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The sports gods, in their benevolence, have finally deigned to end the umpteenth National Hockey League lockout. For this, we hockey fans are eternally grateful. You, however,may not be as enthused about pro hockey’s stateside return. But you should be, because it’s practically appointment viewing. Why? Check out this list of five reasons to start watching hockey immediately to figure out why!



1. Shorter Season = More Meaningful Games. An 80-something game season can be long, and tiresome. Just ask an NBA fan, never mind those stalwart MLB fans. But 48 games? That’s a horse of a different color. Each game takes on new importance, because each victory means so much more, and each loss is so crushing. Home ice in the playoffs is key, so the difference in playoff seeds is crucial. Those seeds come down to the difference of a few wins and losses, and with fewer games…well, you get the picture.



2. No Inter-Conference Play. Dovetailing with the above point, with the suspension of inter-conference play, each game takes on, once again, even more meaning Wins and losses could be four-point swings in the standings, and the difference between post-season life and regular season death. Plus, as nice as it is to see the odd inter-conference game showcased, including Stanley Cup rematches, it will be nice for the big division rivalries to take center stage. Hockey is good for that.



3. Shorter Season, Faster Pace. The players understand the urgency behind this season. And they have to be aware of fan backlash after yet another labor dispute. Therefore, be ready for the players to take it to a new level of urgency. Plus, with a shorter season, players can lay it on the line a little more without worrying about saving so much for a long season. Expect big hits, exciting goals, and plenty of highlights in pro hockey.



4. The Field is Wide Open. It’s believed that over a long season, the best teams rise to the top. The law of averages should play out over a long enough timeline to allow the statistically best teams to get their due. But in a short season? It’s anyone’s race. A few hot streaks and a team could sock away enough wins to give themselves a chance in the playoffs. And the reverse is true; a slow start could mean a premature end to a good team’s season. Whether you root for a post-season powerhouse or a scrappy bottom-feeder, you have cause to hope this hockey season.



5. The Stars Are Here To Win, Now. You may not know it, but the NHL is loaded with studs right now. We’re about to enter a new golden era in hockey, and this 48-game season is the perfect time to get into the sport. From big names like Crosby and Ovechkin to rising stars like Tyler Seguin, perennial points leaders the Sedin twins, or old warhorses like Teemu Selanne, the NHL has no shortage of hockey superstars to get you on your feet!