It's now been 76 days.
As the clock struck midnight on September 16th and the collective bargaining agreement expired, the National Hockey League locked out the players...and their fans. Since that moment, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr have been in a fierce competition to see who can be the bigger cancer for the sport of hockey, and no matter who "wins", everybody loses.
While the Phoenix Coyotes have been prevented from following up their magical postseason run, many in the state have thought that hockey was effectively dead.
The Arizona State Sun Devils beg to differ.
Who? What? Why?
Yes, to preemptively answer your question, Arizona State does have a hockey team, and a damn good one too. In fact, they are currently the only undefeated team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) and appropriately hold the No. 1 spot in the rankings. That deserves your attention, Mr. or Miss Arizona Sports Fan.
Those devout local fans of the sport likely have been aware of the program's existence, but there is still a vast portion of the hockey-loving public that is entirely unaware that the Sun Devils have a hockey team.
Over at House of Sparky, we've been covering this team all season long, because a) it's an ASU sports team, and that's what we do b) we love hockey, and it's the only game in town c) it's a high-quality product and d) it's a legitimately great story.
So in the interest of expanding the reach of Arizona sports fans, here's some answers to some questions you may have about the team and their season so far.
So what is this all about?
Arizona State has a good hockey team.
Need more? OK.
The Sun Devil hockey team has been around for quite some time, competing as a club level sport. They're currently an independent program in the ACHA, but next season, they'll be an inaugural member of the new Western Collegiate Hockey League next season along with Arizona, Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma, Colorado and Colorado State.
Not being a NCAA program, the team is fully self-sufficient. A few years ago, Ken Lind took over the program as General Manager, and has invested heavily with his time, efforts and money to create a top-notch program.
Clearly, he's succeeded.
In 2010, Greg Powers took over as head coach, and solidified the program as one of the true elites. Tempe is now a destination for talented players from all across the United States and Canada, with many having transferred in while others have passed up "higher level" opportunities to don the maroon and gold.
Wait, no NCAA? So this isn't a "real" college sport?
This is every bit as much of an Arizona State Sun Devils team as any sport. They just can't give out scholarships and have to be entirely self-funded. But that hasn't stopped them from achieving such high levels of success.
If you are a Sun Devil, this is a team very deserving of your support.
Are they any good?
As mentioned above, this year's squad is currently 18-0 and ranked No. 1...so yeah, they are. This weekend, the boys are heading to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions, who recently made the jump from the ACHA to the NCAA, a path ASU may one day follow.
For more on the team, check our our story archive for the latest in-depth coverage of the squad that you'll find.
OK, but as an ASU team, how have they done against Arizona?
How does 28 straight wins over the 'Cats sound? Yep, it's true. Utter domination, including a 4-0 record this season with a combined score of 25-6.
Where do they play?
The Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, off of McClintock just north of the 101.
What should I expect from a game? Is it a good time?
For anyone who has seen live hockey, you know it's arguably the best sport to watch in person, and this Sun Devil squad is a complete team. They feature a powerful offensive attack, a speedy defense, and a premier goaltender in Joe D'Elia.
The small size of Oceanside makes for a nice setting, and all games feature a portion of the ASU marching band, so the collegiate sports atmosphere is in full effect. Just with lower temperatures.
How can I check them out?
Glad you asked. Head over to the arena and cheer them on. Adult tickets are just $10. Can't beat that. Great value for the family, and the good folks at House of Sparky will be there covering the action. Tweet us, we'll say "hello".
Are games streamed online?
They are. Many are broadcast on fasthockey.com, although that is a pay-per-view model, as are some away games though the host school's site, such as this weekend's series against Penn State which you can watch here. Others are free to watch, so be sure to follow keep tabs on things each week.
Why didn't I know about them before?
It's OK. We all make mistakes. But you are forgiven, as long as you start following this remarkable team.
Besides, where else are you going to get your hockey fix?