Ready for a (hopefully) normal season

It feels like just yesterday that I walked out of Mennen Arena for the final time after the Haas Cup final.

The 2020-21 ice hockey season was in a word, bizarre. COVID-19 pushed the start of the season back to mid-January, with no fans allowed in the early part of the year. The short, six-or-seven week season we ended up having was one I’ll never forget, for both good and bad reasons.

Let’s start with the good- the season produced some thrilling games, whether it was Chatham’s last minute comeback against Morris Knolls early in the season, or the Haas and Charette Cup finals which were decided in overtime and the last minute of regulation, respectively. The Mennen Cup final, which was a 3-1 win for Morristown-Beard, produced a state-final level game in a year where there were no state finals.

The negatives are things I hope I never have to report on again. Teams having to shut down for two weeks- and even more brutal- teams having to shut down right before the Cup tournaments ending their season prematurely. My sincere hope for this winter is that there will be significantly fewer shutdowns and we can have as close to a normal season as possible.

And so, the season is fast approaching, when it feels like last season just ended. Practices kick off on Monday, Nov. 8, followed by scrimmages on Monday, Nov. 15. The regular season officially gets underway on Black Friday- Nov. 26, and I’m ready to kick off the fourth season of coverage for The Morris-Sussex Hockey Report.

It’s always a personal goal of mine to add a different element to my coverage each year. I started with the basics in year one (2018-19), with just game stories. Year two I started doing nightly recaps of all the games. Last year, in year three, I changed up my style of game stories to include observations and my picks for three stars of the game. I even experimented with a podcast in the early part of the season.

So, what can you expect from me this season? I’ve already outlined it on Twitter, but you can still expect game coverage from me for 1-2 games per week, along with nightly roundups. I’ll still make Player of the Week selections each week (which began last year) along with our area Top 5 teams. I’ll be looking to bring back the podcast on a more regular basis this season (hopefully with guests!). I’ll also be looking to be more active on YouTube- I’ll try to take some more videos at games for some highlights, and will post some video interviews from games. An e-mail newsletter is also in the works, where folks who sign up will have stories and recaps delivered right to their inbox (I’ll have more on that soon).

I’m as excited as ever to get rolling with this season. In the coming days I’ll be posting the divisional alignment for the 2021-22 season with some analysis, and likely the week of Nov. 8 I will send pre-season info sheets out to coaches and as I receive responses, I will be posting individual team previews. It is my goal to post an individual preview for each team in the Morris-Sussex area, but that is largely dependent on coaches getting back to me with their info. So, coaches- please make sure you send your pre-season info sheets to me at michaelgurnis@gmail.com so I can preview your team.

One thing I have learned- with the amount of time that I put into this site, I cannot continue to run this site for free. Yes, the last three years I have run this blog as a personal hobby and have not earned one penny for it. I’ve been internally debating on how to do that- one thing I am not is a businessman- but one thing I can tell you for sure is this: I will not put any content on this site behind a paywall. Right now I am looking into the possibility of putting ads on this site, whether it be through WordPress’ ad system or individual, local ads. The other idea is to just ask people for donations. I hope people enjoy the content I put up enough to understand where I’m coming from on this, so once I make a decision in that regard I’ll be sure to let you all know.

In the meantime, I hope you’re all ready for what should be a fun, interesting, and (hopefully) normal 2021-22 season. I’ve already taken a glance at the opening weekend schedule, which includes a big one on opening day between Delbarton and Bergen Catholic. I’m sure there will be more games added as we go along, but Nov. 26 cannot get here fast enough.

E-mail Mike Gurnis at michaelgurnis@gmail.com

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