Yes, we had U.S. Classic. Yes, we had Nebelhorn. Yes, we are having Ondrej Nepela this weekend. But for me, the event I most associate with the start of every new season is the star-studded Japan Open, which always takes place the first weekend of October every year.
And while it's not a Grand Prix (or even one of the new Challenger events), and it is a bit of a pro-am event, and it's a free skate-only competition, the sheer fact that we get to see the debut of many of the very best skaters in the world makes this competition highly-anticipated and totally worth the hype. Need more? Here's a quick look:
Javier Fernandez, Brian Joubert, Adelina Sotnikova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
Three World champions and an Olympic champion. On paper, these four probably combine to be the most decorated team on the roster. Tuktamysheva and Fernandez are looking to be the ones carrying this team, as they are the most recent World champions. Sotnikova is making her comeback to competition - the first time she's competing internationally since she won the Olympic gold in Sochi 20 months ago. Joubert is like going to be the weak link, only because he's no longer in seasoned competition form. But then again, this guy is a super jumpe, so don't be surprised if he puts a fine free skate together.
Mao Asada, Satoko Miyahara, Daisuke Murakami, Shoma Uno
Asada makes her own comeback after taking last season off - and in so many ways, her performance will be the most anticipated one (certainly the most anticipated one in the arena on home ice). Miyahara is coming off a fantastic season that saw her win silver at Worlds and just had a solid start to her season at U.S. Classic. Uno overcame some early jitters at U.S. Classic to put together a strong free skate, and hopefully his second competition of the season will be less nervy. And Murakami is really the wild card. He can be brilliant (see 2014 NHK Trophy).
Team North America
Jeremy Abbott, Patrick Chan, Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner
It's like the theme of this Japan Open. Team North America also features a comeback - Chan took all of last season off as well, with the except of last year's Japan Open, where he demolished the competition. He skated his first short program since Sochi just last week at a domestic Canadian event. Gold and Wagner continue to be the American stars on the scene. Gold is in her first Japan Open and Wagner will look to start her season a whole lot better than she did last year at Japan Open, where she skated a super inconsistent free skate. Abbott, taking the rest of this season off after this competition, will be Team North America's wild card. We will see where his technical content is.
Prediction: It's going to be a close one between the three teams, but I see Team Japan taking it by just a smidge.