(Ed. Note: It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S., a.k.a. “Real Thanksgiving”, which means it’s once again time to reflect on what we’re thankful for in the world of hockey. Here are some of our favorite hockey people from around the ‘web telling you what they’re thankful for; our picks are later. As always, we give thanks to you, the reader, for supporting this blog.)
Jason “Chemmy” Orach, Pension Plan Puppets
Hockey itself: No lockout to start the season means that it's Thanksgiving and we're in full swing with hockey games all over the place. No more spending weeknights interacting with people or feigning interest in complex labor negotiations. Now we can argue about suspension lengths and advanced stats full time.
HBO: I love that we get an unfiltered IV drip straight into our veins of hockey every December. I'm torn between wanting it year round every week and wanting it only in December like the NHL's Christmas present to all of us. I'd happily listen to Liev Schreiber narrate me getting eaten by a pack of hungry dogs.
Phil Kessel: Leafs fans have had a pretty rough go of it lately; their first trip to the playoffs in a decade capped with a terrible collapse. Luckily we have Phil Kessel to watch. His dreamy eyes, explosive speed and indescribable wrist shot are a wonderful combination. The best part is that with realignment and the new schedule you can see Phil Kessel turnstile your favorite d-man in your own building at least once this year.
Early Morning Skates: Maybe not strictly NHL related but there's nothing better than rolling out of bed, pulling on your skates and hitting the rink at 7 a.m. on a Saturday or a Sunday. By the time you're done skating you feel like you've accomplished something more than being an alcoholic who watches too much hockey. (It's my justification anyhow, don't take that away from me.)
NHL Equipment Managers on Twitter: From the granddaddy of them all, @RealDanaHeinze, to the man that… well… kinda made us appreciate the Buffalo Sabres new 3rd Jersey, @Hockeyequipmgr … these men take the mundane acts of sharpening skates, folding laundry and putting equipment bags onto an airplane and turn them into the most amazing Wes Anderson film you've ever seen. These are the real hockey insiders on Twitter.
Backup Goaltenders: Sure, I might be a little biased being thankful for the quality NHL backup because my favorite hockey team's season seems to have been saved by the man they call "The Professor." But across the league, backup goalies have been one of the best stories of the first 25 games. From Scrivens to Josh Harding to Robin Lehner to Marek Mazanec to… I guess technically Cory Schneider is a backup… these goalies are proving that they can do so much more than open doors and wear baseball caps.
The Pacific Division: When the NHL decided to re-align its divisions… everyone couldn't wait to talk about how dominant the newly formed Metropolitan Division was going to be. Well, it's Thanksgiving and the Metro leading Pittsburgh Penguins would have to settle for 5th in the Pacific. People expected the Smythe 2.0 to be good… they just didn't expect it to be fantastic. Some of the best hockey in the league is being played nightly in the Pacific and the Sharks, Coyotes, Kings and Ducks are all on pace to break club records for points in a season. If you think the Pacific is good now, just imagine how much better it would be if Western Canada could get their act together and field 3 competitive hockey teams!
The NHL Coors Light Stadium Series: Yes, it's a cash grab. Yes, there are too many outdoor games outside of the Winter Classic being played this season and it will probably dilute the whole spectacle. But gosh darn it… when my favorite local hockey team takes the ice inside my favorite local baseball team's stadium… I'm going to fall in love with the NHL Coors Light Stadium Series. For those of us that don't cheer for a team in the Northeast United States… this is the closest to a Winter Classic we'll ever get to see. With an Outdoor Game in Los Angeles this season, instead of everyone watching to see if it snows… they'll be watching to see if it melts. It's truly Must See TV!
The LA Kings Twitter Account: Love it or (mostly) hate it… the LA Kings Twitter Account is all that is right in pro sports at the moment. Vine/Instagram videos of goals, graphic designed scoring summaries, sarcastic back and forths with opposing fans, animated GIFs after each goal… by the end of the 2013-14 season most NHL team accounts will look like this. And they've even had yours truly writing the Gameday Previews at LAKings.com for the last two seasons. It's kind of amazing that neither one of us has been fired… but mainly that they haven't been fired.
Sam Fels, The Committed Indian
The feeling of walking out of a piercingly cold night into an arena and the small element of danger a hockey game still provides.
Brandon Saad's pretty spot-on Marian Hossa impression.
The moments (rarer these days) where it still strikes me how beautiful the Hawks' red sweater looks against the backdrop of a white sheet of ice.
That no Simpsons' or punk rock reference ever gets missed by the hockey blogosphere, making me feel lucky to be a part of it.
