Players are skating, and NHL training camps are within sniffing distance. So we are warming up our emotional engines to conjure all the irrational excitement, hatred and other strongly worded feelings that accompany an eight-month devotion to watching men making billions playing a game.
This is part of a quick game of considering our rivals, with love (er, envy), and hate.
Hate: Fellow members of the "Eternal Rebuild Club," the Panthers appear to still be in the chrysalis stage of their development and not yet ready to shed their cocoon. Until they form an actual identity, there are few players to hate. At this point, the hope is that their trove of prospects all turn into viable NHLers. Then we can hate them.
In the meantime, it is easy to hate their financial and political concerns that Islanders fans know all too well can derail and diminish a season before it has even begun. The Panthers' owners say the team can't keep bleeding money and they want to restructure their lease agreement on the BB&T Center with Broward County. A consultant hired by the county will run the numbers and decide what makes sense for the people (*cough*). Meanwhile, the club loses $100,00 a day and plays to sparse crowds while sexy new cities like Seattle, Quebec and Las Vegas get everyone playing Relocation Tetris.
Having gone through legal, real estate and other off-ice battles for many years with the Islanders (and, sometimes still going through them), I hate seeing anyone else have to. The fate of your team should be up to management and the players, not lawyers, politicians and whoever else comes out of the woodwork. I hate that Panthers fans have to deal with it, but they have my sympathies.
Envy: It's easy to wish the Islanders had Roberto Luongo because he's still a starting NHL goalie. But Luongo's just as good at Twitter as he is in the crease, maybe better. His gloriously bizarre, self-deprecating 140-character sense of humor is never disappointing and always hilarious. I can only dream about the comedy gold that would flow if he were let loose on Long Island and, eventually, Brooklyn.
Hockey players in general are a buttoned-up and pretty boring group. When they let their personalities out, the Islanders can be fun dudes. Of all of the players on Twitter, Michael Grabner is the only one who lets his hair down every once in a while.
No current NHL player brings the funny like @Strombone1. I don't know if Luongo was always like that or the fishbowl of Vancouver made his mind snap. However it happened, I'm glad it did.
Counterpoint: Luongo's contract is not enviable.
And you? Which (current) Panther do you hate most, and which one do you think is an alright guy? I'm gonna go ahead and guess there are more of the latter than the former. Please show your work.