If you count 2010, I now have FOUR hockey off-seasons under my belt (I know, I’m like, a wise old hockey sage). In my experience, the offseason has a predictable rhythm, and there are certain things you can expect. With the exception of the offseasons that happen to contain a Summer Olympics (oh, wonderful, wonderful Summer Olympics. I love you so..) this is how things go:
June: Depending on how your team fared in the playoffs, you’re still kind of buzzing from the events of the previous season. If your team missed the playoffs altogether that year, you go through a period of genuine relief that hockey is over. Mid-June can be a nice period of hockey reflection/HOORAY-IT’S-SUMMER! At the end of June there’s the draft and the all the accompanying speculation about trades. (No one EVER trades ANYONE at draft time though. We all know this in our hearts, but we pretend it’s not true because it’s fun to pretend that Darcy will figure out a way to trade Drew Stafford for Jerome Iginla. Darcy never does.)
July: July, of course, is the opening of free agency. Free agency is fun for a while. Even the stodgy old Sabres usually sign someone in early July. This year we got Jordan Leopold, which on a scale of 1-10 warrants about a 2.5 for “exciting developments”. In early July you’re still in stuck in the past emotionally, and you’re still either brooding over, or celebrating, the season that just ended. So, even though Jordan Leopold is to free agency signings as a $5 footlong is to fine cuisine, any new signing feels like someone opened a window in a stuffy attic. Suddenly a fresh breeze wafts in, and you can detect the faint scent of “future” in the air. It’s just a hint of the season to come, but it’s there.
August: Early and mid-August is the hockey equivalent of that movie where Tom Hanks is stuck on an island and his only companionship is a volleyball. You’re so far away from hockey that you begin to forget what it’s like, and talking to a volleyball daylight until 9pm begins to feel perfectly normal. You bask in the heat, you garden, you go on vacations. You enjoy the summer. But despite outward signs of happiness, there is a deep-seated restlessness. You are missing something. Sure, evenings spent on the patio drinking mojitos with your volleyball are nice, but your heart longs for more…. Hockey is like a beautiful memory, too painful to recall. You’re stuck on a beautiful tropical island with absolutely no hockey anywhere.
September: At some point in late August/early September, you wake up to a cool crispness in the air. This slight change in the weather will jog something deep down in your memory…hock…ey? Hoc-key? Hockey. HOCKEY! HOCKEYHOCKEYHOCKEY!! Suddenly, at lunch, you’ll look across the table and realize your companion is a volleyball, not a person. But who cares?! HOCKEY IS ALMOST BACK!
And this is where we are right now. Summertime is a great volleyball, but the scent of hockey is in the air, and I, for one, am ready to get off this hockeyless island. I declare August over. TRAINING CAMP (the best time of the year!) starts in September! It’s all downhill from here.
I thank you volleyball summer for your service. You have been warm and wonderful. But now, it’s time to look ahead, to hockey.