After a long summer, the NHL’s best are hitting the ice once again for the 2019-2020 year. This year, teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres are celebrating franchise milestones (both are turning 50 this season), while the others (the majority) are just settling in for another 82-game grind in a quest for the coveted Stanley Cup.
And though us fans are limited to the sidelines of the sport, there are a multitude of ways to become more engaged this season.
1. Host a viewing party
Just because you can’t make it to the arena for a game, however, doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Sometimes watching hockey on the big screen is even more compelling, especially with the right company. So, call up some of your buddies, grab a few six-packs and some greasy food, and enjoy the game from the comfort of home. Remember: everyone drinks every time the puck hits the post!
2. Participate in game threads
Most NHL teams have active discussion boards online for fans, and by tuning in during a game, you’ll often find live discussion threads covering events on the ice. Follow along to learn of others’ opinions on the game, and make sure to throw in your own two cents once in a while too!
3. Bet on it
Nothing says engagement like having some skin in the game. Whether on the overall outcome or any of the expanding prop options on the table, placing a bet instantly introduces some personal investment in the sport and keeps you watching closely. Keep in mind that many online gaming services allow you to place a free wager on any upcoming NHL game. There are few better feelings than walking away with cash in the bank without having to spend a dime.
4. Join a Fantasy Hockey League
For a longer-term investment, consider joining an online fantasy hockey league. While the format may vary, fantasy leagues typically run throughout the entire season, and pits your team of players against others in a scoring of aggregate statistics. It is a great way to engage not only with your own team, but those around the NHL as you track statistics and trends to help you make decisions.
5. Attend a live game
While this may seem obvious, the best way to get closer to the ice is to treat yourself to game tickets. There’s no place better to hear the intense crashes along the boards, and the atmosphere during a home goal is second to none. Best of all, most arenas around the league have great sight lines (except for the Barclays Centre in Long Island, apparently), so you can score seats almost anywhere in the stadium and still enjoy yourself. And while you’re there, take in the full experience by walking the concourses of the stadium; many have exhibits detailing the history and culture of your team.
We all sometimes need a break from everyday routines, and that’s the beauty of sport; it provides an escape from the mundane by giving us the opportunity to invest our feelings and emotions, and to form bonds with those around us. ∎
So how do you stay engaged through the hockey season?