough patch. When mid-April rolls around, the 16 teams that deserve to be in the playoffs will be there while the other 14 teams will be looking forward to next season.

It is that time of year folks -- get ready and enjoy the long ride.

Questions? Concerns? Just want to talk hockey?  I am there for you. Feel free to e-mail me at or follow me on Twitter at

Now drop the puck, ref -- the game is about to begin!

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