The Vent: The great lockout pumpkin; the death of multi-generational fandom

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, Subject: The Vent.)

We open today's edition of The Vent with the sticker above, which comes to us from reader Elizabeth Conroy:

Saw this Friday night while leaving the Allstate Arena after the Champs for Charity event. I feel there's a missed opportunity here. Perhaps Calvin urinating on Bettman's name?


Amazing. As you can see, this pumpkin, which is great (I believe that makes it The Great Pumpkin), features the famed Calvin knockoff image relieving himself onto the NHL logo. It comes to us via reader Philip Reinagel, who explains his motivations thusly:

As a melancholy Sabres fan I took out some frustration out on this pumpkin (attached picture). Hope you enjoy! I also carved a pumpkin of Bettman's face but for some reason I couldn't resist the urge to smash it, drive over it with my car several times, and burn it while I laughed hysterically until I broke down in tears, rocking myself in the fetal position. I don't how much longer I will last under these conditions. We need the NHL back!!!

No kidding, especially since Philip sounds about one step away from making voodoo pumpkins.

Here's a traditional vent from Matthew Mullen, who was banking on the Flyers playing hockey this year for a host of meaningful reasons:

My name is Matt, I'm 24 years old and have been a hockey fan since 1996 when my uncle took me to a Flyers/Penguins game. I have the Flyers' logo tattoo'd on my arm. I plan my life around their schedule. I'm getting married on April 13th 2013 and I was a little stressed. I'm not stressed because of my wedding, I was stressed that I wasn't going to be able to watch the Flyers' last game of the 2012-13 season. I spend $1,000 or more a year on my team. My fiancé and I go to at least 4 or 5 games a year. I buy a new Flyers jersey at the beginning of each season. Not to mention all the other stuff I buy for myself and family members (t-shirts, hats, etc.)

My best friend Bill is a big Flyers fan just like me and joined the army last year and has been away training the entire time. He is coming home for two weeks in November before getting sent to Germany for three years. I planned on taking him to one last Flyers game before he left. That's obviously not going to happen now. It's a disgrace, they already lost a full season in 2004-05 and it seems like they don't mind losing another. I'm sick of all the greed between these million and billionaires. That's why the NHL is a joke when compared to the other three major sports leagues.

Reader Chris Griffin might have Mullen beat. Now, the lockout isn't putting a damper on his wedding or his goodbye to a friend heading off to service, but he is a Columbus Blue Jackets fan:

This lockout is disappointing on a number of levels… for starters, I'm a Blue Jacket fan. And it's been painful to sit on our hands and watch this thing slowly play out, knowing that whenever things finally do get resolved, we're still Blue Jacket fans.

But I digress. I grew up in Cleveland following the Browns and the Indians. As I grew from naive kid (who thought he bled Orange and Brown) to an adult (who was surprised to discover that real life = real blood), I lost interest in the continued mediocrity and just couldn't be bothered with them any more... I moved on.

In 2000, I eventually landed in Columbus and was surprised to learn the city had a new NHL team! Woo hoo! My wife (who was not a sports fan, at all) and I watched the first game ever on the local NBC TV station. It was exciting to think about the future of hockey in our town, but our newfound fandom was quickly squelched when we learned there would be no more games on "free" TV. We'd need to get cable and couldn't really afford it. Tickets? Yeah right. Sadly, we were forced to move on.

By mid-decade, I had my wife hooked on PS2 hockey. She was burying me every game, learning the rules and nuances of the sport that ignited her competitive spirit (which she did not have, at all). We had gone to the occasional NHL game over the years, but only when we could get free tickets. We eventually became STH of the short-lived USHL team ($99 a year!) & we loved it. She loved it. My friends and coworkers were actually jealous that I had a wife who was into sports like she was… "even if it was just hockey". For the record, she very attractive as well.

When the team folded and moved to Fargo (geez, that's a painful sentence to write), we stepped it up a notch: half-season ticket holders to the CBJ. Game nights were something special for us. Race home from work, gobble down dinner, throw on the sweaters and zoom over to the Arena District… grabbing some Timbits and hot chocolate on the way to enjoying our 20 games a year. As former Browns/Indians fans, our love of the underdog and the promise of a new season could keep us going. It was good times, considering.
When the annual Winter Classic started, we created a new family tradition of making a nice meal and serving it up on TV trays huddled around the boob tube, ready to watch the Red Wings or the Penguins play somebody outside. We eventually expanded our yearly traditions to include draft parties at Nationwide and watching All-Star weekend festivities at home.

We had our first baby on Christmas Eve last year. As an infant, she was parked on my chest sleeping for many games at Nationwide and even more at home. The warmth of her tiny body cozied my feelings for the life we would eventually create for her. Even though our season had been going horribly wrong, my wife & I still talked about eventually adding another seat (or two!) to our package and looked forward to the years and years of hockey we would share as a family, dreaming of PSLs and becoming permanant fixtures at the rink. For her six month pictures, one of the poses was in a Blue Jacket sweater with a puck and a sign instructing the team to "go". We hung it next to our collection of other CBJ gear that adorns a corner of the TV room.

When news of the lockout started to hit, it's been very disheartening to say the least. I've been pretty irritated with the team, the owners, even the poor ticket rep. My wife, my hockey companion all these years, didn't understand why I was getting so worked up. I had held hockey and the NHL to such a high standard that I felt that bringing my family around this thing, making it "our thing", would be the best thing. And it was. If things continued as they had, we'd have been happily coming back as a family again and again and again. Sometimes love just has no bounds.

And there were so many reasons for optimism this year that again, the promise of a new season had us hooked in for another 20 games, ASG weekend, etc…

But instead, as I write this, I see what is wrong with the Columbus franchise and the NHL in general. You simply can't give your fans the F*** You treatment year after year and expect things to be hunky-dory. It takes generations of fans to build successful & stable franchises. Disruptions like these are what make it the red-headed step-child of professional sports.

My family was on their way to that multi-generational fandom, but I'm not sure I can be bothered to steer them in that direction any more. Call me melodramatic or accuse me of hamming it up for print, but when you get to that age of having to make some REALLY tough decisions about what things you involve your family and kids with… I'm at that point with you, NHL. If my daughter was 16 and had a crappy boyfriend, I would give her the same advice I'm giving myself now:

"Sure, you feel something for the guy, but aren't you just tired of continually being jerked around? Belittled? Stepped on? Forgotten about and taken for granted? Isn't it time to move on & find someone new who will treat you with the mutual respect you deserve? Find someone to make you happy without all the constant drama to bring you down?"

Yep. Sadly, it's once again time to move on.