Philadelphia Flyers' fans aren't normally aligned with their brothers and sisters around the National Hockey League. But, when it comes to a potential lockout, they are fully in agreement with fans of every other team. No follower of this sport wants the season to be delayed, or canceled.
The League and the Players' Association is scheduled to meet in New York on September 12. Whether that face-to-face event leads to progress, or serves as confirmation that no agreement is within sight, will soon be known.
Looking past the fan base
We obviously assume that the calculation on both sides (by ownership and the players' association) is that the fans will come back when any potential lockout has ended, even if that happens as late as next fall.
While there isn't another major hockey league in North America, there are plenty of alternative ice outlets. The American Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, as well as various college and high school programs do offer entertaining choices for fans of various interest levels.
Hockey fans who have played and coached the sport often follow leagues and programs beyond the NHL, because they enjoy the game as much as (or even more so than) their own favorite professional team. So, clearly any lockout will cause these fans to temporarily shift their interest. The same should also prove true for fans who simply follow the NHL, as they will also need to have their hockey needs met.
Hopefully, even if there is a lockout, a shortened-season will be played. The NHL's post-lockout 48-game regular season in 1994-95 was very exciting. A compressed schedule of that nature would probably energize most fans, drawing them back to the action after any emotional betrayal issues have been overcome.
Now, some real hockey talk
Regarding what becomes of the 2012-13 Flyers : I believe that Ilya Bryzgalov has the potential to play well enough to lead the team through multiple playoff rounds. But, like most goaltenders, he needs a steady defense to exist in front of him.
After the Nashville Predators canceled Shea Weber's planned move to the Philadelphia region, general manager Paul Holmgren was left with few legitimate defensive replacement options and the likelihood of waiting until the trade deadline to bolster his top three pairings. Regardless of how well the current defense performs, Holmgren must add depth to this area of his team so that a real shot at playoff progress becomes possible.
I look forward to seeing how the incredibly talented Claude Giroux and his returning linemate Scott Hartnell help Jake Voracek to raise his game, now that Jaromir Jagr has joined the Dallas Stars.
The sophomore seasons of Sean Couturier and Matt Read should prove to be interesting, as both of these former rookies revived memories of some great young 1980s Flyers' players last year.
There are many other intriguing story lines to be explored within head coach Peter Laviolette's squad as well. Hopefully, we don't have to wait until the new year arrives to do so.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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