Alternative Options For NHL Fans


With the lockout in full effect, and the possibility of a full season up in the air, NHL fans will be looking elsewhere for entertainment.  Now with the NFL and NACC seasons just started, and the NBA starting soon, sports aren’t scarce, but, where could you get your hockey fix?  I looked at the map and checked the schedules and found hockey options for all 30 NHL markets.

  • Anaheim Ducks – While California has a few NHL teams, they are still lacking in the lower leagues compared to the East and Canada.  However, if you are willing to make the 45 minute hike, there is the Ontario Reign.
  • Boston Bruins – My personal choice would the litany of NCAA teams(BU, BC, Harvard, Northeastern).  But there is also the Providence Bruins, their AHL affiliate, about an hour away. Also an hour away is the Worcester Sharks, San Jose’s affiliate.
  • Buffalo Sabres –  For Sabres fans, there is always the Rochester Americans where newly drafted 1st rounder Zemgus Girgensons will be playing this season and the Hamilton Bulldogs are a little over an hour away.  Also there are the Junior Sabres who play in the Ontario Junior A league.  The Niagara IceDogs of the OHL aren’t too far away in St. Catherine’s On, Ca.  Also, there are Niagara U and Canisius in the NCAA.
  • Calgary Flames – The Calgary Hitmen are in town and the Red Deer Rebels are about 1.5 hrs away representing the WHL.
  • Carolina Hurricanes – The Jr. Hurricanes churned out their first blue-chip prospect recently in defenseman Charlie Pelnik.  Otherwise there isn’t much.
  • Chicago Blackhawks – The Chicago Wolves of the AHL play in town and the Rockford IceHogs are a little under 2 hours away.
  • Colorado Avalanche – Another area that is not very big on hockey, but, the Denver Cutthroats take to the ice for their inaugural Central League season, while the NCAA’s Pioneers will once again be strong.
  • Columbus Blue Jackets – Ohio State will take up the spotlight and just 1.5 hours north are the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland.
  • Dallas Stars – There is nothing much within an hours drive except for a few junior teams such as the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League.
  • Detroit Red Wings – Michigan Wolverines hockey is close by, as is the Ontario League’s Plymouth Whalers and the U.S. National Team Development Program.  The Sarnia Sting with Alex Galchenyuk and #1 pick Nail Yakupov play just over the border, around a 1 hour drive.  Within 20 minutes, through the Windsor tunnel, is Windsor Ontario, with the Windsor Spitfire of the OHL.
  • Edmonton Oilers – The Edmonton Oil Kings will be a big draw, NHL season or not, coming off a league championship in the WHL.  And, Red Deer is just under 2 hours away.
  • Florida Panthers – As anyone knows, Florida is not a hockey state, but if you are dying for a game, you may want to take the trip to Estero for an ECHL game 2.5 hours away.
  • Los Angeles Kings – Southern California also boasts one of the best minor programs in the nation with the L.A. Jr. Kings (who recently merged with the L.A. Selects).  2 hours away is the Bakersfield Condors.
  • Minnesota Wild – I don’t need to tell Minnesotans what other hockey is out there. From multiple NCAA teams to elite high school teams, there’s a lot to watch. High school hockey doesn’t start for a while, but the best players are in the Upper Midwest Elite League tourney right now.
  • Montreal Canadiens – The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec League will be hot this year and New Jersey Devils first-rounder Stefan Matteau is a new face to watch.  Shawinigan is 2 hours away for those looking to travel.
  • Nashville Predators -The Southern Pro League’s Knoxville Ice Bears provide in-state entertainment, but the University of Alabama-Huntsville is closer.
  • New York/New Jersey –  Army has the NCAA covered, while AHL affiliates Bridgeport and Connecticut aren’t too far for Isles and Rangers fans. The Eastern Jr. League also boasts a couple good teams in the area, while New Jersey high school hockey has produced some prospects lately. Princeton reps the NCAA in New Jersey, while Trenton has the ECHL covered.
  • Ottawa Senators – The Ottawa 67’s are the best and closest option, with Senators’ first round pick Cody Ceci leading the team this season.
  • Philadelphia Flyers – Philadelphia – The AHL’s Hershey Bears aren’t too far away, nor are the ECHL’s Reading Royals. Philly also boasts EJHL hockey and isn’t too far from a lot of the same teams covered under New York/New Jersey.
  • Phoenix Coyotes – In this thin hockey market, less than two hours away from Phoenix, you can find the Central Hockey League’s Arizona Sundogs.  The Jr. Coyotes minor program is also nearby and has produced a few NHL draft picks in recent years.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins – The Erie Otters of the OHL are 2 hours away in Erie PA.  Robert Morris University has the NCAA locked down, while the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms are just past the Ohio border. Likewise, the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers are over the line in West Virginia.
  • San Jose Sharks – The new San Francisco Bulls start in the ECHL this year and are the Sharks’ affiliate to boot.  The Stockton Thunder are also starting up in the ECHL and are just over an hour away.
  • St. Louis Blues – Shockingly tough, since the St. Charles Chill of the Central Hockey League don’t start until 2013-14. The NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues are the closest high-level outfit, while the midget St. Louis Jr. Blues are also a good development program.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning – The Orlando Solar Bears are back! They’ll compete in the ECHL this year and are fewer than two hours from Tampa.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs – The Toronto Marlies are first and foremost being the AHL affiliate of the Leafs.  There are also several OHL franchises in Mississauga, Brampton and Oshawa which surround the city. Plus, the Toronto-Lakeshore Patriots and St. Michael’s Buzzers have Jr. A covered.
  • Vancouver Canucks – The Giants of the WHL are said to be pretty good this year.  Also, the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat are about an hour away, if you want to check out Calgary prospects. Lots of Jr. A, too, as the B.C. League is one of the best in the nation.
  • Washington Capitals – With no minor pro in Baltimore right now, the Washington Little Capitals program is the only organization of note.
  • Winnipeg Jets – Shockingly thin here.  Brandon Wheat Kings are the closest CHL team at just less than three hours, and they’re the closest.

Whatever you choose, make sure you get your hockey fix in somehow this lockout, should it drag on, and let’s just hope it ends as soon as possible.