Sunday, June 14, 2009

Welcome to Puckin' Right

I know what you're thinking.

"Hey, you're that guy who writes about baseball and politics. Why are you starting a blog about hockey? And why are you doing it right after the end of the Stanley Cup Finals?"

I'm glad you asked. OK, maybe you didn't actually ask this, or even think about this when you clicked this link or found this page. But I'm glad you're here. I've started this blog because I've got a lot of things to say about the NHL and hockey itself, which I believe is headed for a major American renaissance.

Let me begin by reviewing my personal hockey history. As some of you may know, baseball will always be my number one sport, as it has been since I was six. The Boston Bruins were always there, and I grew up with the solid-if-unspectacular group led by scoring machine Cam Neely, playmaker extraordinaire Adam Oates and indispensable blueliner Raymond Bourque. Injuries caught up with Neely, and the core of the Bruins changed to a young one.

These were the B's that I loved to watch, and followed with dogged intensity. While Joe Thornton never lived up to his potential (and still hasn't), these teams were marked by the likes of Billy Guerin, Jason Allison, Sergei Samsonov, Mike Knuble and Brian Rolston, and steady goaltending from Byron Dafoe.

During this time, I considered myself a real hockey fan. I remember Gretzky's retirement and Lemieux's comeback. I hated Eric Lindros and everyone associated with the Canadiens. I had miles of respect for Yzerman's Red Wings, Sakic's Avalance, Hasek's Sabres and Brodeur's Devils, always wishing the B's could get to that level.

But my interest in hockey always hinged on the fortunes of the Black and Gold. Allison was traded away, and the revolving door of coaches, GMs and goaltenders became too maddening to bear. The Jacobs family has never cared about anything but their own profit, and they proved that time and again. I tried to give them a chance after the lockout but the last straw was the Thornton trade, and his eventual Hart Trophy season with the Sharks. Why should I care about a team that didn't care about me?

Yet the salary cap made it so even cheap owners like Jeremy Jacobs had to play by the rules. Peter Chiarelli came in as GM, and after misfiring with Dave Lewis, he brought in Claude Julien and began to draft, trade and sign the type of players that would find success in the Eastern Conference.

The '07-'08 season was the starting point for myself, along with many other long-dormant New England hockey fans, to get back into it. The Bruins suffered through a rash of injuries, but so many young players stepped up and Tim Thomas emerged as a goaltender we could believe in. They took the Canadiens to a seventh game in a classic series, but couldn't close the door.

But for me, the writing was on the half-wall. The Bruins were back, and I'd be along for the ride.

As the Bruins established themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference throughout the '08-'09 season, I suddenly found myself turning into a full-fledged puckhead. I drafted my first fantasy hockey team. I was checking Yahoo's amazing Puck Daddy blog and RotoWorld's NHL page multiple times a day.

I became fascinated with the NHL and its brilliant, burgeoning Internet culture, spearheaded by fans unsatisfied with mainstream media coverage. The sport is ready to break out, headlined by superstars Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin, but remains held back by incompetent leadership and the worst national TV deal in sports history. Unveiled to me was this insulated world of hockey that I'd either forgotten about or never knew existed. It was all so new and fun, and I totally invested myself with the unforgettable Bruins' season providing the backdrop.

Their season came crashing down in the most heartbreaking of fashions, causing me to nearly get into an accident on the way back from a Third Eye Blind concert. But I didn't stop watching, and after a series of incredibly fun live-Tweeting sessions during the Stanley Cup Finals, I realized it was time to expand to a blog. I'd been threatening to start a hockey blog during the season, but it never felt right. I wasn't confident in my abilities to write coherently about the NHL. But after a season of intense following, I'm ready.

Puckin' Right will follow a similar format to my eponymous baseball blog. I'll be focusing much of my attention toward the B's, but there will be plenty of other stuff to talk about as we look to the '09-'10 season. There will also be some posts centering on the men's and women's hockey programs at my beloved alma mater, the University of New Hampshire.

I plan on a post at some point this week about my hopes for the Bruins' offseason. Expect to see the name "Phil Kessel" quite a bit in that one. I'll also begin a series on potential free agents leading up to the annual start of free agency on July 1.

This site looks pretty sparse right now, and I hope to be able to spruce it up. If anyone has any ideas, let me know. My future in journalism sure won't be in design, as many of you are aware.

Bookmark this page and check back often. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm going to have fun, and I hope you do too. Puckin' right, son.

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