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There's a distinct difference between an NHL fan and a hockey fan.  An NHL fan is someone who follows the top professional league in the world exclusively, whereas a hockey fan is just as happy watching a major junior contest as he is a pro game because he's so enamored with the sport.

It's safe to say true hockey fans aren't dreading the lockout nearly as much as the NHL-only bunch.  Springfield Falcons president and general manager Bruce Landon explains why those of us who live in AHL cities are chomping at the bit for the season to start:

Now that the National Hockey League lockout is officially in effect and it has been determined which players can be assigned to the American Hockey League, one thing is certain - the AHL is going to be loaded with young talent.

If you look at the transactions that took place over the weekend, you see players like Jeff Skinner being sent to Charlotte, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle being sent to Oklahoma City. Every AHL team is reaping the benefits of the misfortunes of what is happening in the NHL. The Springfield Falcons will open their 19th season with first-round draft picks Ryan Johansen and John Moore in the line-up and other prospects like second-round pick Dalton Smith and Michael Chaput. If you truly want to see some of the best young talent in the world all you have to do is get tickets for games right here in Springfield. It is something that I hope hockey fans in this area take advantage of while truly realizing how fortunate we are to have a team in this great league.

The 2004-05 AHL season was arguably the league's best in recent memory, with young studs like like Jason Spezza, Mike Cammalleri, Eric Staal, and Cam Ward displaying their talents to small, blue-collar cities across the continent.  It was a memorable campaign, and the longer the NHL lockout lasts, the longer minor league hockey fans will reap the rewards.

And let's not forget the major junior ranks.  During the '05 lockout, the likes of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Shea Weber spent the entire season in the CHL, helping produce what many people consider the best Canadian World Junior team of all-time.  This season, at least in the interim, top NHL draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, Mark Scheifele, and others will continue to hone their skills and entertain fans at the junior level. 

Many experts believe an additional year of junior or some time in the minors only benefits the development of a hockey player.  Others think it stunts the growth of the truly elite athletes.  Undoubtedly, both arguments hold some merit.  Regardless of where you stand on the matter, the lockout has created a situation that allows many hockey fans the option of watching world class athletes in person for just $15. 

That's not a bad thing.  That is, unless you're an NHL fan.

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.