Top 5 things to do now summer is here

On Wednesday the Boston Bruins lifted their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years officially putting an end to the 2010-11 season. Hockey withdrawal has already started kicking in for British fans since the playoffs finished in April but with the NHL finishing up, the summer really is here.

However what do we do now? Now the summer is properly here with the heat turning to rain turning to heat again, how can hockey fans entertain themselves till the season rolls around again in September? Lets examine the way:

1. Watch hockey

No really, watch hockey, more specifically of the Australian variety. The Australian Ice Hockey League runs from April till September so we’re about half way through the season as we speak. The league plays 15 minute periods with tied games going straight to the shootout with no overtime period. The standard of hockey is probably a bit below EPL standard but it’s not terrible hockey.

Many of the teams have Youtube channels for highlights and Newcastle North Stars offer online radio streaming for home games but Melbourne Ice offer the best in terms of multimedia for fans in my opinion.

The Ice stream all their home games live online through their website with a really professional camera set up and entertaining commentary that is broadcast over an FM frequency inside the rink so anyone in attendance with a radio can listen to the commentary. With the time difference Saturday morning games in Melbourne faceoff at 8:45am so you can have hockey with your morning coffee and corn flakes. For the early riser, Sunday games face off at 7:15am. All the games are also recorded so if you miss one, you can go to the website and find a link to watch the recording of the game. During the week, Melbourne Ice House announcer Murray Gold presents the “Hockey Drop Ice Cast” podcast where he rounds up the Ice and the AIHL which is available on iTunes.

2. NHL Entry Draft

Some people enjoy NHL free agency because of all the great rumours that fly around as to who is going where but since the salary cap came into effect the days of really massive big name free agent moves are few and far between. We won’t get Ilya Kovalchuk deals every year.

The NHL draft is now a far more interesting event for me. All 30 NHL franchises play this giant gambling game every year deciding between what available eligible young men are the right fit for their club across all the positions where clubs look to fill their needs for the future or in some cases to find the new face of the franchise who is ready to play now.

On a really basic level you can get wrapped up in the spectacle of the event (more the 1st round than the later ones) but if you delve a bit deeper and get into the predictions game as to who will draft whom then there’s some real fun to be had. The joy of that game is you can either go really basic and predict the first 5 or do the whole first round or go completely insane and try predicting the entire thing all the while looking through teams rosters trying to identify what needs they have and deciding who is going to go where. The potential is endless.

3. Baseball

I’m not kidding, baseball. I have to admit that it took me a while to get into baseball so you have 5 seconds to get all the “cricket on steroids” jokes out of your system before I continue.

I should probably quantify this one as one for the hockey fan who loves looking at stats. If you’re the sort of person that loves looking at stats in your sports then baseball really is the sport for you as baseball has stats, stats and more stats about all sorts of different aspects of the game from pitching to batting to fielding to how many errors people have made.

On a basic level, baseball is a bit of a slow burner to get into but it is a lot more tactical than people give it credit for. Once I’d spent a bit of time watching the sport and got the tactical side down, I found I actually really enjoyed the sport. It’s also a sport where I can do other things at the same time…like writing this blogpost for example as the New York Yankees host the Texas Rangers.

At least give 1 game a try on ESPN America or somewhere to see how it goes, if you don’t like it fine but you might surprise yourself.

4. Join a rec hockey side

Well why not? If you love hockey, why not give it a go? Most rec sides will have spare kit for people to have a go before committing to joining the side and buying all the gear though having your own skates is something of a prerequisite.

Now again, I realise this isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for me as I live a 30 minute drive from any rink, I can’t actually drive and anyone who saw me skate at UK Forum All Stars 2009 knows that my appearances in hockey gear should be limited to when I am making money for awesome charities however if you like watching something then why not give it a go? I won’t be stepping out for the Basingstoke Hyenas any time soon but stepping out on the ice was a lot of fun. What have you really got to lose and loads of rec teams will be training all through the summer. Sadly rec teams do sometimes train really late at night due to ice time constraints at rinks but I have a lot of friends who play rec hockey and love it.

Maybe feel rec is a step too far? Why not check out the learn to play sessions they do at Planet Ice Basingstoke as a starting point and work your way up? Either way our sport is amazing and we should all give it at least one crack even if you fall flat on your face loads. It’s what God made facecages for, right? Right?

5. None of the above

Ignore all of my suggestions. I’m just one guy with a few ideas as to what you can do. We might all be better turning off the computer and just going outside to spend time under that big hot burning thing in the sky (whatever that is) or spending time with your family.

Whatever you do over the summer, just enjoy yourselves and be safe so we can see you back in Bisonland come September.

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