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For the love of hockey; letters to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (The Vent)

Greg Wyshynski
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(THE VENT is a forum for rants, raves, pleas and laments from hockey fans across the world about the NHL lockout. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you've got a take on the lockout and need to let it out, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com, Subject: The Vent.)

Reader Adam Yerkie explains why he's angry over the NHL lockout:

I gave up my physical wellbeing for recreational hockey. I've got a complete ACL tear in my right knee and a partial in my left. I've broken my feet three times. I need braces to participate in even the lowest impact activities. My knees used to dislocate without warning, sometimes in public, sometimes on the side of the road beside an icy ditch half full of water and still a half hour hobble home. I face reconstructive surgery (I'm terrified of going under, though I've already had three surgeries on my knees) and physiotherapy for the rest of my life.

I've given up the things I can do with my family. I'll never ski with my beautiful daughter. I'll probably never be able to wear ice skates again, so I'll never teach my son to skate. I can't chase my toddler around the house. I can't kneel down beside her and kiss her while she sleeps without some serious pain.

I did this for house-league, minor hockey and recreational ball hockey. Because I love it. Because I can create something beautiful and perfect when I step out on that court. Because hockey is beautiful.

I would do almost anything for the chance to play real ice hockey again. I haven't put on skates in 15 years but I still have dreams where I'm back on Memorial Gardens' ice (go Cents!). I can feel my old teammates whipping around the rink and the energy is revving and revving. I've got my stick and skates back and the power of my strides triple under the blades of my skates. I'm so powerful and full of potentiality. All being reduces to a single point of light: a cross over stride, a deflection, the chance that the D will bite. I'm back, and it's better than anything I've ever felt.

I don't know what I expect from the players or the owners. I don't care. I just can't fathom the notion that anyone who loves the game would let this go on. In the face of all I've given up just to have the chance to make another pass or sneak into the slot one more glorious time, the lockout is a heresy and an abomination.

How many veteran hockey players who bled for this league probably feel the same?

Tori Larsick, 17 of North Ridgeville, Ohio, sent this letter to "Gary Bettman today and a few other NHL workers who are keeping the lockout in place."

To those who made the decision to have an NHL lockout for the 2012-2013 season:

My name is Victoria Larsick and I am a huge Buffalo Sabres fan. My mom grew up outside of Buffalo and she got my dad into hockey when they met. I've grown up watching some of the greats such as Dominik Hasek, Michael Peca, Miroslav Satan, Rob Ray, Chris Drury, Danny Briere, and many others play for the Sabres organization. I've seen the Black and Red Era, the Buffaslug, and the return of the original logo. I watched the team play in the Aud, HSBC arena, and the First Niagara Center. I watched them make it to the playoffs multiple years and miss the playoffs as well. My point is, I've watched this team for a long time. I've been with them through a lot, the good and the bad.

This is my senior year of high school in my hometown of North Ridgeville, Ohio, which is just outside of Cleveland. Every year I have cheered the Boys of Buffalo on. Many of my friends and teachers have seen me in Sabres gear ready to run home and watch the game that night. Not many other people in the community follow hockey. My senior year is supposed to be one I will remember forever. It's supposed to be the greatest year of high school. However, I cannot enjoy this year without hockey.

My school colors are blue and gold (do those colors sound familiar?). When I pass the spirited walls, it's difficult not to think of the Buffalo Sabres. It is so upsetting that I won't get to remember my senior year with hockey. The NHL lockout this year has deeply affected me.

I remember the Lockout of the 2004-2005 season. I was in the fourth grade and upset but really it wasn't such a big deal. Now that I'm older, it is so bothersome to me that I'm not watching hockey every night; I'm not listening to the legendary voice of Rick Jeanneret; I'm not cheering against Boston, Toronto, or Ottawa (the teams I was raised to despise). It's a piece that's missing from my senior year — a piece is missing from me.

So I'm begging you, for not only myself or the other die-hard hockey seniors in the world, but for all the fans — give us an NHL season this year, before it's too late.

I know you've had a few proposals but you can try harder. You're not listening to the players. They've tried to set up meetings but you reject them. Give it a chance. And get the season going. I bleed blue and gold, and right now I need to watch the Buffalo Sabres. Otherwise, my senior year will have something very important missing.

