The NHL goes back on the ice

After a season long hiatus, the National Hockey League will finally return to the ice tonight. The NHL owners and players agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Now their main focus turns to satisfying the diehard fans that stuck with the league throughout this strike. The league must also work to attract new fans to this sport to create a bigger fan base.

One of the ways the NHL has tried to improve the game is eliminating the red line that runs through the center of the ice. The move will eliminate the offsides rule and will allow players to make long passes with the puck.

This will create more scoring opportunities than fans saw in past years and will make the game offensively oriented. The league has also made the goaltender’s equipment smaller to allow more scoring.

A change that the NHL created was implementing a shootout at the end of the game. If the game is tied after regulation overtime, a shootout will be conducted with three players from each team.

The shootout was very popular in the defunct International Hockey League. If fans ever went to a Cincinnati Cyclones game and experienced a shootout, then they know the excitement it can bring to the game.

Another big change that the league saw as a result of their lockout was the ESPN network dropped the right to broadcast their games. The two major networks that will broadcast the NHL games this season will be NBC and the Outdoor Life Network (OLN).

The big question about this change of television networks is to see how the OLN operates televising hockey games. The network is fairly new to the sports broadcasting landscape and the only real major sporting event they have broadcasted so far has been the Tour de France.

A lot of players have switched teams in the offseason because of free agency. One of the top name free agents that changed teams was Peter Forsberg, one of the top goal-scorers in the league. He signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after a lengthy stint with the Colorado Avalanche. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin left the defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lighting for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The first pick in this year’s NHL draft, Sidney Crosby, drafted by the Pittsburgh Peguins, will be a name to remember this upcoming season. The Peguins are another team that was successful in signing key free agents this offseason. Some of the free agents they signed were John LeClair, goalie Jocelyn Thibault, and Zigmund Palffy.

One of the interesting storylines to keep track of this season will be how Crosby plays with fellow teammate and chairman of the team, Mario Lemieux.