The start of each new NHL season always brings promise and excitement. No matter how your team finished at the end of the last campaign, even if it was in the most heartbreaking of fashions, something I know all too well as a lifelong Maple Leafs fan, October usually means a new beginning and the opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
Even if you disavowed your team over the summer and swore you would no longer support them, hockey has a way of pulling you back, year after year. By the time the leaves start changing colours, that playoff disappointment is all but a distant memory and you may even find yourself getting excited for a meaningless pre-season game because, if nothing else, it signifies that hockey is back and you’re ready for the next chapter.
Although the NHL didn’t start in the fall last year because of the pandemic, it still meant the start of a new hockey season for many parents and their children. My daughter, Zoe, and I were among that group and, I must say, watching her learn to play hockey last autumn was better than any NHL game I could have watched. I cherished our rides together to and from the rink, tying her skates, and watching her from the stands. And even if she decides she never wants to play hockey again, we will always have that season and the memories we made.
The fall may even mean the start of your own hockey season. It certainly is that way for me. This year marks my seventh campaign with the same group of guys. I never played organized hockey as a youngster, so even though I loved the sport, I resisted playing as I got older, worried that I would embarrass myself among my friends who were far more proficient on the ice. But then I joined up with a group of guys who were at the same skill level as me and I fell in love with the sport all over again. As a 36-year-old, I probably play hockey now more than at any other time in my life, and I can’t wait to get back onto the ice.
While it’s difficult to put the start of a new hockey season into words, it’s something that many Canadians share at this time of year. Whether you’re rooting for your favourite club or watching your child take their first strides, it’s a special feeling that is difficult to top. The only thing better would be seeing the Maple Leafs hoist Lord Stanley’s mug, but hey, that’s just me.
Mike Commito is a hockey historian and writer, with his latest novel being Hockey 365, The Second Period. His work has appeared on the Athletic, Sportsnet, and VICE Sports, and in the Hockey News. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario. Learn more here.