I played in Anaheim during the first part of the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95. The similarities between that season and 2012-13 are such that 94-95 has become the blueprint for this year’s edition of the NHL. The NHL played a 48 game schedule that year as well.
It’s one of the more memorable seasons of my career for a number of reasons. And the interesting thing about that year is that I saw the best of it and I saw the worst of it. I’ll explain.
Thinking back to the 94-95 season, two adjectives stick with me even today. Exciting and unforgiving.
Exciting in terms of the pace and the structure of the shortened schedule. You were playing every other day so the games came fast. And every game counted as though you were playing two. Because you were always up against a conference opponent; always against the backdrop of a half season. Every game meant a lot.
Unforgiving, as my Anaheim teammates and I would come to learn, in this way. If you couldn’t keep up with the pack you might be on the outside looking in very early on.
I remember the anticipation of starting up that year. For us, an upstart expansion team that had shown relatively well the prior year – we tied a league record for wins for an expansion team – we felt as though the short season worked in our favor. We Ducks, mighty as we were, thought we might be able to ride a hot start to a playoff berth if we caught some teams off guard in the early going.
Well it wasn’t long before a different reality set in. We struggled out of the gate and it soon became clear that we’d finish out of the post season. The team ended up 16-27-5 on the year but not before this 4th line winger could eject out of the downturn. Anaheim moved me to Detroit at the trade deadline; and I went from Baltic Avenue to Park Place in the process!
Talk about a shift in cultures. The Red Wings had a pretty good thing going by the time I arrived. Their 94-95 experience was very different from that of my former Ducks team. Detroit started strong and stayed that way. We finished with a robust record of 33-11-4 that year. We beat Dallas, San Jose and Chicago respectively to advance out of the West before a trapping Devils team beat us in the Finals. Not the result we were looking for but it sure was a great run nonetheless.
I am confident Dickens wasn’t referring to the 2012-13 NHL Season when he wrote …. “[i]t was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But that may be a fairly apt way to describe it depending on where you end up when this one is all over.
See you around the rink; this is gonna’ be a lot of fun! Hockey is back!