12 things to miss about the NHL
Updated: December 12, 2012, 9:08 AM ETBy Scott Burnside | ESPN.com
1. The national anthem at the United Center in ChicagoNever fails to raise the hair on your arms. We don't even mind the playing of the Fratellis' ditty "Chelsea Dagger" after every Blackhawks goal and at the end of games.
2. Scott Hartnell's hairIs there anything more completely hockey than the unruly mop that spills out from under Hartnell's helmet? We also miss the popular fund-raising effort centered on Hartnell's propensity for tumbling all over the ice called "Hartnell Down." One of the game's true characters.
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDoes anyone in the game have a better head of hair than Scott Hartnell?
3. HBO's "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" reality seriesFor the past two years we've enjoyed HBO's unique peek inside the world of pro hockey as a lead-up to the Winter Classic. Often profane but just as often emotional and illuminating, here's hoping it comes back when hockey does to remind us of the machinery that is the game.
4. The Jagr SaluteSurefire Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr returned to the NHL last season after a three-year self-imposed exile to the Kontinental Hockey League and became an instant favorite both in and out of the Philadelphia dressing room. This season he will, er, would have, delighted fans in Dallas with his trademark post-goal salute.
5. The raconteursThere's one on every team. Whether it's Mike Rupp in New York or Max Talbot in Philadelphia or Steve Ott in Buffalo, they're the thoughtful, maybe irreverent guys to whom the reporters gravitate after morning skates, practices or games, the guys who understand it's a privilege to be a pro athlete and, at the end of the day, it's just a game.
7. The overachieversEvery season there's a team that shocks the heck out of everyone, including itself, to jump into the postseason fray. Last season, it was the Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues winning unexpected division titles. Those teams are a treat to be around because there is giddiness in the dressing room that reinforces that all things are possible no matter what (most) experts think.
8. The playoffsNothing like it in sport. Sixteen teams in a grueling trail of tears to the most recognizable trophy in all of sport. Can't imagine another spring without the puck dropping on the first round and knowing that somewhere a No. 1 or 2 seed is about to get knocked out of the dance.
Joern Haufe/Getty ImagesThe Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Hopefully, we will have a resolution to labor negotiations before then.