By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

As August wraps up, the summer is slowly fading away and for us hockey collectors, this means one thing and one thing only; a new season of release is upon us! Sure, some are already out like Victory or Fleer, but come on, things do not seriously kick off until UD black 09-10, UD Series 1 and Artifacts make their entry. Unfortunately the release of Black has been delayed until mid-October, Artifacts will make us wait until the end of October and Series 1 until November! How are we meant to survive until then?

Well, bluntly put, it’s time to immerse yourself in some good old preseason fun! Who isn’t curious to see which rookies will make the big jump this year, where the last few free agents will land (with the exception of Matt Sundin, does anyone even care anymore?) and whether or not your team’s new signing will pan out? I know I definitely am! However, there is something else that you can quite easily do to start living and breathing hockey again, sign-up to fantasy leagues!

While it used to be a headache to run the family hockey pool, it’s now quite easy to do with the help of great websites such as ESPN.com and officepools.com. A fantasy league can be as easy or as in-depth as the participants want. There is always the option to run a simple “pool” in which the participants can pick any players and therefore most end up with similar team or you can go the more involve way and with a set number of entrants, set-up a live draft during which each team manager builds a life-like team but beware; only one of you will be able to get Malkin or Ovechkin or anyone else for that matter! There lies the (daunting) challenge!

If you don’t feel like having to run the show yourself, the sign-up period for the regular season pool ran by the hockey team will shortly be starting.

From a non-virtual standpoint, you can also kill time before the season properly starts by attending the various preseason games being played throughout the league. For the third year running, it is once again possible for the European fans to do this as well as the Blackhawks, Wings, Panthers and Blues will be heading to the old continent not only for some preseason action but also to start the regular calendar. Sweden and Finland are the lucky countries welcoming the teams this year, just like last year. From a selfish point of view, I would have preferred to see the NHL return to England but I will have to make do with the AHL first European venture as the Hamilton Bulldogs and Toronto Marlies will be coming to Scotland to compete in the Gardiner Cup. You can expect a detailed report of the event at the start of October.

There you have it, I think all this should suffice to keep you busy until the season starts and the releases starts pouring in! I am personally looking forward to my boxes of Victory and Fleer (yes I gave in and bought some) and the live drafts in my numerous fantasy leagues!