By Greg Wyshynski
I've steadfastly avoided wearing an NHL jersey for the last few months, a personal protest born out of complete agitation and exasperation with the lockout.
Two-and-a-half year olds, however, have no respect for such personal politics. So after I put a Hello Kitty holiday shirt on my daughter this weekend, she instructed me on what I needed to wear that day.
"Daddy … Debbuls shirt."
This is child speak for digging one of my New Jersey Devils sweaters out of the back of the closet.
Bypassing the Claude Lemieux jersey — no father wants to turtle in front of his daughter — I picked out my old school green-and-red Scott Stevens throwback jersey, and received proper approval from my fashion consultant. (Keep in mind I could have worn a pancake as a hat and still received the same approval.)
And so we embarked on our day of Christmas-y stuff, as I wore my wholly appropriate Christmas tree jersey. The last time I rocked an NJD sweater was the day after the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup — a show of fan solidarity and respect for your team's effort, flying the colors one last time before they're buried for the summer months. It had been far too long.
Yet at the same time, it felt different. Disgustingly different.
One of the great things about rocking NHL gear, at least in the States, is that it's a clarion call for other hockey fans to engage you in conversation. Keep in mind that in certain parts of the U.S., there's no guarantee that two hockey fans are occupying the same space at the same time; hence, there's always a danger that you reveal yourself as a hockey fan and the other person dismisses it with "I like that outdoor game" before changing the conversation to the BCS or Dwight Howard.
So wearing the NJD jersey over the weekend was a bat-signal to other puckheads to strike up conversations, and herein lies the disgust — we have nothing to talk about anymore.
The lockout has stolen a lot from us — money, jobs, distractions — just it's also stolen that connectivity we have as fans. What once were conversations about our teams challenging for the Stanley Cup are now conversations about if there'll be a season. Bitching about the coach is replaced with bitching about federal mediators. Debating whether or not the team goat is giving 100 percent has been replaced by percentage of hockey related revenue. Lamenting the commissionership of Gary Bettman has been replaced … OK, that one's a constant.
I bumped into a handful of hockey fans over the weekend. One dude at Target was an Islanders fan that had suffered the double body blows of the team leaving Long Island and the lockout depriving him of his team. A Capitals fan as a party couldn't bring himself to talk puck, as he was so despondent over the lockout. Another fan said he was done with the League, not spending another dime on tickets.
All of these conversations are happening across the hockey world, and they shouldn't be. It's December. We should be talking about the Winter Classic, the looming playoff picture, who's rigging the All-Star Game voting and Brian Burke's bizarre advent calendar on when not to make a trade.
But the NHL and the NHLPA had literally stolen that dialogue from us, chaining it up like the doors of a darkened arena on game night.
In turn, they've stolen a part of our identity. I don't know anyone that still doesn't self-identify as a hockey fan. But I know many that can't say they're proud to be one at this moment.
One of them wore a Scott Stevens Christmas tree sweater at the behest of his daughter over the weekend.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks Daily Blog's EA Sports simulation of the season finds the Ducks with a 3-12-5 record. Virtual Bruce Boudreau seen reaching for his 25th pint of virtual Haagen-Dazs.
Boston Bruins: Daniel Paille inked a deal with SM-liiga, bringing the total number of Bruins overseas to 12, while the number of Bruins holed up in an underground bunker stockpiling canned goods and weapons remains at one.
Calgary Flames: Bob Hartley is interviewed by The Coaches Site by a guy who holds the microphone incredibly awkwardly, like he's speaking into a turkey leg. Hartley said he used to work at a windshield plant.
Carolina Hurricanes: "Failure to see teams like the Hurricanes will be hurt by another stoppage is mind-boggling and economically irresponsible," writes Mike Maniscalco about some fantasy creation that doesn't think teams would be hurt by another cancelled season.
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan O'Byrne scored his first goal for the ECHL Florida Everblades and was startled when the fans started pelting him with stuffed animals.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Senator Sherrod Brown is fighting to get Columbus its cancelled All-Star Game back in 2015. Hey, crazy thought: Why not wield some of that political clout to make sure there's actually, like, NHL hockey in 2015.
