I love hockey. Always have.

And from my experience in the ‘80s and ‘90s, so did Salt Lake City.

My grandma was a season ticket holder who frequently gifted us signed sticks and pucks from Golden Eagles players. I watched my first live game from her second-row seats at the Salt Palace.

The fact that it was also Chippendale Night made for an unusual — and uncomfortable — hockey night in Salt Lake City. But I think my grandma learned her lesson because I never got an invite to Bikini Night.

Adult-themed promotions aside, watching the Golden Eagles and later the Utah Grizzlies taught me a lot about the game. My first favorite player was Mel Hewitt. I learned about the role of an enforcer from Darren Banks. I witnessed true NHL talent in a young Theoren Fleury, Zigmund Palfy and Tommy Salo. I saw what a devoted fan base looked like during the Grizzlies’ championship run in 1996, when fans filled the Delta Center and threw fish on the ice after every goal.

Professional hockey is an amazing spectator sport. The NHL will be a whole new level.

As the Arizona Coyotes franchise relocates to Salt Lake City, here’s (almost) everything you need to know about the NHL.

The NHL is the best hockey league in the world

There are a lot of professional leagues throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. (Jaromir Jagr just scored a goal at age 52 in a professional game in the Czech Republic.) But the best hockey talent in the world is found in the NHL.

Last year, The Athletic ranked the 100 best players of the modern era. Two of the top 10 — Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin — are still active and playing at a high level. Meanwhile, younger superstars are dominating the game and will now be on the ice in Salt Lake City at least once a year.

The Coyotes were part of an amazing division

In terms of marquee talent, the Central Division is loaded.

The Dallas Stars could very well win the Stanley Cup. So could Colorado, which has a Hart Trophy (MVP) candidate in Nathan MacKinnon and maybe the best defenseman in the game in Cale Makar. But Chicago, which finished last in the division, has the league’s next great star. Connor Bedard, who is still 18, is a generational talent who went first overall in last year’s draft and started putting together a highlight reel right away.

Each Western Conference team will visit the Delta Center one or two times. Depending how the schedule works out, hockey fans in Utah could have two opportunities to see some of the biggest stars in the game. My wish list to see: the blazing fast MacKinnon, the Oilers’ Connor McDavid (already ranked as the 16th greatest player of the modern era), Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov (a top-10 goal scorer nicknamed “Dollar Bill Kirill”) and, of course, Bedard.

Even more star power — and villains

Like the NBA, each Eastern Conference team will visit the Delta Center once. That means a chance to see Crosby and Ovechkin in the twilight of their careers, in addition to Toronto’s Auston Matthews (who just missed the 70-goal mark), Boston’s David Pastrnak (in my opinion, the game’s most entertaining character) and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (who had 100 assists this year).

Every sport has villains, and one of the best in the NHL is the Bruins’ Brad Marchand — who also happens to be a fantastic player. The New York Rangers have a few as well in Jacob Trouba and Matt Rempe. And then there’s Tom Wilson of the Capitals. (As a Penguins fan since the early ‘90s, I can assure you that Trouba and Wilson have no fans in Pittsburgh.)

But what about the fighting?

Don’t worry about it. Really.

Fighting in the NHL is actually pretty infrequent — despite what recently happened just seconds into a recent Rangers-Devils game. In that game, the Devils were settling a score with Rempe, who had picked up three game misconduct penalties (ejections) and 47 penalty minutes in their previous three matchups.

The best rationale I ever heard was: Would you rather have them throw punches or swing sticks?

Not everyone agrees. But at the end of the day, you might attend multiple NHL games and never see a fight. According to The Hockey News, there were 0.25 fights per game early in the most recent NHL season — and that was an increase.


Watch the playoffs this year and you might not see any.

Tradition runs deep

Speaking of the playoffs, make sure to catch a deciding game. One of the coolest traditions in the sport is the handshake line, where the teams pause to show respect after a grueling series.

And there’s really not a comparison to the Stanley Cup. Each player on the Cup-winning team gets to spend a day with the trophy. My favorite story was about the Penguins’ Phil Kessell, who took the Cup out onto the golf course and filled it with hot dogs — seemingly in response to criticism he received over the years about his eating habits.

It’s a complex game, but simple to enjoy

If you’ve never watched live hockey, you may be surprised at how frequently the players substitute (line changes). You’ll be confused by icing, and you’ll need an explanation of the offsides rule. It takes time to learn what types of hits are legal, and which aren’t. You may not know terms like deke, forecheck or keep, but the game is also quite simple. It’s fast and physical, and the goal is to put the puck into the net. And if you lose track of the puck, watch the lamp behind the goal.

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