I would like to start this article by stating one fact that may bias my opinion; I have never lived in New Jersey or the East Coast. However, this doesn't mean I don't bleed red and black all the way through. So, since the NHL and the NHLPA couldn't come to an agreement, the whole NHL is locked out. The good NHLers are emigrating to Europe and some other players are moving to the AHL.
As fans, what are we to do? Who do we cheer for without the New Jersey Devils to entertain us?
Choice #1: The AHL Affiliates, the Albany Devils
This is the obvious answer. Many of the Devils players were assigned to the Albany Devils. Quite a few actually, this makes it the inherent team that Devils fans can cheer for. Sure its not NHL quality, but it should be pretty good with a lot of the younger NHL players being assigned to the AHL. For those of you in the area, it'll be easy to see live games and keep up with the action. For others, it might not be so easy to do something other than follow the team through twitter and game recaps.
If you're like me, you may already have an AHL team that you cheer for other than the Albany Devils. Otherwise, feel free to pick an AHL team of your choice and cheer for them. If this is the case, I guess your allegiance is up to you, but at least it's hockey!
Choice #2: Junior Leagues
Unfortunately for people around New Jersey, there aren't any premier junior leagues that play near there. The USHL, CHL, WHL, and OHL don't have a presence on the East Coast. For Devils fans around the Midwest, there are plenty of Midwest junior teams to get your fill of hockey. There aren't many Devils players in the juniors, so go ahead, cheer for anyone!
Choice #3: College Hockey
Watching your favorite college team play is a great way to witness players who really play for the love of the game. There is Division one and Division Three. (Just a quick shout out to my Alma Mater, St. Norbert College, back-to-back D3 Ice Hockey National Champs!) Obviously division three is not the same quality as division one, but if the lockout drags into next year, it'll be tough to not see pucks going into the back of nets. The Devils do have one of the top defensive prospects in North America who plays in college, Jon Merrill. He plays for Michigan and they do have a great team. I'm sure a lot of you follow your favorite college football team, so just extend that to hockey as well.
Choice #4: Hockey Abroad / European Leagues
Follow your favorite Devils abroad or pick a favorite KHL team and follow them. They're about 8 hours ahead, so it will be hard to catch any games if you're willing to pay to watch a game in Russian.
Choice #5: Eat pails of ice cream and watch one of the following
A) If you really miss the love of the game: Mighty Ducks Trilogy
B) If you are still a kid or a kid at heart, the other Might Ducks Series
C) If you're patriotic, Miracle
D) If you are a prude for good hockey, go to iTunes and download Stanley Cup Finals Games, then call me so I can come watch with you!
Who will you cheer for while the NHL is locked out? Also, What's your favorite ice flavor to enjoy the lockout with? Thanks for not locking out your fandom from ILWT!