Dallas Stars: The Stars held a meeting and informed their employees that layoffs and paycuts won't be coming in the "foreseeable future", even if those 4-day work weeks will continue. One reason? The team's execs have taken a paycut.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: The Wings are salivating over the chemistry Damien Brunner has with Henrik Zetterberg. Said Ken Holland: "We're hoping that eventually they can bring that chemistry back to North America.''
Edmonton Oilers: Justin Schultz has 31 points in 20 games. For perspective's sake, T.J. Brennan is the second-highest scoring defenseman in the AHL with 18 in 19 games.
Florida Panthers: Team George Parros beat Team Mike Brown in their Movember competition by $2,527. Leafs still losing during the NHL lockout. Go figure.
Los Angeles Kings: The 10 greatest LA Kings of all-time? And Wayne Gretzky is number … three?
Minnesota Wild: Not to get all Bob Costas here, but we really needed Josh Harding's MS diagnosis to put the lockout in perspective?
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber thinks there are too many hurdles for him to play in Europe. "I definitely want to play, too, but it's harder than you think," he told The Tennessean. "There's probably not a lot of teams over there that have a lot of spots for imports, but with insurance and a number of other aspects it may not be so easy." Please notice drawing a salary is not among these considerations.
New Jersey Devils: Adam Henrique had surgery Thursday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. He'll miss up to six weeks, which means the next time Devils fans see him play will be … well, who the hell knows, right?
New York Islanders: That Bruce Ratner is helping to determine what to do with the Nassau Coliseum is fairly comic/tragic and so very, very Islanders.James Dolan wanted in on the Players/Owners meeting, and there was much rejoicing. Who else could offer a fair and equitable solution to issues like revenue sharing than a man whose team preys upon financially unstable teams to poach talent?
Ottawa Senators: Ottawa fan Sebastien Fortin and his brother pulled their $4,000 in half-season tickets from the Sens, making a strong statement that will last roughly until Ottawa wins a playoff round.
Philadelphia Flyers: What happens when Ed Snider is no longer chairman of the Flyers?
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan believes the new lease agreement is "good for the city of Glendale and obviously there are people that disagree." We call them "Seattle" and/or "Quebec."
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby will be on the NHLPA side of the table in that owners/players meeting this week, mouthing the words "can you believe this [expletive]?" to Ron Burkle over and over again.
San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture said he's leaving his Swiss team for "family reasons" but has no plans to return to Geneve-Servette. So he's back, Niemi's back, Galiardi's back … paging Joe Thornton …
St. Louis Blues: Defenseman Taylor Chorney has played 20 games for the Peoria Rivermen. He's a minus-16, worst in the AHL. Ouch.
Tampa Bay Lightning: In the latest edition of "Not MY Owner's Fault", Marty St. Louis on Jeff Vinik: "Because of everything he's done in the past few years, I have a hard time believing Mr. Vinik doesn't want to play." One thing he did in the last few years: Buy a hockey team that Gary Bettman sold him.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Rob Longley thinks the pressure's on Brian Burke to ice a winner next season: "The biggest criticism of Burke -- and his personality precludes him from being anything but a lightning rod -- it's that he has been unable to live up to the big promises made on his hiring four years ago." Hey, the team had pugnacity. Give him that.
Vancouver Canucks: Don't worry fans — David Booth is finding time to train in between slaughtering defenseless animals.
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin scored an Ovechkiny hat trick in the KHL on Sunday, with two goals and an empty netter vs. Donbass.
Winnipeg Jets: Even in the later stages of a bitter lockout, Winnipeg Jets stuff is still flying off the shelves.
Play of the Weekend
Counting Thursday night as "the weekend", here's Justin Schultz doing his Justin Schultz thing for OKC.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the WeekendDave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reports that KHL team Automobilist "is having HUGE financial problems, can't pay some of its players, and could end up folding."
User Red Haired Shanks would like to help the Red Wings' blue line:
Van: D Alex Edler, LW Bill Sweatt
Det: C Daren Helm, D Kyle Quincey, LW Tomas Tatar
"Det needs a good replacement for Lidstrom (not saying Edler is as good as him), Edler is a big upgrade on Quincey, Sweatt is a speedy forward prospect with decent defensive skills."
But … you got the short hair.
Ryan Lambert will return on Friday with Trending Topics and on will be back with What We Learned next Monday.
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