Firsts. They all mean something special. First steps. First words. First kisses. First cars.
To every individual, the meaning of firsts is different. For the players in the NHL, the first game could mean anything. The first game overseas. First game back in a homeland in so many years. First shot to make an impression in the NHL.
Tonight, the Detroit Red Wings will embark on their 2011-2012 journey. It will be the first of 82 games. There are quite a few firsts for this team, despite its very veteran status. The first game behind the Hockeytown benches for both Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters. First game in red and white for new Wings Fabian Brunnstrom and Ian White. The first game of the (possibly) last season for one of the best defensemen of all-time. First year no members of the Grind Line will suit up. First year without the Wizard of Os(good). As stupid as it is, the first game with numbers on the front of the helmets. The first game after a disappointing end to last season.
The thing about firsts is they make you forget the lasts. The last shift some of the players had was probably not one to remember. The last time they left the ice they headed home for the summer...empty-handed. The last time they left the ice, the coach they will face tomorrow was on their side. The last time they left the ice, they had three members of the Red Wings family not walking this earth today.
With firsts comes new life. New opportunity. New hope. New goals. A fresh start, a new chance to get to the top. Clean standings and stat charts. Some, like defenseman Jakub Kindl, are seizing the opportunity they created for themselves through hard work and rising to the occasion when called upon. Others, like defenseman Jonathan Ericcson, are looking to take the opportunity to validate their play. Yet others, like defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, are taking one more, possibly last, opportunity to lift Lord Stanley's Cup.
As the curtains lift on the new NHL season, teams will look to make the best of their opportunity. They will do so with speed, tenacity, and finesse. Players will look to improve upon individual stats, while not losing track of the ultimate goal.
Tonight, the Red Wings will take to the ice in search of their 21st straight playoff appearance and their 12th straight 100-point year. Doing so will be no small feat, considering the improvement of the teams in the Central division. They start the year off against the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena.
Waiting for them will be 20,000 fans - some who may be attending their first Opening Night, or their first game, for that matter. Also waiting for them will be high expectations, pressure, and a clean sheet of Joe Louis Arena ice.
All that's left now are a few more firsts. Puck drop. Save. Goal, and assist. Win. They will be the first of many this year. I can't wait. Game on.