Through the 5 Hole

September 15, 2009 9:29 PM

Preseason hockey: Zzzzzzzz

The official start of fall is fast approaching, which can only mean the following:

  • Baseball pennant races are in full swing.
  • The NFL and college football seasons have started.
  • Here comes NHL exhibition hockey.

Don't get me wrong. I love hockey, have played the game (though not particularly well) and have been covering it for parts of three decades, on both the NHL and collegiate levels.

I just wish it was somehow possible to skip training camp and preseason games, and get right to the good stuff.

I know that isn't realistic, but the first few preseason games -- exhibitions, whatever -- are usually sloppy affairs featuring a bunch of guys who have absolutely no chance of sticking to an NHL roster for opening night.

Teams are supposed to ice a minimum of 10 NHL veterans, and the home teams will normally dress a lot more than that to satisfy fans who are paying regular-season prices for what amount to practice games. The visitors seem to think that a guy who sat in an airplane that once flew over an NHL city is somehow considered a legitimate "veteran."

Not only that, the first couple of games tend to turn into marathon slugfests, with plenty of fisticuffs as prospects attempt to impress coaches with their toughness.

About the only positive thing I can think of when it comes to training camp and the preseason: it doesn't last very long. Gone are the days of two- and three-a-days with 75-player rosters and three-week camps.

Most teams now hit the ice for just a few days of camp for a couple of hours at most -- players supervise their own unofficial workouts for weeks beforehand -- and start playing games right away. And preseason schedules have been cut in recent years from nine and 10 games to maybe a half dozen.

As for the regular season ... bring it on!

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