Ah September!  Itís back to school for some, back to work for others (myself included), and back to the ice for our favorite winter heroes, the hockey players.  Training camps are just around the corner for all 30 NHL teams.  Following in their footsteps will be preseason games which will mean absolutely nothing as far as overall standings go but everything to the fans.  Then we get going for real to decide who will again skate for Lord Stanley next April.  In the meantime, how does one overcome hockey withdrawal?

One way I gear up for the ensuing madness on the ice is by parking myself in front of my computer or Playstation console and play the EA Sports NHL series of games.  This actually ends up an annual summer long project.  Right now Iíve been playing the demo for NHL 2003, and Iíll have a full review of the game for you in Video Game Corner when the full version is released (it wonít be long now!).  Then Iíll go back to NHL 2002 and play another tournament, or two.  On next to NHL Rock The Rink or NHL Open Ice, just because itís fun to break the rules once and awhile.  Heck, by the time October comes Iíll even have gone back to playing Konamiís Blades Of Steel on the first generation Nintendo!  Or maybe Iíll even throw in my Activision Classics and Intellivision Classics into the Playstation and play their respective hockey classics.  Am I going a little overboard?  Iíd like to think so!

Call it hockey withdrawal.  Call it hockey obsession.  Call it what you will, but the video games themselves are never enough.  I then find myself shuffling through my archive of previously taped games, be they playoff or regular season games.  Recently I found myself going back to 1984 when the Edmonton Oilers first won the Stanley Cup.  Last season, Hockey Night In Canada featured several Classic Games commemorate their fiftieth season.  I taped them all.  Weíre talking Toronto vs Montreal in 1967 (R.I.P. Bill Barilko), Bobby Orrís ďflying goalĒ game, among others.  Iím still reeling over losing my copy of the Senators vs the Devils from 1998, but I do have the clincher of the Senators/Flyers series last year, not to mention a couple of the games from the Battle Of Ontario.  Oh yes, and before I forget, better throw in Team Canada vs Team USA last February in Salt Lake City.  What the hey, letís even throw in Game Five between Detroit and Carolina just for good measure.

ESPN is even getting in on the act.  The specialty channel ESPN Classic Games is airing the 1972 Summit Series in its entirety 24 hours a day to commemorate what is regarded as a defining moment in the sport, even 30 years later.  The games themselves are being aired repeatedly on the same days they took place.  For those of us who werenít there (like me), enjoy.  For those of us who were, enjoy again!

Movies also help.  Slap Shot, Les Boys, The Mighty Ducks, The Boys On The Bus, Raccoons On Ice (er, well, maybe not) should all be available for rent at your local video store, unless a fellow fan suffering from hockey withdrawal happens to beat you too them. 

Yes folks, very soon weíll be able to crowd into our favorite arenas and bars and again cheer on our favorite teams to glory, or watch them in the comfort of our living rooms.  There will be nights when we wonder why we bothered, and there will be nights when we will be proud to call ourselves fans.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat will be on display for all to see.  A scrum or two is bound to break out, perhaps even a couple of brawls.  But for now we have to wait patiently and pass the time as best we can, all in the name of hockey.

I know for a fact I am not the only one who suffers from hockey withdrawal, so I want to know how all you fans out there overcome the anticipation of the Coolest Game on Earth.

I want your input on this, so please feel free to E-mail your thoughts to me:  Even if you arenít a hockey fan but a die hard fan of another sport, let me know your thoughts on this.

Weíll feature some of the most interesting stories next time around, so join me soon for a full season preview as well as my preseason predictions.  For now though, itís time for another spin of one of those Don Cherry ďRock ĎEm Sock ĎEmĒ DVDs.


More Puckin' Around...