Putting the NHL on ice

Hockey’s back. I’m Canadian and I’m supposed to be thrilled, but I’m not.

Truth be told, I don’t care either way. I gave up on hockey a long time ago. Rewind fifteen years and you’d find an avid fan who could rattle off stats, would watch any match-up and vowed to get a Stars tattoo should they ever win the Stanley Cup. (Thank GOD I didn’t follow through on that!) I lived through the glowing puck debacle, but had to draw the line when the point for an overtime loss made the sport sound more like elementary school sports day than a professional men’s league.

When the strike/lockout/whateveryouwanttocallit started, it was bittersweet for me. On the plus side, no hockey in my house. At the same time, with the drama heightened, hockey was all I heard about at work, with family, on the news, Facebook, Twitter, it seemed endless. At each of what felt like a million points when some spin doctor would reignite the furor by “leaking” an ebb or flow in the agreement tide, the shock and indignation was reignited and so was the discussion. Snooze.

photo (1)Toronto Marlies at Abbotsford Heat

Then this morning, we awoke in our hotel room, still high on the start of the NLL season last night and from different rooms seemed to simultaneously stumble upon the news that an agreement had been reached between the NHL players and the owners. I could see the excitement on Kevin’s face as he rushed into the room to tell me and he barely hesitated to proudly cap his head with his current favourite Maple Leafs hat. He loves hockey and, for him, I was happy.

At the same time, I was outraged. At his relief, at the enthusiastic tweets, at the short memory of fans everywhere.

It was about a month ago when I realized that the emotion surrounding the labour agreement or lack thereof ran a lot deeper than I’d expected. I don’t remember the events that led up to it, but the strike hit a critical point when fans’ frustrations were heightened and there was plenty of talk about fighting back. The nature of the strike/lockout talk turned angry, but made transparent that it was fuelled, in fact, by hurt feelings. I felt like I’d been really insensitive by brushing it off as no big deal since a lot of people around me were taking the incident very personally. It wasn’t just a part of history being witnessed, it was something being done to them. Just listen to the words used in that Just Drop It video, above. “You lock me out, I’m locking you out.” “For every game you take from me, I’ll take one from you.” “If we lose ten games then they’ll lose the first ten game when they return.” That’s personal.

With that awareness, I didn’t welcome today’s news with open arms. A lot of people had been affected by what happened (just ask Stanley C. Panther) but they seemed to have instantly forgotten all the anguish they’d been through. What was with the buzz of anticipation and elation?!? What happened to the outrage? Where was the indignation? What happened to the vows of pro-hockey celibacy?

I get it. You can’t stay upset forever, life has to go on. But, for those spoiled athletes and owners to reveal that they’d haggled over, among other things, the right for millionaires to be treated to private rooms when on the road? And for the people who spent months feeling genuinely deprived by suffering the loss of their favourite form of entertainment to just turn around and embrace the NHL? Well, this wouldn’t be the first time it could be said I’m too sensitive to watch (or work in!) sports.

Of course, it’s easy for me to take this stance. As I mentioned, I don’t really care. I could have lived without this season. In fact, I selfishly wanted it to be settled a long time ago just so everyone would finally quit talking about it. I won’t vow never to attend another game because I probably will. However, I’ll certainly think twice about how I spend my money in the future – this means tickets AND merchandise. Sure, I wasn’t hurt by this dispute, but I’m not so forgiving knowing people I love were.

photoSpokane Chiefs at Everett Silvertips

The photos I’ve posted were taken at two games we attended during the lockout. Let them be your reminder that there is other hockey going on in your community, that it’s played by people who love playing the game and by guys who are still grinding for a chance at the spotlight instead of just a portion of profit-sharing. If you’re in the Lower Mainland, check out the Vancouver Giants, a major junior hockey team that is a part of the Western Hockey League or head out to the Valley to see the Abbotsford Heat, an American Hockey League club that serves as the farm team for the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Both organizations offer AFFORDABLE tickets starting at around $20 each, are housed in great venues (the Giants in the Pacific Coliseum if you’re feeling nostalgic) and offer the full arena hockey experience. Or take a walk over to your local barn. There are plenty of hopefuls of all ages who are more interested in working than in listing demands.

Better yet, watch lacrosse.

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20 thoughts on “Putting the NHL on ice

  1. As you experience shows, I think most fans will quickly forget about the lockout. For me, it was just business, nothing personal, and I approached it that way. I’m a Leafs fan though, so I am used to the business side of things coming first and the hockey second.

    It is interesting you mention the Abbotsford Heat. The NHL lockout had no real impact on fans (besides hurt feelings), whereas the existence of the Abbotsford Heat has a very real financial impact on fans that live in Abbotsford. The deal the ownership group has with the city is the city and the ownership group split any profit above 5.7 million, but the city must make up for any profit below 5.7 million. In 2011 this cost the city taxpayers 1.3 million (http://sports.nationalpost.com/2012/09/29/abbotsford-heat-could-use-help-connecting-with-fans/).

