I was very excited indeed when the NHL schedule came out. Which I guess was naïve of me.
See, the Bruins were slated to play the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, Oct. 25, and when I found that out, I asked my buddy who has Bruins season tickets if I could go with him to that game. It was, I figured, my last chance to watch Teemu Selanne — my favorite player of all time and a true legend of the sport in every sense of the word — play live. I figured this because after you have two or three consecutive summers in which you announce that no, you're not retiring (via an exciting video), then the clock is almost assuredly ticking down to zero at a disconcerting pace.
And then over the last month and a half or so, I started to come to the horrible realization that if I want to see Teemu Selanne play live again, then I'm going to have to get on a bus or a train or a plane to do it. The sad reality is that unless this lockout gets worked out in a hurry — and it won't — then Selanne isn't coming to Boston on Oct. 25. He won't be coming to New York, a relatively easy trip, until mid-December. There's no guarantee hockey will be back by then either. In fact, there's no guarantee it'll be back at all, but here's hoping, I guess.
I've been seething about this for weeks, but Saturday at midnight, I guess it really sank in. Will the last game in which I saw Teemu Selanne play live really have been two seasons ago?
But the sad thing is, this is a problem that affects fans across the league. Lots of people justifiably love Selanne almost as much as their favorite player on their favorite team. If you're in an Eastern Canadian market, or Philadelphia, or Boston, what's probably your chance to see him in your hometown is going to get wiped out by this labor dispute. That's the reality. If the lockout lasts through New Year's, same goes for New York, Tampa and Carolina.
And if you're not a Selanne fan — first of all, you're a monster — then there are other stars whom you might never see again.
(Coming Up: Bad news for the NHL is great news for the AHL; Cam Fowler, Evander Kane get in under wire; Poor Stephen Gionta; Sharks check their options; Vladimir Tarasenko might be back in Russia; Viggo trolls Leafs; Blackhawks cancel fan fest; Datsyuk and the KHL; the Minnesota Wild are oblivious; how the lockout will help the Los Angeles Kings defend Cup; and getting Roberto Luongo to Toronto.)
Daniel Alfredsson, a consummate professional almost equally worthy of the endless praise that will be heaped upon him when he retires, won't be playing in Western Canada after early December. This after having already acknowledged that this very well could be his final NHL season.
That might even be true of Marty Brodeur, who just signed a two-year deal, but would, at 40, likely won't be helped in his physical preparations for the season by having it delayed a few months, or altogether.
Nick Lidstrom, for instance, might just have retired this summer because he saw all this CBA nonsense looming menacingly over the 2012-13 season like storm clouds, charcoal grey and low-hanging, rumbling and flashing in the distance, and figured enough was enough. What might a shortened-at-best season do for the wills of these other all-time greats to go through a long hot summer of intense workouts? The mind may still love and think the game the way it always has, but the body, at some point, always says, "No mas."
We know this because we went through it seven years ago. On September 6, 2005, after sitting out the owner-imposed lockout, Mark Messier, a two-time Hart Trophy winner and a six-time Stanley Cup champion, called it a career at age 44, having scored 43 points in 76 games in that last year before the 2004-05 season was wiped out. Six days later, 41-year-old Scott Stevens, still a physical menace to the last and as much an offensive threat as he'd been in years, followed Messier into the reddening distance. And then, two days later, 42-year-old Ron Francis did the same, having amassed the fourth-most points in NHL history and scored 20 goals in 20 seasons.
And slightly more than a month after that, after an ill-advised and frankly tough to watch comeback attempt with Phoenix, Brett Hull, at 41, likewise decided that he just didn't have it any more, even with 741 goals banked in his career coffers.
The fact that a long lockout plays havoc on aging players who don't ply their trade in the interim should be self-evident, but sometimes the effects aren't always clear until it's too late. You might have missed your last chance to see Messier, Stevens, Francis and — unless you saw him struggle through one of five games with the Coyotes — Hull.
You might not have gotten to say goodbye.
These guys, Selanne and Alfredsson and Brodeur and several others around the league, should be getting standing ovations in every building across the continent all winter. They enriched our lovely sport in ways we might never see from another player again. And it's a shame many fans won't be able to bid them the fond farewells they deserve.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks re-upped Cam Fowler before the lockout went official, giving him five years and $20 million dollars. But not, like, all of that. Obviously.
Boston Bruins: Guys like Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner can go to the AHL no problem but Tyler Seguin can't. The reason for this is that the cutoff for AHL eligibility without having to clear waivers is playing 160 games. Seguin has played 155 in the regular season but 20 in the playoffs, bringing him to 175, and therefore can't be sent down as normal. Seems pretty stupid to punish him for having been good enough to play full-time on a team that won a Stanley Cup.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are giving their season-ticket holders 4 percent interest on every canceled game if they roll them over into seats for next year. Someone's gotta pay for that Tyler Ennis contract.
Calgary Flames: Don't forget the last lockout wiped out any chance for the Flames to ever be truly competitive for the Stanley Cup. That is, if you buy that they ever should have been in the first place, which they really shouldn't have. But hey, when the team comes back, it might not have either Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff on it, so there's that.
