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Tuesdays With Hildy: Special Guest Star Edition!

Nikita Nikitin's so excited about the season being back he's practically flying to buy tickets.
Nikita Nikitin's so excited about the season being back he's practically flying to buy tickets.

I've been slammed at work recently - my own fault, since I give essay tests and always have everything due at the same time because I'm an idiot. Mr. Johnny "Stats" Lange (or as he's known around here, Jstats)  was nice enough to volunteer to get something together for me to run. I think it's pretty damned good, personally. But that's just me.


Out of the Ashes…Hockey Rises


Johnny "Stats" Lange

Man, oh man, what a summer this has been, and I don’t mean in a good way.  The drama involving professional hockey teams alone was enough to drive a normal person up the wall.  A city, which this author has grown quite fond of, is stuck in a position where its fans can only watch while the future of professional minor league hockey in that town turns into a raging inferno. All the while, the Emperor and his less-than-qualified minions simply play their fiddles and watch the blaze continue to grow.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, we witnessed the ultimate betrayal in modern professional sport history.   I submit to you this quote from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman:

"Because we have a covenant with our fans, and our fans need to know that we will stand by them as long as possible and that we don’t just run out." 

And yet, despite this incredibly reassuring statement from the "fearless leader" of the NHL, the team formerly known as the Thrashers migrated to the true frozen tundra of Manitoba.  For most of us this would be quite enough drama for one summer; sadly, this is only the beginning.

In May, former Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard passed away from a mix of painkillers and alcohol.  The month of August would only get worse as both Rick Rypien and Wade Belak took their own lives after battling depression for years. Then, on September 7th at 4:05 pm Moscow time, a chartered flight carrying 37 members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team and seven other souls crashed on takeoff in route to their first game of the new KHL season.

No doubt this has been the darkest NHL offseason in history.  But, despite all of this, there are reasons for great joy.  As we have all seen, these events have brought a majority of the hockey world closer together and have served as a reminder to us that we are one sporting family.  When one of us hurts we all hurt, yet despite all of this pain and sorrow in our hearts we will emerge from this stronger than ever before.  If there is one thing I have learned from sport it is to never doubt the resiliency of those who have passion in their hearts.  Passion wins out over pain every time and it shall in this case, too.  We as fans can prove this point by our passion for the game we love.  When we cheer, be it for any team (though preferably for the Blues), we also cheer for those who are in a great deal of trouble and at this moment do not feel like cheering.

Yes, this summer has been the most difficult and darkest in the history of hockey, and only a fool would deny these events (yet some still act like nothing happened).  I am here to tell you that there is great reason to be joyful.  As I sit here in the suburbs of St. Louis on a quiet Monday afternoon, I realize that something great is about to happen.  

Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Scottrade Center, our beloved hockey team will take the ice for their first exhibition game of the season.  It is a sign that we have made it through the darkness, death, and destruction known as the summer of 2011.  While we are battered and bruised from our shared experiences, some things remain the same.  The excitement will fill the building, the organ will play that old familiar song which is so dear to our hearts, and life will return to normal.  Our concerns will return to who will make up the fourth line, will Big Ben or Jake the Snake be the backup for Halak, and why did beer prices go up once again while the cup has gotten smaller?  In other words: we have made it through the bad times and it is our chance to celebrate again.  "This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad in it."

I for one intend to do so and I openly encourage all of you to do the same.  So let us all raise a glass both in tribute to our brothers in hockey who have moved on to the huge pond in the sky, and also to those currently playing as well as the ones who will entertain us in the future.  I now shall leave you with the words of two great thinkers of our era:  "So long for just a little while" (Jack Buck), and "Remember, as always, I am your champion" (Gino Hernandez).

All opinions expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and are not representative of the St. Louis Blues, St. Louis GameTime, SBNation St. Louis, or the editors of these pages.  That being said, they are 100% accurate and should be adopted by you immediately, if not sooner.