I vividly remember the last time there was a NHL work stoppage back in 2004-05. The images that hit the Internet once the season was officially canceled that February absolutely sickened me, and I felt betrayed by the players, team owners and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. A few fellow hockey fans and I even made phone calls to the league office to voice our unhappiness about the situation. In short, I was outraged by the whole ordeal.
I don't feel that way this time around. Truth be told, I barely care at all.
No last-minute deal is coming according to all recent reports I've read on Friday, and thus we are roughly one day away from yet another NHL lockout. It will be the fourth NHL work stoppage since 1992, the third since Bettman became league commissioner in the early 90s. I'm as big a fan of both the NHL and hockey as I was last decade. I moved out of Pennsylvania over five years ago, and yet I still do all I can to follow my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins via nationally televised games, Internet streams and a phone application that lets me listen to the radio feed for every Penguins game live. The Stanley Cup Playoffs will always be my second favorite club/franchise tournament behind only UEFA Champions League.
Being a hockey fan who is overly upset about the upcoming NHL lockout is sort of like complaining about being hot in summer and cold in winter: You know what's coming, there's nothing you can do about it, and yet you still let yourself get bothered by the matter. I'm not going to pretend that I know all there is to know about the upcoming lockout or why there (probably) won't be any NHL games on TV this fall. I don't, mostly because I don't care.
It's not my job to care about any NHL lockout. It's not the job of any NHL fan to care about a lockout. It's our job as supporters of teams and the league to invest our time and sometimes our money into following players and franchises as they perform on the ice. Just as I'm not overly interested in knowing what Sidney Crosby does on his off-day, I don't care about what he'll be doing next week.
September 2012 is a wonderful time to be a sports fan in the United States. Multiple college and NFL games air on weekends, and there are even stations such as NFL Red Zone and ESPN Goal Line that allow fans to view several contests without having to switch the channel. Over a dozen live soccer matches are shown on TV on weekends throughout fall, winter and spring. There are also several exciting MLB pennant races going on. Even the NBA, a league I've often ridiculed since the late 90s, is set to bounce back nicely from its own work stoppage.
This isn't a permanent boycott of the NHL. Diehard fans such as myself can huff and puff and act as if we'll turn our backs on the league forever, but Bettman and league owners know that we love the sport way too much to forever cut it out of our lives. I personally like the idea proposed in "The Lockout Song," one that suggests that fans buy zero NHL merchandise for one season if there is indeed a work stoppage.
There is no NHL for me without games being played, which is why I'll simply act as if the league doesn't exist during the lockout. Along with the "no merch" policy, I'll avoid visiting NHL.com or official team websites. I won't tune into NHL Network. I'll even avoid the awesome NHL Store that's located in Manhattan, a place I frequently enter throughout the fall and holiday season.
I was ticked off in 2004. Now I'll just shrug my shoulders and go back to whatever I was doing if I read on Saturday that a lockout has officially begun. Good luck to the NHL and to the NHLPA as both sides attempt to work out a deal sometime between this weekend and next spring.
I hope the lockout and cancellation of games are worth all that comes with it.
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