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The Vent: The fans will come back; what we’re missing out on

Sean Leahy
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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.)

Brian Lachance has lived the frustration of being a hockey fan and despite the pain, knows that he'll be back once they drop the puck again.

I have been a hockey fan for my entire life and once again I have become increasingly more frustrated to be a hockey fan. It's a feeling of hopelessness and doubt, but one that I have lived with many times before. See, being a hockey fan in Connecticut has taught me a few things about dealing with disappointment that I hope to share my story with other fans around the country so they can also cope with this empty feeling.

I am currently a 24 year old teacher from Bristol, Connecticut… Yes THAT Bristol. As a kid, I loved going to Whaler games. They are the most prominent thing that I can remember about my childhood. I remember getting my first Whaler jersey for the holidays and wearing it to school every day even though it was three sizes too large. I remember getting the cheapest seats at the Hartford Civic Center just to actually be at the game and see the likes of Geoff Sanderson, Sean Burke, and Chris Pronger (Some sad teams at the end , huh?). These times I spent with my family are something I will cherish forever and will always remember.

However, I will also remember the day that Peter Karmanos stole away my Whalers. I remember watching the Whalers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on the very last game and sobbing uncontrollably. Horrible, but "at least we have the Rangers and Bruins" everyone said. So, naturally, I became a Habs fan. Going to school was hard on a hockey fan in CT after the days of the Bonanza, but at least there was hockey on TV to watch.

I gradually swallowed the idea of rooting for another team and regained my love for the game until the lockout in 2004-2005. At the time, I had no idea why the players and owners were arguing or what a salary cap was even, but there was no hockey. I remember my father saying they'll work it out, but that day never came. I distinctly remember watching Gary Bettman cancel the season while I ate lunch with my friends at school. Once again, I was crushed as a hockey fan. My friends from school all mocked the game I loved and it crushed me. I tried to turn to other sports because maybe they wouldn't hurt me as much.

As hockey started back again, I was hesitant to watch. I was only a casual fan, just keeping up on the games and maybe catching one or two on TV. I watched the Red Sox, Steelers, and UConn, but nothing was able to fill that void. Then I get a phone call. My cousin calls me up saying that he has an extra ticket for a Bruins vs. Canadiens game. The days of the Whale came back for me. I remembered the action, the speed, the intensity… and just like that I became more of a fan than ever before. We made a tradition, going to see a game at least twice a year. Everything was back to normal, until this year came.

Once again I am left to be ridiculed by students, however, they aren't my classmates and they're my 6th grade students. They laugh at my Canadiens calendar with Michael Cammalleri (yup) and my Stu Grimson poster hanging on the wall. I can't help being a hockey fan, and either can my family. I've now been hurt three times in my life by the game I love. Reading this blog, I keep hearing people saying that they're over it. To be honest, I can only wish them good luck. My advice for them is to forget the game entirely or they will eventually be back. I know that I will be back in line to receive the next punishment.

Andrew Baker will do the same, but recommends to non-hockey fans that they stay away.

I'm the biggest hockey fan I know and everyone knows it. I'll come running back as soon the NHL reopens its doors, in fact I haven't even run away. But that doesn't mean I can't show them my influence. I wrote this as my status on October 4, the day they canceled games. It might be hard to hold up my end of the bargain, but until they can get through a negotiation without a lockout, it's what I will do. The NHL does have the greatest fans in the world and we will come back, but it isn't just about us.

Just a little background, I'm a Sharks fan in college. I remember watching the Sharks as a bubble team. I remember watching Joe for the first time, I remember the line of Friesen, Damphousse, and nolan. I remember watching the legendary series against the blues. I still hate Selanne for missing that wraparound (though I have so much respect for him). I loved beating Detroit in the second round twice in a row. I remember looking at my dad and still can't believe he didn't say "They can still win" when Stuart (he's back!) scored twice in 17 seconds to tie and then we won in overtime. And I will never forget my hero, Mike Ricci scoring a hat trick on fan appreciation when the gift was of course hats. I will remember it all, and I wouldn't give any of those memories up. But I want new great memories. And so here is my protest:

"And it's official. Regular season games have been canceled. So much for going to watch the (stupid) ducks for the Shark's season opener. So much for watching Selanne in his potentially (again) last season of his great career. So much for another great year. So much for another playoff disappointment. So much for this being our year. So much for it all.

