Last week, the NHL and adidas unveiled the Reverse Retro jerseys for this season, and we all got to work ranking our favorites. Many teams got it right. Some teams ... well, they can't all be home runs. Overall it's a fun experiment and marketing campaign that got people talking, and produced some cool designs that fans will want to buy.
While we wait for the Reverse Retro uniforms to be seen on the ice, here are five things I'm looking forward to this week:
Join Arda Ocal and Greg Wyshynski for The Drop, a weekly video podcast on the NHL on ESPN YouTube channel. The show comes out every Thursday and will feature player interviews, hockey talk and much more.
Phil Kessel, NHL iron man
If two-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Kessel plays two more games, he will set the NHL record for consecutive games played. Keith Yandle, who retired this past offseason, broke the record last season and sits at 989.
Kessel is expected to tie the record on Monday against his former team the Toronto Maple Leafs, then break it on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks. Former Sharks icon Patrick Marleau is sixth on the iron man list with 910 consecutive games played. And if that's not enough of a San Jose connection, the next-longest active streak behind Kessel is Brent Burns (684), who was traded from the Sharks to the Hurricanes this past summer. We'll have more on the streak in this week's episode of The Drop.
There are two things that I love most about this incredible feat. The first is that Kessel himself doesn't know the exact number he's about to hit, nor does it seem like he really cares. When asked what number he needs to reach by NHL.com, the 35-year-old's response was "No idea. You'll have to look that up."
The second thing is that there is a section of hockey Twitter that loves to poke fun at Phil Kessel's hockey head shots and hot dogs. I don't have to say any more; you know exactly what I'm talking about. But once the record is broken, it will bring me great joy that images like these will represent incredible athletic durability and longevity at the highest levels:
Looking ahead, Kessel would reach 1,000 consecutive games played against another former team of his, the Arizona Coyotes, on Nov. 17.
Arizona's home debut at ASU
Speaking of the Coyotes, they'll have their first game at Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University on Friday, hosting the Winnipeg Jets at 10:30 p.m. ET, broadcast exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu.
Last season, when the Seattle Kraken played at home for the first time, ESPN's Steve Levy said something interesting about the festivities: "Tonight, it's not about the game, it's about the spectacle." Basically he meant that while the other 40 home games can be about the game itself, that night was about the arena, the welcome and celebrating a new franchise.
This one has just as much intrigue -- an NHL team playing at a college arena, with a capacity of around 5,000. Loud? Intimate? Disappointing? There are lots of questions NHL fans have coming into this one. However you feel about the arrangement and whether it belongs in the biggest hockey league in the world, there's no denying that the curiosity will be there. And just like the opener at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, this will be more about the spectacle than the game itself.
Star vs. star matchups
Look, we've all heard the clichés in hockey -- it's all about crest on the front, not the name on the back, and the like -- I get all that. But I've also worked in the worlds of pro wrestling and MMA. Stars are fun. Superstars are even more fun. The promotion of those superstars builds intrigue. The NBA thrives when Steph, LeBron, Ja or Luka pops off. In fact, they are such household names among many sports fans that they go by a first-name basis.
Last season we saw superstar promotion in the NHL perhaps more than ever before, because certain players were embracing it more than ever before. Trevor Zegras and Jack Hughes are two great examples. Attempt a lacrosse goal (or lacrosse assist), throw your stick into the crowd, it doesn't make me think you're not a team player -- I'm watching hockey to be entertained, and those things are entertaining to me.
This week we have a bunch of star matchups:
ESPN is presenting a "Star Watch" alternate broadcast Tuesday during the New York Rangers-Colorado Avalanche game, with isolated cameras for the entire game on Cale Makar and Adam Fox -- and yes, if the player gets a penalty, you get to watch them stew in the box for two minutes.
The star players may not always skate directly against one another, but it just adds a layer of buzz to have that much hype coming into a game. Of course, some rivalries don't need any stars at all (though their current rosters do include them).
Round 2 of the Battle of Alberta
Steeped in rich history and a recent entertaining playoff battle, this is one of those appointment viewing games for hockey fans. Game 1 of their regular-season slate was spirited and fun, with the Flames holding off a spirited comeback to hang on to a 4-3 win. This one is available via NHL Power Play for ESPN+ subscribers.
The next wave of skate fashion
Hockey fans constantly beg for hockey players to show more personality. Here's one that could take off.
Skate Skins aims to be the equivalent of "sneaker fashion" in hockey. Remember the skate version of the Jordan 1 "Chicagos"? Those are Skate Skins:
Pull up and you know it's us 🔞— Just Dishin® (@JustDishin) July 11, 2022
The Jordan 1 Off-White Chicago skate is here to rewrite the rules. pic.twitter.com/WiRiuGJPSl
Two years ago, we launched SkateSkins as a way to empower players with more creative freedom & individual style within their game.— Just Dishin® (@JustDishin) April 28, 2022
This week was another huge step in our mission, with SkateSkins breaking into the NHL for the first time in collaboration with the Arizona Coyotes. pic.twitter.com/eYmgeAVUgJ
This is an interesting concept, and it would be cool to see more widespread adoption. It's a great way for players to express themselves, and fans would love the glimpse at players' personalities. The team behind the Skate Skins is opening its first store in Buffalo this week.