Carrie Underwood and her husband, Nashville Predators player Mike Fisher. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images )
If you follow more than five non-robots on Twitter, then over the weekend you learned that the NHL lockout ended and the 2012-13 season will start Saturday (sans the 2012). Are you a casual sports fan looking for a new excuse to fire up your flatscreen for hours on end this winter? Look no further than the Blackhawks, my frenz. The shortened, compressed schedule favors the Hawks for two reasons:
1) Loads of back-to-back games mean backup goalies matter more. Although starter Corey Crawford needs to improve this year, backup Ray Emery did well for a second-stringer—and he's far better than most teams' backups. With 12 or 13 back-to-back-games on every team's schedule, these undercard goalie matchups will happen more often than in a usual season.
2) After a couple of busy offseasons, the Blackhawks mostly stayed pat this year. While other teams will have to use the first few weeks of games as de facto training camp and preseason, the veteran-by-comparison Hawks should have their offense in rhythm earlier than their foes.
Jump on board, Casual Sports Fan! Circle these dates on your new black-and-red calendar:
Jan. 22 vs. St. Louis
The home opener. If you're lucky enough to score seats, Google "Blackhawks anthem" before you go. If not, download "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis.
You should: Set the song's chorus as your ringtone.
Feb. 7 at Phoenix
These guys knocked the Hawks out of the playoffs last spring in a series that featured FIVE overtime games. The Coyotes are actually, honestly, truly owned and operated by the NHL itself. No, really. I know.
You should: Paint your face with blood and take Feb. 8 off from work in advance. I don't want to know where you get the "blood."
March 3 at Detroit
An 11:30 a.m. start time against the Hawks' historical rivals is a free pass to consume alcohol at an early hour!
You should: Bring at least two kinds of bloody mary mix to your friend's house.
April 1, 6 and 7 against Nashville
Three games in a week against a divisional foe that should decide playoff seeding. Predators forward Mike Fisher is married to Carrie Underwood.
You should: Write a parody version of "Before He Cheats." Start with "Adore These Meats."
Alex Quigley is a RedEye special contributor.
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