Get your fix: Leagues where hockey lives on
September, 17, 2012
By Chris Gigley | ESPN.com
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesSergei Gonchar, left, and Evgeni Malkin will be reunited as teammates on Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL.The last time NHL owners and players squabbled over millions, it cost them the 2004-2005 season.
The current lockout has the same no-win feel for hockey fans, with one exception: The Internet is now much better at streaming live games from different leagues. Die-hards can log on to watch NHL talent from the present (minor-league pro hockey and the Russian league) and future (Canadian and U.S. juniors). None of this may compare to Flyers-Pens, but the leagues below will have to do for now.
Kontinental Hockey League
Vladimir Bezzubov/Getty ImagesDon't mess with Jon Mirasty of Vityaz Chekhov.
Best logo: Dynamo Moscow. The classic D logo stands out in a league full of busy crests.
Best team name: Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. The rest sounds baffling, but Torpedo alone makes it the coolest name in the KHL.
Team to watch: Metallurg Magnitogorsk has already signed Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, both of whom may be in action as early as next week. Pens reunion!
Player to watch: Alex Ovechkin will be in the KHL, but it remains unclear which team he will sign with. Until Ovie's deal is finalized, keep an eye on Alex Radulov of CSKA Moscow. The gifted sniper hit a sour note in Nashville but led the KHL in scoring last season.
Fight frequency: Occasional. Aside from the bullies of Vityaz Chekhov, which had the top four players in penalty minutes last season, KHL players mostly keep their hands to themselves.
Season began: Sept. 4
Where to watch: tv.khl.ru
Ontario Hockey League
Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesThis Domi is all about scoring.
Best logo: Sudbury Wolves. Hard to beat a giant wolf's head spitting blood.
Best team name: Windsor Spitfires. Give me an angry-looking warplane over an Otter, IceDog or Colt any day.
Team to watch: The Kitchener Rangers have star power like their NHL namesakes. The past two Calder Trophy winners, Jeff Skinner and Gabriel Landeskog, are alums. Draft-eligible forward Brent Pedersen follows in their skates.
Player to watch: Max Domi, London Knights. The 5-foot-10, 194-pound forward and 2013 draft prospect is the son of former NHL enforcer Tie, but he connects on goals instead of right hooks.
Fight frequency: Occasional. The action gets chippy between neighboring rivals such as Windsor and Sarnia, but purists can rejoice. It's more about the hockey here.
Season begins: Thursday
Where to watch: ohl.neulion.com/ohl
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Richard Wolowicz/Getty ImageNathan MacKinnon could be Sid the Kid Part II.
Best logo: Val-d'Or Foreurs. The modern pick axe and evergreen design is so French, yet so Canadian.
Best team name: Halifax Mooseheads. Why not the entire moose? We'll never know.
Team to watch: If you like goals, you'll love the Quebec Remparts, coached by Patrick Roy. Future NHL forwards Adam Erne, Anthony Duclair and Nick Sorensen should light up scoreboards like a video game.
Player to watch: Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads. MacKinnon can shoot (31 goals last season) and share (47 assists). Like fellow Nova Scotia native Sidney Crosby, MacKinnon may be the NHL's top overall pick when he becomes eligible next summer.
Fight frequency: Frequent. This is French-Canadian hockey, not French hockey. These boys like to mix it up.
Season begins: Thursday
Where to watch: qmjhl.mytelus.com
Western Hockey League
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesPopeye's son Seth Jones is the highest-rated defenseman heading into the 2013 NHL draft.
Best logo: Brandon Wheat Kings. They get extra points for jersey designs with wheat stalks along the sleeves.
Best team name: Calgary Hitmen. Leaves no question about their style of hockey.
Team to watch: Sure, the Spokane Chiefs are usually a playoff team, but you want to watch their winger from a town called, of all things, Peace River. Left winger Darren Kramer has racked up 506 penalty minutes in his first two seasons with the Chiefs. Do we hear 800 after three?
Player to watch: Seth Jones, Portland Winterhawks. The blueliner looks like he'll go further in hockey than his father, Popeye, went in basketball. Choosing the WHL over NCAA hockey was a tough decision but probably worth it. Jones and MacKinnon will likely jostle for the top slot in the 2013 NHL draft.
Fight frequency: Frequent. The league that produced Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Byfuglien and Shea Weber isn't for sissies.
Season begins: Thursday
Where to watch: whl.neulion.com/whl
United States Hockey League
Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post/Getty ImagesJohn Carlson is one of 192 USHL alums in the NHL.
Best logo: Dubuque Fighting Saints. The classic-style D and sword say tough, while the halo sends a mixed message. It still looks cool.
Best team name: Muskegon Lumberjacks. Think about it: Would you want to take a check from a lumberjack? I didn't think so.
Team to watch: The Lincoln Stars like to make their opponents see stars. Last season, they had the two most penalized players in the league. The top dog, defenseman Mike McKee, a 2012 fifth-round pick of the Red Wings, is back for more.
Player to watch: Ian McCoshen, Waterloo Black Hawks. The 6-3, 205-pound defenseman, who hails from Wisconsin, is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
Fight frequency: Occasional. McKee notwithstanding, the USHL is all about adding to the 192 players it has already sent to the NHL. It can't happen with players in the penalty box all the time.
Season begins: Sept. 28
Where to watch: ushl.fasthockey.com
American Hockey League
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty ImagesThe AHL can definitely get scrappy.
Best logo: Rochester Americans. A classic federal-style crest with, literally, a new slant.
Best team name: Lake Erie Monsters. Although, even that water may not even be fit for a mysterious beast.
Team to beat: The Norfolk Admirals, the defending champs, finished the 2011-12 regular season with 28 wins in a row, the longest streak for any team in North American pro hockey history. The Admirals did it last season with talent from Tampa Bay; starting this season, the Admirals are the feeder club for Anaheim.
Player to watch: Zack Fitzgerald, Adirondack Phantoms. Pray that an opponent roughs up one of the Phantoms' best players. They'll have Fitzgerald to deal with. The two-time AHL PIM leader is a haymaker machine.
Fight frequency: Frequent. The fighting isn't like it was in the '80s, when the Hershey Bears piled up a record 2,872 penalty minutes in the 1986-87 season, but AHL players still don't mind going at it to prove their toughness to NHL teams.
Season begins: Oct. 12
Where to watch: ahl.neulion.com/ahl
East Coast Hockey League
Mike Campbell/Getty ImagesFoes have to go a long way to play the Aces.
Best logo: Wheeling Nailers. The spooky old-school goalie mask backed by crossed nails might be the perfect hockey logo.
Best team name: Florida Everblades. Too bad the Panthers weren't as clever. They're even closer to the Everglades.
Team to watch: Led by 33-year-old winger Wes Goldie, the Alaska Aces had the league's best point total in the regular season. No wonder, given the trek opponents have to take to get to their rink.
Player to watch: Dustin Gazley, Elmira Jackals. Ever feel as if you're judged on your appearance and not performance? Gazley hears you. The 5-9 playmaker, 24, led the ECHL in scoring last year (25 goals, 60 assists) but still can't get a sniff from the NHL.
Fight frequency: Occasional. We're going to miss forward Devin DiDiomete, who is now mixing it up in a British league after collecting 281 penalty minutes in the ECHL last season. But don't worry, we still have 5-8 winger Garet Hunt, a fan favorite in Stockton because of his penchant for punching.
Season begins: Oct. 12
Where to watch: b2tv.com