Carolina Hurricanes: On the real, if you live anywhere near an AHL rink and don't get out to see the Charlotte Checkers — with Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk among their new players — then you're really dropping the ball.
Chicago Blackhawks: The lockout caused the Blackhawks to cancel their annual Fan Fest, which seems like overkill. In the spirit of the hour, they could have gotten their supporters line up so Rocky Wirtz could personally spit in each one of their faces.
Colorado Avalanche: Here's an article about the Xs and Os of the Avalanche's forecheck plans for this season, for some reason.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Jackets president Mike Priest issues a statement on the lockout. OH SORRY IT'S A WORK STOPPAGE. "Several significant upgrades also have been made to Nationwide Arena, most noticeably the addition of The Dispatch Media Center — a state-of-the-art scoreboard — that will greatly enhance the fan experience of attending a Blue Jackets game." Maybe don't bring that crap up right now, eh buddy?
Dallas Stars: Dallas business experts say the Stars will be hit particularly hard by the lockout because they don't have many fans to begin with. Ditto Phoenix ditto Florida ditto a bunch of other teams.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: There was a report Pavel Datsyuk signed a contract to go play for the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan, where he played prior to joining the NHL. Our Dmitry Chesnokov doesn't believe this is accurate.
Edmonton Oilers: That thing I said about going to see the Charlotte Checkers? Goes quintuple for the Oklahoma City Barons. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and, when he's no longer hurt, maybe Taylor Hall as well. How many points you think that top power play unit puts up? A trillion?
Florida Panthers: This is encouraging for Panthers fans: Even if there hadn't been a lockout, Erik Gudbranson and Kris Versteeg wouldn't be healthy for training camp, and Dmitry Kulikov remains unsigned.
Los Angeles Kings: This actually isn't a bad point: If there's a short lockout, say a month or two, that might actually help the Kings, and Devils as well, I guess. Remember how bad the Bruins and Canucks were at the beginning of last season?
Minnesota Wild: To quote Bill Clinton, "it takes some brass ones" to be one of the few teams — maybe the only one — to come out and basically say, "We're real glad this lockout is happening and our fans can go screw if they don't like it." Hey dummies, no one put a gun to your head and made you give Parise and Suter almost $200 million. Wasn't Leipold one of the few owners to go to most of the negotiations? Yes, of course he was.bringing a giant Habs flag to the Toronto International Film Festival. What a cool guy.
Nashville Predators: Paul Gaustad says he hasn't really weighed his options to go overseas yet because he wanted to remain optimistic. Bud, there's a difference between being optimistic and being blind. Many Predators, meanwhile, will stay in Nashville, so if you see David Legwand bumming around, give him a dollar or something.
New Jersey Devils: Poor Stephen Gionta. After toiling in the minors for seven years and finally becoming a regular for New Jersey in the playoffs, there's this lockout. He just signed a one-way deal for $525,000 for the first time in his life, and now doesn't have the option to go to the AHL, which I guess seems a little shortsighted.
New York Islanders: Matt Martin becomes the answer to a trivia question by signing a new deal just minutes before the expiration of the CBA, the very last player to do so.
New York Rangers: Not many years left of Brad Richards being in any way effective as an offensive threat so hey, keep 'er goin', Rangers.
Ottawa Senators: Another player who might never play again in North America depending on how long this lockout goes: Sergei Gonchar. He joined best bud Evgeni Malkin in Magnitogorsk, and this is the last year of his NHL deal. He's 38. So, maybe, there goes one of the best offensive defensemen of his generation.
Philadelphia Flyers: Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn were both sent to the AHL along with TWENTY-FOUR other players. Hope you weren't an AHL free agent trying to make it in Adirondack this season. You're outta luck.
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 38 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. Meanwhile, signing Shane Doan for too much and too long is apparently a "big step" for a team without an owner.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Big ups to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who do not have plans to lay off any staff, or cut pay, during the lockout. That's what every team should be doing, but few will.
San Jose Sharks: A brief list of Sharks who will explore their options overseas includes Justin Braun, Logan Couture, and TJ Galiardi, while more, like Marty Havlat and Antti Niemi say they'll think about it more now that the lockout is actually happening.
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko is AHL-eligible but could go back to Russia to play for SKA if the lockout drags on, which is just about what you'd expect.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Well hey, if 17 Bolts fans protesting won't get this lockout solved, nothing will. Don't waste your time on stuff like this. Stay home and read a book.
Toronto Maple Leafs: If the Marlies don't sell out every game during this lockout, Toronto is a joke hockey market. Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri will be there!
Vancouver Canucks: If the lockout goes on all season, the economy in Vancouver could lose as much as $40 million this season because bars, hotels, restaurants and so forth just won't have as many patrons. This will be a problem in your NHL city too. Get out and support the businesses around your local rinks this winter, especially if it's the only game in town.
Washington Capitals: Former Regina Pat was hoping to catch on with the Capitals — granted, he was very much a longshot to do so — but instead will go directly to Hershey and compete for jobs with actual NHL players instead.
Winnipeg Jets: For once it's someone who owes Evander Kane money that's ducking out on the check.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
All of this sucks, pretty much.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "TrueCanuckle" is making waves.
I wasn't flirting with her. I didn't even mention that I worked in propane.
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