I’m not sure what this says about us as fans (or what it even means for the future of this blog) but after a year of discussions we’ve finally started this blog on the day the NHL has cancelled all games in the month of September.
Instead of providing an analysis of the negotiations or breaking down the numbers, we’re going to start this off with a personal lockout experience. We’re all seasoned vets now, take a bow.
Up until 2004, lockouts hadn’t resonated with me. But I recall being worried in ’04. I was 21 and in my final year of college. As a journalism student, many of my school friends were hardcore sports enthusiasts. Prior to the lockout we watched a lot of hockey together, but now we were faced with an endless amount of poker on TV. Poker, which ended up exploding across North America as a result. Coincidentally, Gary Bettman’s half brother Jeffery Pollack became the Vice President of Marketing for the World Series of Poker in ’05.
To be honest, even before Bettman officially called it quits on the 2004-2005 NHL season, I knew it was over. When it returned in the fall of ’05 I no longer cared about the only sport I’d ever truly loved; the sport that provided me with my fondest childhood memories. I was a working adult now with friends who also lost their desire to give a shit. And similar to an awful ex-boyfriend, I couldn’t trust the NHL enough to come back into my life. Not after the months of disappointment anyway. I’d learned to live without it for so long, it was easy to turn my attention elsewhere. Hockey was my terrible ex who kept me at arms length and never seemed to want me around anyway. With soaring ticket prices, how could I be? I wanted to keep loving it, but the NHL made it impossible. Coupled with dismal results from my favourite team, I felt I’d been hung out to dry. Sure, I’d catch a game here and there but my interest was nowhere near where it would have been had Bettman and Goodenow come to an agreement in time to save the season.
And so in 2009, still with minimal interest in the sport, I moved to New York – a place that oddly put me in touch with my roots. I started inquiring about seeing live games (but it’s REALLY HARD to find people in Brooklyn who’ve ever watched a game in their life) and became acquainted with live streaming, something I’d never needed to do up until then. I saw the Devils at the Prudential Center and was astounded by the fact that on a weekend, I could get a pair of 4th row tickets for $120 and comfortably move up to 1st row without worry. Jersey were at the top of their division and the arena was half empty and quiet enough you could hear a pin drop. I spent the game heckling former Leafs goalie Toskala and quickly realized that I didn’t know or care about the team I grew up watching. That soon changed when I returned home to Canada just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I was quickly enamoured with hockey again and Bettman and the NHL had nothing to do with it. After that I plunged back in, as though the last few years of neglect ceased to exist. And this time around my passion for the game grew stronger. Which brings me to today, Lockout day four. I’m mad, I’m hurt, I feel cheated, disappointed and above all unsure if they’ve broken my trust for the last time. Don’t let me down easy; just tell it like it is and help me move on already. The NHL has proven to be the most disappointing relationship I’ve had to date.
By now we’re all veterans of the lockout because we’ve had an unreasonable and stubborn man at the helm. A man who doesn’t love the game like fans do. The NHL is a business and millions are on the line for both parties, but as a fan who pays ludicrous ticket prices and consistently updates my sports-related apparel, I am a huge concern for them. I help keep the NHL in business and my story isn’t that different from many. To force fans to endure the third lockout since the early 90s spells trouble for the league as fans may not be as forgiving as they’ve been in the past.
I plan on catching AHL games and streaming some KHL games (seriously, can we get some carriers in North America, already?) to lessen the blow. But there’s no predicting the length of the lockout and how it may affect our love in the end.