Sincerely a die-hard Buffalo Sabres fan who really wants an NHL season for the 2012-2013 year…

Meanwhile, here's an editorial comment on Gary Bettman's tenure through the awesome power of mechs:

(Puck Daddy in no way encourages violence against Gary Bettman or anyone in the NHL or NHLPA, but also feels that mechs are cool.)

RJ Oleksy presents an open letter written to Francesco Aquilini and Mike Gillis of the Vancouver Canucks:

Gentlemen,

Whether this email reaches you or not, I have no idea. I felt compelled however to make an effort to express to you the impact from another fans perspective of this current lock out.

"We are all Canucks" - This was a branding exercise, and a successful one that the Canucks club have been using for several years.

I bought in. I truly did feel a stake in the success of the team because I felt part of the "We" like a family.

I never missed a game. Watched every one on TV, and went live to see the team typically 6-8 times a year. I paid good money for great seats to get the most out of the experience.

I was one of the thousands that made the road trip to San Jose two years ago for the playoff games there. I was invested, emotionally and financially, in a big way.

Now as we are without NHL hockey again. The 3rd time under Gary Bettman's watch, I questioned myself about if this truly will impact my desire to support the team once the puck is dropped.

The best answer I can come up with is.... I don't know. To be honest, I don't feel "We are all Canucks" any longer. I don't feel emotionally invested because even though the branding exercise worked, the fans do not have a voice in this matter. There is a parallel I can draw on for some insight in how I'm feeling at the moment.

When I was a kid and my Dad left the family, I still saw him on weekends, but as the years passed and he disappointed me more and more, I stopped being emotionally invested. I grew numb, and we no longer have a relationship.

So sure, when the games start up again I'll likely be a fan still. But will I go out of my way to watch every single game? Doubtful. Will I spend hundreds for game tickets a couple times a month? Not likely. Would I feel compelled to plan vacation trips around Canuck playoff games in other cities? Not a chance.

I know there are more offending NHL management groups who likely have more reason to support this lock out. But surely you have a voice. If you are not using it, shame on you. If you think Canucks fans as a whole will let you off the hook simply because you can shrug your shoulders and pretend you were along for the ride, you are wrong.

Under Gary Bettman, we are approaching an astounding 10% downtime of regular season games under his watch.

Name me one other business that is considered successful with only having a 90% up-time? What consumer should be expected to consider that acceptable service levels?

I don't, but I'm fast approaching a feeling of really not caring any longer when it gets resolved. I'm starting to feel numb.

Again, apathy is real, it's spreading and the NHL and its players have no concept of it.

Finally, here's Jordan Munson — an "unsurprised, irritated NHL fan" — that's rather pessimistic about the way things are headed:

My rant regarding the lockout is a pretty simple one, really.

In no way was the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement a surprise to the NHL/owners or the NHLPA. Add onto that the fact that the last round of collective bargaining for a new agreement was a measly seven years ago.

In what world does it make sense to wait as long as they did in the negotiating process when both sides clearly knew that the other wasn't about to succumb to massive concessions?

It's an embarrassment to both the NHL and NHLPA that it's gone as poorly as it has, and pretending there is really much hope for any semblance of a 2012-2013 season at this point is offensive to NHL's somehow still-loyal fan base.

I personally couldn't care less if the organizations are bleeding money--perhaps they should have concentrated on it before many of them doled out gargantuan, front-loaded deals to superstars in the offseason only to realize, "Hey guys, I don't think we can keep doing it like this."

I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers (clearly I do not), but with so little time passed since the last lockout, you'd think the NHL and NHLPA would have the sensibility to avoid another nearly catastrophic full season lockout. I remember reading somewhere recently (perhaps Down Goes Brown or Grantland, I can't quite remember) that the league doesn't really have much promise upon the return of hockey like it did after the last lockout when there were massive rule changes and lots of new, unproven talent in the league (namely Sid Crosby and Alex Ovechkin).

What sort of new and exciting offering is there when hockey the next NHL season is underway? Different cap structures? Even more clamping down on head trauma and related events?

As much as I lied to myself and thought "there's no way the NHL let's it get to a full season lockout again", I really felt it coming, and it didn't really feel so great.

You're not alone, Jordan: The lack of any clear point of philosophical debate beyond percentage of revenue makes this stalemate all the more frustrating; like we're headed to the abyss for no reason.

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