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The Season Begins

At last! hockey's back, and no better time to start my hockey blog than the first game of the new season. Lots of people have suggested it, maybe to get my verbose ramblings off the comments page they frequent and into my own little corner of the Cyberverse where I can safely be ignored. I guess as Rod says, time till tell.

Not exactly sure how this will go, or how frequently I will post, having fallen into the habit of playing all "road games" and commenting on existing topics raised on the blogs of others. I will no doubt continue to do that, but will try to stay on point more in that 'sphere and develop the peripheral stuff that I tend to bring up here on Oil Droppings.

A little background on why my viewpoint might be different. I'm a lifelong fan of the game and have followed the NHL continuously since 1963, fully half of the league's 90-year history dating back to the Original Six. I grew up a Leafs fan but please don't hold that against me; my Dad loved the Leafs 'til the day he died and my brother still does.

For me it all changed in the '70s. The year I moved to Edmonton (from Newfoundland) as a teenager in 1971, the Oilers were born, and the next year a whole league sprinkled with well-known players and actual Canadian teams sprouted around them. Before the WHA was done I had full season tickets in the corner reds, had seen Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull at one end of the line and Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky at the other, and welcomed the merger into the NHL with the same degree of excitement the whole city felt. The Leafs, turned into a laughing stock by Harold Ballard, became the enemy and I fell in love with a whole new team. An extraordinary team which soared through the ranks, winning a Stanley Cup within 5 years and four more by the end of that remarkable decade, completely rewriting the offensive record book in the process. It was a hockey fan's dream come true.

Of course it couldn't last forever and neither did my job which financed my tickets. By 1993 with the team down and out I reluctantly let my rights lapse, the final straw being the sticker price of a red seat passing the $30 mark. (If only ...) I have continued to follow the team as best I can, on the tube mostly but attending a handful of games annually mostly through the largesse of generous, ticket-holding friends. You know who you are, and thank you.

In 2007-08 the Oilers featured their best group of talented young players since at least 1996 with more than a few reminders of that precocious group of fuzzy-cheeked superstars circa 1981. There is of course no way of knowing how they'll turn out, but that's part of the fun. I look forward to enjoying the ride.

It will surprise nobody who has read my posts that my approach will be all over the map. For starters, I'm an unrepentant ex-goalie and officially Crazy. I don't have the formal mathematical training of some of the guys doing cutting edge statistical analysis so you won't hear me talk about Poisson distributions or linear regressions, but at heart (head?) I'm a numbers guy; my hobbies include number theory, positional astronomy and baseball with a background in sabermetrics. My head is full of scores, statistics, and records. I'm keen about the history of the game, and particularly of placing the modern game and its players in their proper place within that history. I have memories and anecdotes worth sharing from time to time, but my status as a hockey and Oiler fan will always be rooted in the present tense. I am willing to advance and discuss new theories for interpreting the game with an open mind. There'll be times I'll be full of shit, and I know that going in. Feel free to remind me, nicely, when I'm tending in that direction.

Which brings me at last to netiquette. While Lowetide rightly claims to host the lounge of the Oilogosphere, I'm happy to be a sports bar; room for friendly discussion and respectful disagreement, but when the voices start to rise it's time to back off. Table talk I don't mind at all, but I hope we can keep it within the boundaries of personal dignity and mutual respect. We're all hockey fans here, and I hope we're all in it for fun. That's the objective of Oil Droppings.