The darkest times of our lives was the end of the 2004 calendar year and the beginning of the 2005 calendar year. The Pens were probably the worst team in professional sports around that time, but it didn't matter, because they didn't even have a season to prove it. The NHL owners and NHLPA couldn't come to an agreement, and the entire season was wiped out.
We remember that time as being the birth of hockey blogging on the Internet.
Eklund was reporting shit every day.
Fast-forward to 2011, and the lost NHL season is six years behind us. The introduction of the salary cap, or cost certainty, paved the way for small-market clubs to compete. Some teams are spending to the cap ceiling while others are barely managing to spend to the cap floor. One of Gary Bettman's biggest mistakes was having unlimited league expansion in the '90s, but he had to do it. Hockey was growing in popularity, and there was an untapped market in the south that had to be explored. Even if there were two less franchises currently in the NHL, we would see a consolidation of talent on the other teams, the quality of hockey would be better, more franchises would be financially sound, etc. We won't even begin to speculate which franchises we personally would contract because we'll never forget the omnipresent doubt prior to March 2006. No one wants to go through that.
Now as far as we've been told, every Penguin fan is a bandwagon fan, so we all know that we don't go to games when the team is playing poorly. Too bad that happens in every market. Think about how crazy Miami was during the 1997 playoff run with Scott Mellanby killing rats and the Panthers players tackling Lemieux and Jagr off every faceoff. Think about how insane Tampa Bay was during their Cup run before the lockout and how crazy they are right now. Carolina ain't no joke, either. And if you think there isn't hockey mania in Dallas when they're in playoffs, you're an idiot.