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There's a Lot to Be Thankful for This NHL Season

With the Stanley Cup set to be awarded in short order, it's as good of a time as any to look back at the return of a full NHL season, and say “thank you” to all the people who made it happen.
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As the NHL’s 2021-22 season nears its conclusion, it’s as good a time as any to look back and reflect on what we all went through this year. And this season in particular, it’s a good time to say “thank you” to all the people who made it happen.

It’s easy, and in some ways, preferable, to push the recent bad times for pro hockey, and for society, for that matter, out of our minds. The global pandemic we’ve endured has killed thousands of people, and made millions suffer in one way or another. Pro sports, in the big picture, doesn’t matter nearly as much as our loved ones do. That’s the biggest lesson we've all learned the hard way.

But with that said, it’s important to recognize this season is the first time we’ve had a full, 82-game NHL season since the 2018-19 campaign. That’s three years of constant uncertainty, worry and struggle. Things have not felt “normal” for a while now. But thanks to the hard work and sacrifice made by all sorts of people throughout the hockey community, it’s starting to feel like the old days again.

For that, we have the players to thank. Not only have they jeopardized their own well’-being, but players have also asked their families to give up personal time with them, all in the name of providing entertainment to the rest of us. It’s true they’re extremely well-compensated in their line of work, but NHLers easily could’ve objected to the league’s intentions to play as many games as possible. Instead, they willingly collaborated with team owners to ensure we’d get some version of the game we all know and love. That deserves to be recognized.

In addition, we also ought to be thanking the thousands of people employed at live NHL events for the hard, often thankless work they provide. From ushers and security people, to food-preparers and servers, to paramedics and in-game statistics and announcing staff, there’s no shortage of quietly terrific human beings trying to make the fan experience as enjoyable as possible. Next season, maybe think about taking a minute to thank them when you see them next year. A kind word or two goes a long way.

Another group of folks who deserve a little thanks: the media. Yes, we have our share of detractors in this line of work, but those who know the industry understand that there are a slew of people – who certainly aren’t getting wealthy – who sit on tedious flights and in airports during preposterous delays, and who fight traffic and are in arenas filing stories (with players they no longer get to interview one-on-one) long after games have ended, who add something pretty great to the hockey community. The current Stanley Cup playoffs are a solid example: writers, producers and editors have been sleeping in airports, waiting to get a flight between Tampa Bay and Denver. It’s a first-world problem, to be sure, but it still matters, and the media deserve some empathy and appreciation as well.

Few of us truly know the tough parts of pulling off a full season of hockey. Think of the arena monitors who’ve had to fight with belligerent people to adhere to public health measures and keep their face masks in place. Think of the neverending testing players had to go through to be able to play. These are small moments, but if we didn’t have them, if we didn’t have everyone working together, we’d have gone through a year or more with no NHL hockey at all. It’s bad enough when collective bargaining tactics rob us of a full NHL season, but when it’s the frightening prospect and reality of mass death threatening to derail hockey, it’s a real achievement for the league to be putting on the same show as it did three years ago.

We shouldn’t take things for granted the way we used to. We should take a moment or two out of our day to extend a kind thought to people who give us our game. Without them, we’d be a far more miserable society.

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