  2. I totally hear you. What bothers me the most is that millionaires and billionaires were squabbling over the $600 + a family of 4 might spend at a game in cities like Toronto. It probably seems like a drop in the bucket tothem but it is a lot to an average family.

  3. I make the claim that I am a hockey fan. We watch our favourite team(s) on the tube, and most of the playoff games. However, I live, and have lived, in communities too far away to attend NHL games. I have been to 3 total in 40 years. I am inclined to boycott in some manner. Will not watching hockey on CBC or TSN make a difference. Unlikely. I am disgruntled over recent lockout. I am irritated that they took the fans money, time, and loyalty for granted and dickered over self indulgent excess. I wish there were some way those of us who love the game could get OUR dissatisfaction heard. And if I hear one more time one of those overpaid egotists say it’s not about the money, its about the game, my television just might suffer the consequences.

  4. Great post even if I don’t totally agree with you. Athletes and owners alike are greedy. FACT! I will continue to watch hockey, i will never stop.

    The funny thing is everyone is making this about hockey and NHL like they are the only sports league to ever go through this. The reality is this isn’t just about hockey. Of the 4 pro sports they aren’t the only one with strikes and lockouts. Baseball since 1972 has had EIGHT strikes/lockouts with the most recent being 1994-1995 cancelling the 1994 World Series. Since 1995 the NBA has had 4. Most recently being last season where they missed the first half of the year. The NFL has had a few of its own with the most recent putting the 2011 season in jeapordy. The NHL has had 4 including the most recent.

    Why are we making it seem like it’s only hockey players and owners that are greedy? This is a sports wide problem. Let me be clear that I do NOT agree with the lockout, what it stands for or the work it has taken away from the regular joes who rely on the season. I am just simply making the point this is about all sports and athletes that make millions and billionaire owners who are just greedy and want things their way.

    Again though, well written post.

  5. I am with you. When my children asked the other day why the Canucks are not playing, I explained basically using your words above – it is because millionaire players and millionaire owners are both greedy. It is enough to turn me off for life, frankly. The game will never be the same to me. I get much more out a good book, anyway.

  6. I’m not a hockey fan. But I’m glad the fight for coin has come to a hush. Anytime there’s a lockout regardless of the sport, it genuinely makes me cringe. Play the game already. Aren’t you happy to be doing what you love?

  7. i dunno. you have to fight for your piece of the pie. it might seem like pocket change and quibbling to us, but at the end of the day, when every game could be your last and the owners will set you aside if/when you blow out your knee/take a puck to the face, you have to look out for no. 1.

    • So…taking a puck to the face or blowing a knee requires that you be paid millions of dollars as compensation? Why? Does taking a puck to the face or blowing out a knee prevent you from attending school, getting an education and becoming gainfully employed to earn a living? Not the last time I looked.

      If taking a puck to the face was my worst fear, I’d happily go to work every day. Sorry. My worst fear is having an IED go off and having my intestines spilled all over someone else who just had their legs blown off in the most violent of circumstances; for $65K/year. Far from the millions of dollars an NHL player is paid to “look out for #1″ while playing a game he plays “for the love of the sport”.

  8. Watch lacrosse … Or women’s hockey, or minor league hockey. It’s the passion that counts, and they’ve got it in spades. The NHL has become much to corporate – we don’t have to buy into that.

  9. Hockey is a great sport. I played when I was younger and have been a fan since I started playing. Since October, when the season was supposed to start hockey has been dead to me. Now that they are starting I’m not sure what I will do. If the Bruins get off to a hot start I may start watching games on the TV, but if they play poorly I probably won’t pay the NHL any attention which is rare for me. Plus I usually go to 2 or 3 games live each year and I definitely won’t be doing that this year. I did post a top 10 reasons it’s good to have the NHL back, but mostly out of fun
    By the way you have tarnished my image of a Canadian by not being a hockey fanatic. In spite of that I truly enjoyed your post.

  10. I have nothing to add that hasn’t been said before, and I’m one of those who lost interest a long time ago too. So my comment is more of a question:

    Will this year’s NHL champions only be entitled to half a cup? ha ha

  11. Buffalo was the same way. I am a football fan, but relate to the frustration you felt with all the back and forth drama. People are obsessed, and willing to forget the ridiculousness of the whole debate just because hockey has returned.

  12. I hear you… for a while I vowed, like many others, to never watch hockey again. I’m still disgusted with the way things have turned out this year. However, when you think of all the businesses in Canada that rely so heavily on the NHL, it’s definitely a good thing that the league is back. I would argue that instead of protesting the league as a whole, just hold off from buying paraphanlia/tickets. Watch the games in the bar and support those who matter (for a few months at least… that will get the message across… if we boycott altogether, the league won’t exist for too long and those same bars will be right back in the same spot they were in during the lockout).

  13. Hockey never dies in my heart! It’s easily the greatest sport on the face of the earth. I watch it. I play it. I love it!

    Here in Michigan, as in most midwestern states and through Canada, we don’t need the NHL. I just love watching the Wings play. I love watching hockey at its highest level.

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