I don't care who's fault it. I don't care that the billionaire owners are losing money because they can't use their business sense to make money (how did they get rich again?). I don't care that the millionaire players are trying to stand up for themselves and lose millions of dollars because they won't capitulate. Get a deal done

To those of you that have actually read this far, you already know that I love hockey. The NHL could have a lockout for a decade and I would still come back and watch. But I can still protest through the rest of you. Don't watch any more hockey. This sucks and no sane person would be stupid enough to believe this is the last time. So I can no longer recommend the NHL to any of you. Don't hold out that these people will wise up and recognize that I am the kind of advertisement they want. The guy who complained about having to go to dinner because two teams he didn't care about were in a first round match, who begged his sport hating friend to watch because she was a good luck charm (didn't work), the guy who turned a house into a hockey house during the NBA playoffs. If they don't learn that they need people like me, then don't support them. Watch football, watch basketball, god forbid even watch baseball, but don't watch hockey."

Reader "scootage81" is a Kings fan and the fact that he just watched a Stanley Cup victory eases his lockout pain, just a bit.

The NHL lockout surprisingly has not been much of a downer. Then again, I'm a lifelong Kings fan who used to wonder if I'd die before L.A. won the Cup, so I'm probably living on borrowed time anyway. Until June 11, 2012, to root for the Kings was to suffer and doubt, to watch with resentment and envy as places like Dallas and Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim, won Cups. Thanks to the lockout, I've gained extra time to savor the Kings Cup victory and to process how radically it has changed my identity as a Kings fan.

Instead of obsessing over holes in the Kings roster during the NHL offseason, I relived playoff highlights. Time I once devoted to the free agent frenzy instead was spent tracking the Cup on its travels around the globe. To be a Kings fan had always been to suffer and to doubt, to watch with resentment and envy as upstarts in places like Dallas, Tampa Bay, Carolina and even Anaheim won titles.

Over the summer and into the lockout, I've spent a lot of time rewatching the spring's magical playoff run and relishing how it supplanted the painful memories that formerly dominated my two decades as a Kings fan. Dustin Penner's redemption means Marty McSorley's name is no longer a swear word. Dustin Brown's inspirational leadership and recognition of the team's long slog to the top healed the pain of Rob Blake asking for a trade out of town. Anze Kopitar lifted the Cup that Wayne Gretzky never brought to L.A. A merry-go-round of middling to terrible netminders—Stephane Fiset, Roman Cechmanek, Barry Brust, Yutaka Fukafuji and Dan "Beachball" Cloutier—gave way to Jonathan "F@#*ing" Quick, the best goalie on the planet at the moment. Darryl Sutter "shoveling s@#*" on his ranch buried Barry Melrose's mullet. Since the lockout began and regular season games were canceled, I've taken to rewatching all 20 Kings postseason games, in part to persuade myself I didn't dream the whole thing, but in part to help put it all in perspective.

I'm sure I'd be antsy and frustrated if I were a fan of one of the 29 NHL teams that didn't just win the Stanley Cup. I'd probably also be more impatient if I still lived in California and could see Kings games live instead of watching time-shifted TV broadcasts to accommodate living on the East Coast. But since I no longer need to worry that the Kings could miss their window, I'm OK—though not elated—with the lockout, so long as the lost games lead to a deal that's fair to the players and good for the league's long-term health.

While we wait for the NHL and NHLPA to agree to a deal, Stephen Gerwel points out what we're missing out on.

I can go on a few things, nothing crazy is being missed right now... But here i go:

1) Seeing fringe young players play in the first 10 or so games. It is always interesting to see how some of the new look talent looks at a pro level, even if they aren't ready yet.
2) "Movember" missing all the great mustaches of the league, parros, clutterbuck
3) Seeing your typical teams miss the playoffs, but come out to a hot start and seeing all of the "omg this is the year for the leafs!"
4) lastly, i miss seeing the game. I grew up with hockey, played it my entire life and still play it in adult league. Hockey has always been my great escape from my normal boring mundane life. Knowing that around this time of the year i'd have 3 games to look forward to a week (home team exclusive) made my work week's less painful. I had to sound abused or wronged by this. I am fortunate for the life i have now, good job, great wife and friends. But hockey has always been that "just me" moment of my weeks. Sitting back after work and the gym and watching the boys play was just therapeutic for me.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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