Renowned rock guitarist and Eagles band member Joe Walsh released a solo album in 1983 he cheekily called “You Bought It – You Name It.” I’m not aware of the backstory, but it’s reasonable to assume he couldn’t come up with a title he preferred, or he was banking on humor to attract customers. Either way, I could see the appeal of that idea recently as The Hockey News editors scrambled to brainstorm a new handle for this edition, formerly known as Season Preview.
It’s not that “Season Preview” is entirely inaccurate or bad. The guts of the magazine continue to ooze information, expectations and projections for the NHL year ahead. We’ve got our staples, such as individual awards predictions and the top 25 players by position. And in our NHL team reports section, you’ll find Stanley Cup odds, rookies to watch, projected lines and three burning questions for each club.
But as The Hockey News has grown in size and scope, “Season Preview” has become too small. This year’s magazine is 100 pages long, 16 more than 2018’s version, an increase of 19 per cent. The additional real estate has allowed us to do more immersive pieces on important players, such as Ken Campbell’s 3,000-word composition on freshmen brothers/Calder Trophy candidates Jack and Quinn Hughes, and Matt Larkin’s critical look at Auston Matthews, his career to date and the next steps in his journey.
This special issue also fulfills our mandate to reach beyond the NHL and tell relevant stories from all niches of our world, such as: the rise of the Mexican women’s team and the support it’s getting from Hayley Wickenheiser; what to expect from the NWHL in the wake of the CWHL’s collapse and the #ForTheGame holdout; the evolution of a New York Rangers-sponsored girls program designed to attract more participants in the Tri-State area; a business-based Q&A with Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites; and fun rewind stories on the 1976 Izvestia Cup and the 1948 betting scandal involving Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor.
Most profoundly, toward the back of the book, Jason Buckland’s piece steps outside the boards and holds the human spirit up to the light. Without divulging too much, a former major junior player, who’d rebounded from a desperate rock bottom, shares his new elevation with the perfect partner. It’s a prom date unlike any other, one whose telling might leave a lump in your throat and moisture in your eyes. It’s a reminder, as hackneyed as this sounds, that behind masks, underneath helmets and below posters and pennants are real lives. And it’s a story that might not have fit into older iterations of our NHL Season Preview.
Much of the aforementioned content will still be relevant after the opening faceoff between Ottawa and Toronto Oct. 2, the first game of the 2019-20 NHL campaign, rendering the word “preview” inadequate.
Ultimately, we decided not to follow Walsh’s lead. After all, that album met with mediocre reviews and middling sales, topping at No. 48 on the Billboard chart. Instead, we chose The Hockey News, 2019-20 “Need-To-Know” Special Edition. How clever, huh? OK, it’s not especially witty or dramatic, but we feel it’s what best serves our objectives and audience, in the long run.