Please recall the NHL lockout, that pesky little legal hiccup that wiped out October, November and December (but gave us Guy Serota!).
It was a frustrating time for hockey fans, many of whom tried to organize boycotts that would, hopefully, spur the league to an agreement for fear of losing its audience. Most of these protests fizzled, and as the NHL returned, so too did the fans, in record numbers.
But that's not to say nobody had the conviction to swear the League off for good.
Meet Steven Schucker, the most unfortunate of the principled saps still operating under their self-imposed boycotts. Why is Schucker the most unfortunate? Because he is (or was) a Chicago Blackhawks fan.
The Hawks have earned a point in 24 straight games. Schucker has seen none of them.
Somehow through an NHL-record start of 24 straight games without a loss in regulation for the 21-0-3 Blackhawks, Schucker has honored that vow in a city obsessed again with Indianhead sweaters. He misses Pat Foley's voice and Joel Quenneville's steely glare. Hawks games have been replaced on Schucker's television by reruns of "House'' or "Monk.'' And he can thank Bettman for expanding his knowledge of NBA rosters and Craig Sager's suits.
"You have an NHL commissioner who doesn't care about his sport and it got to the point it just turned me off hockey,'' Schucker said Thursday. "I can't support watching a sport run by someone like that. I love the Hawks. My issue is with the principle of what's going on with the sport. It would be easy for me to drop my gloves and say, 'OK, I'll go back and watch.' But I'm a man who believes in standing by my principle, tough as it is to do this year.''
There's a lot to criticize for Schucker. Monk and House reruns? There are better shows. And really, the NBA is currently operating under a collective-bargaining agreement forged in the fires of Mt. Lockout. As decisions borne of righteous anger go, it's sort of a lateral move.
Unsurprisingly, this poor guy is getting his fair share of criticism. Dry Island Castaways has written a post on Schucker titled "Let's all laugh at this dumb hockey fan".
It does not celebrate the man. Rather, it features the line, "Steven Shucker is a whiny child holding his breath until he passes out."
Perhaps. But I think this guy deserves kudos.
A couple years back, there was a Vancouver fan who called the local radio station during a lengthy Canucks' losing streak and said he'd had it. He was turning in his fan card. He cancelled his cable and wrote a strongly-worded letter to the news. His indignation was strong.
But what made it embarrassing was how obviously fleeting it was. Sure enough, when the Canucks turned it around that year and pushed to the second round of the postseason, the radio station checked in on the fan. He was back on board.
Here's the thing: if you're going to quit, then quit.
There are a lot of hockey fans who swore they'd be boycotting everything from games to merchandise to sponsors and haven't followed through in the slightest. Maybe they wised up and realized that taking the sport away from oneself as a protest for someone else taking it away never really made much sense. Or maybe, and this seems more likely to me, it was an empty threat from the start.
So sure. Steven Shucker is missing the greatest run of regular-season hockey the Chicago Blackhawks have ever put together. But at least he's a man of his word.
Steven Schucker, I salute you, you principled fool.
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