Duncan Keith and his enabling of Brent Seabrook's nacho eating contest pursuits by constantly covering for him on the ice.
The almost-sexual thrill one gets from watching leaning into and teeing-up a bomb that nearly tears the net.
Memory of Brent Seabrook's shot evading Jimmy Howard's glove, causing me to lower my girlfriend into the wrong row during the celebrations (second time this has happened).
Oh the memories, from childhood to the present day, there has always been Hockey Night in Canada.
Living in a U.S border city for most of my life, I consider myself so lucky to have access to HNIC every Saturday during the hockey season.
They have delivered so many lasting memories, which will last with me until the day I die.
Too many highlights to mention here but I am not embarrassed to say a few tears have been shed too recalling all of the those memories.
“Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland” is embedded in my brain, forever.
With Rogers now in control of all content when it comes to Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, I can only hope they understand what HNIC means to all fans and not just in Canada.
Tomas Hertl: Because sometimes we need complaining old farts to realize how much fun the game can be to the players themselves.
Tyler Seguin: Proving once against that "immaturity" offers the greatest market inefficiency.
The "prominent hockey analyst" who buys crack from Rob Ford's dealer: Even if the name never comes out, everyone has their own guess, and sometimes that's enough.
The Philadelphia media: No matter how bad your town's hockey writers are, it could always be so much worse.
The stadium series: On TV, it's approaching a played-out novelty. But every fan deserves the chance to see an outdoor game in person.
The concussion lawsuit: No matter the outcome, we deserve to know what the NHL knew about brain trauma and when it knew it.
Labor peace: It's really nice to have hockey in the autumn, isn't it? At least until 2019.
What’s Up, Ya Sieve? (Chuck and Pants!)
Guys pulling out their own teeth on the bench means never having to explain why hockey players are the toughest.
Sidney Crosby’s tiny, tiny pockets.
A season that starts when the weather is warm and ends when it’s warm again, ensuring we only have to go out in the cold that one time our city gets the Winter Classic.
Faces that have survived the pucks and the high-sticks of the NHL and still manage to look perfect. Cases in point - Patrick Sharp, Patrice Bergeron.
The Blackhawks’ Joey the Junior Reporter. His questions are adorable and hilarious, whereas our questions would seem crazy. Even when they’re the same questions.
Matt Duchene and his Friday foxiness that made us part of the Puck Daddy family.
The end of Movember. But never the end of playoff beards.
No more regional blackouts in Canada: I for one welcome our new Rogers overlords with open arms.
The Western Conference: If you like hard-fought physical hockey, the Western Conference is for you. Also if you like dominant defenseman like Alex Pietrangelo, Drew Doughty and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who won't garner any Norris consideration because time-zones.
Brian Campbell: The most under-rated great player in the league deserves some kudos, I figure.
Gary Bettman: Have to give it to the Commish, he's on an Alex Steen like hot-streak over the past twelve months. To review: the lockout didn't cost the league a full season, Bettman managed to sell three troubled franchises in one calender year with relatively no drama (Phoenix, New Jersey, Florida), franchise values are way up across the board, and the league completed a monster Canadian broadcast rights deal. The Commissioner takes a whole lot of abuse from hockey fans - some of it fair, some of it dog-whistle anti-Semitism - so let's give him credit where it's due.
Brent Burns as a forward: Watching the large Sharks swingman forecheck with reckless abandon is a singular joy.
The Toronto Maple Leafs: Ex-Leafs Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski are on pace for a 125 combined points this season. They're on deals that will pay them 500k less than big Leafs free-agent acquisition David Clarkson this year. Clarkson, had he not been suspended for the first ten games of the season, would be on pace for 33 points.
The Winnipeg Jets regional broadcast next year: TSN still owns the rights to regional broadcasts of Winnipeg Jets games for the next eight years or so, and I'd expect it'll quickly transform into the single best regional broadcast in the league next season. It'll be like when the Philadelphia Phantoms won the Calder Cup during Bettman's second lockout with a roster that included a bunch of guys who absolutely would've played in the NHL if there had been a season (Patrick Sharp, R.J Umberger, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Joni Pitkanen, Dennis Seidenberg).
The Hockey gods: Dustin Penner becoming a point per game player this season is the hockey god's version of the platypus. Thanks for having a sense of humour hockey gods!
Short players. As someone who lies about his height on his drivers license—apologies to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but I’m not 5-10 — it’s always nice to stand next to a guy who’s clearly just as full of shit as me. /glances toward Chuck Kobasew’s locker. Yes, I’m big enough to be an NHL player, and that fills my heart with joy. GMs need to make with the quickness, though. Scoring primes don’t last forever.