My Little Corner of Canada

The hockey season opens

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

T

he 1997-98 hockey season opened with the Vancouver Canucks playing the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Tokyo, Japan. The tickets for one of those two games were going for about $250 each. The way things are going in terms of salaries for hockey players, it won’t be long before ticket prices reach that level in North America.

Some early observations:

* The Montreal Canadiens should do better than last year. Under new coach Alain Vigneault, the Canadiens are a lot more relaxed and seem to have more confidence in their system. This confidence is due partly to the arrival of experienced goaltender Andy Moog.

* The Toronto Maple Leafs will struggle again this year. The Leafs are rebuilding (again) and unless players like Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark, and Felix Potvin have exceptional seasons, they will probably miss the playoffs again. Players to look forward to in the future include Sullivan and McCauley.

* The Ottawa Senators should be in the top half of the NHL this year and improve over last year. But being in a small market, the franchise is still very fragile and will need a winning season to solidify its fan base. Now that they have signed Daniel Alfredsson they may find it easier to make the playoffs.

* The Vancouver Canucks are not looking too bad early in the season. They have a nice mix of experience and potential in their line up. If Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny can prove that they are capable of raising their play up another notch, they should do well. Otherwise, they will come up short again.

* The Edmonton Oilers have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL in Curtis Joseph and have a bunch of players who may be reaching their playing peak this year or next. Many hockey analysts think that the Oilers are the best Canadien team. Their biggest problem is their owner Peter Pocklington.

* The Legion of Doom is looking pretty awesome. The addition of Danius Zubrus is going to make them even more exciting to watch. The Flyers will probably end up in the final again next spring. If Eric Lindros gained from the sweep by the Detroit Red Wings last year, the Flyers will be tough to bear this year.

* The Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings are still looking pretty good. They will have to get by the Colorado Avalanche if they want to repeat last year’s march to the Stanley Cup.

The participation of NHL players in this winter’s Olympic Games will add something special to the Games in Nagano, Japan. It should be a pretty good year for hockey.

I’ll make my predictions for the Stanley Cup playoffs as usually in the first week of January.

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