Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/11/13

DENVER - OCTOBER 03: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks warms up prior to facing the Colorado Avalanche during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on October 3, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
A Winter Without Hockey Is Far Too Cold Canucks fans and fans of the NHL have suffered through their second lockout in a decade but have successfully held on through thick and thin for a shortened 2012/13 season. The tribulations of the latest labour dispute produced wonderful cultural explosions among hockey fans like #AssMode, @NHLPodium, and #DregerFace, but after a bitter winter without hockey fans had begun to feel hardcore hockey withdrawal. 5 Reasons The Flying V is glad the NHL is back No More #ShapHeat In the Smylosphere Canucks fans rung in the New Year in a sour mood, lost in a downward spiral of constant conflict and incessant infighting. The daily bickering between writers of all mediums began to resemble an online rendition of Mean Girls, but before a burn-book could be created fans discovered a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Hockey appeared on the horizon, and the healing could begin again. Canucks hockey is just around the corner! The ice will be fresh and the beer will flow endlessly… The moment the lockout ended fans bounced back, burying the hatchet along with the labour dispute before coming together to talk about their teams. Hockey is back, and the shap is friendly again, just the way it should be. Opening Night If the night the lockout ended was any indication, the real-life celebration of hockey’s return on January 19th promises to be epic. The ice will be fresh and the beer will flow endlessly, and when it’s all over we will all sleep soundly knowing our team will take to the ice again soon. In a shortened (and compressed) season the next few months promise to provide a buffet of hockey for starving fans who have been living on AHL-rations all winter. Gillis Gets Busy While the lockout may have limited Mike Gillis’ trade prospects in the past, now that hockey is here Vancouver’s general manager knows the clock is ticking on trading Roberto Luongo. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers are considered frontrunners in pursuit of the decorated goaltender, however this week’s unexpected firing of Toronto GM Brian Burke appears to have significantly altered the trade landscape. Whether Luongo moves to another hockey-mad market or returns to sunny Florida the expectations surrounding his value are sure to hold Gillis accountable for a proper return. Cory’s Crease While it is sad to see Roberto Luongo leave Vancouver this way, I can’t help but be optimistic over the young talent ready to replace him in goal. Cory Schneider has been one of the Canucks top prospects for years, and has consistently improved his game in order to earn the starting job. Without a mammoth cap-circumventing contract to harm his value, Schneider appears to be one of the league’s top young goaltenders at an affordable price of $4-million per season. Fantasy Hockey What would sports be if fans lacking the skill to play the game professionally couldn’t argue and wager over their long-lost talent? Most fans will agree they’ll never get anywhere close to “the show,” but I’ll be damned if every fan didn’t have a different opinion on how to run their favourite organization. Think you can do a better job than Mike Gillis? Now you can prove it on fantasy hockey’s boundless playground, just don’t go around signing any 12-year deals. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSPORTSBEAT!
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