January 25th, 2013 by Aaron Murphy
Aaron Murphy looks at the current state of the NHL & AHL, and speaks to AHL President David Andrews and ESPN’s inimitable NHL expert Barry Melrose …
The sounds of hockey are unique and different than the sounds of other sports.
There is nothing like the crispness of sharpened metal slicing through hardened frozen ice. Most other games have an out-of-bounds from the playing surface. A place where it is safe to get away from an opponent or stop a dangerous play.
In hockey there is no such area. Vulcanized rubber hits rock solid boards to produce a thundering echo. Kevlar sticks slap and crack on high plexi-glass. Men travelling at breakneck speed also crash and bang on both of these surfaces. It’s a crescendo of noise like no other. It’s the sound of hockey – and it is fantastic.
The AHL has already given us tremendous memories this season. The Oklahoma City Barons were rolling out all-world stars like Taylor Hall (34 pts), Jordan Eberle (51 pts) [pic below], and the young up and coming blue-line stud Justin Schultz (48 pts). What a time for Baron and AHL fans alike.
Then there was the fifth AHL Outdoor Classic played in Hershey Pennsylvania, at Hersheypark Stadium. The Penguins came calling looking to upset the hometown Bears in front of a sell-out crowd of 17, 311. And, in a close game that needed overtime to settle the score, the visitors were indeed victorious, as Paul Thompson became the hero in the extra frame.
After the dust had settled, and the game was done – all who had taken part, both as player and spectator, realized that they had witnessed something special. And, all this in time for the Bears 75th anniversary as a franchise!
Now, on January 27th and 28th the AHL will celebrate its annual All-Star festivities. The Skills Competition will be on Sunday, and the All-Star Game will be live on ESPN America this coming Monday, all from a great hockey town, Providence.
So far, so good on the AHL front.
The NHL lockout was a source of extreme frustration for fans, players, and even broadcasters! So no more mention of the “L” word. Let’s build a bridge, and get over it. Let’s talk about the game.
Sidney Crosby [pic below] is on the ice and healthy for the Penguins. The Maple Leafs are trying to end a ridiculous playoff drought. And, in Los Angeles, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings have retained their core players from their historic run last season. It’s full throttle and all hands on deck now in the NHL.
Can Steve Stamkos lead the league in goals again? Will the Red Wings be able to move on and be competitive without Nicklas Lidstrom? Can $196 million in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter make the Minnesota Wild Cup contenders?
All these questions, and many more will be answered in the coming months. There will be season altering injuries (Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell are already down), there will be surprise returns (see Wade Redden), and plenty of drama as 30 teams sprint towards the playoffs in this abbreviated campaign.
So, sit back, take a close listen. The sounds of hockey are all around, and, all we have to do is listen and enjoy.
You can follow ESPN America’s Aaron Murphy on twitter: @MurphOnIce
© ESPN 2013