Hockey’s back. I’m Canadian and I’m supposed to be thrilled, but I’m not.
Truth be told, I don’t care either way. I gave up on hockey a long time ago. Rewind fifteen years and you’d find an avid fan who could rattle off stats, would watch any match-up and vowed to get a Stars tattoo should they ever win the Stanley Cup. (Thank GOD I didn’t follow through on that!) I lived through the glowing puck debacle, but had to draw the line when the point for an overtime loss made the sport sound more like elementary school sports day than a professional men’s league.
When the strike/lockout/whateveryouwanttocallit started, it was bittersweet for me. On the plus side, no hockey in my house. At the same time, with the drama heightened, hockey was all I heard about at work, with family, on the news, Facebook, Twitter, it seemed endless. At each of what felt like a million points when some spin doctor would reignite the furor by “leaking” an ebb or flow in the agreement tide, the shock and indignation was reignited and so was the discussion. Snooze.
Then this morning, we awoke in our hotel room, still high on the start of the NLL season last night and from different rooms seemed to simultaneously stumble upon the news that an agreement had been reached between the NHL players and the owners. I could see the excitement on Kevin’s face as he rushed into the room to tell me and he barely hesitated to proudly cap his head with his current favourite Maple Leafs hat. He loves hockey and, for him, I was happy.
At the same time, I was outraged. At his relief, at the enthusiastic tweets, at the short memory of fans everywhere.
It was about a month ago when I realized that the emotion surrounding the labour agreement or lack thereof ran a lot deeper than I’d expected. I don’t remember the events that led up to it, but the strike hit a critical point when fans’ frustrations were heightened and there was plenty of talk about fighting back. The nature of the strike/lockout talk turned angry, but made transparent that it was fuelled, in fact, by hurt feelings. I felt like I’d been really insensitive by brushing it off as no big deal since a lot of people around me were taking the incident very personally. It wasn’t just a part of history being witnessed, it was something being done to them. Just listen to the words used in that Just Drop It video, above. “You lock me out, I’m locking you out.” “For every game you take from me, I’ll take one from you.” “If we lose ten games then they’ll lose the first ten game when they return.” That’s personal.
With that awareness, I didn’t welcome today’s news with open arms. A lot of people had been affected by what happened (just ask Stanley C. Panther) but they seemed to have instantly forgotten all the anguish they’d been through. What was with the buzz of anticipation and elation?!? What happened to the outrage? Where was the indignation? What happened to the vows of pro-hockey celibacy?
I get it. You can’t stay upset forever, life has to go on. But, for those spoiled athletes and owners to reveal that they’d haggled over, among other things, the right for millionaires to be treated to private rooms when on the road? And for the people who spent months feeling genuinely deprived by suffering the loss of their favourite form of entertainment to just turn around and embrace the NHL? Well, this wouldn’t be the first time it could be said I’m too sensitive to watch (or work in!) sports.
Of course, it’s easy for me to take this stance. As I mentioned, I don’t really care. I could have lived without this season. In fact, I selfishly wanted it to be settled a long time ago just so everyone would finally quit talking about it. I won’t vow never to attend another game because I probably will. However, I’ll certainly think twice about how I spend my money in the future – this means tickets AND merchandise. Sure, I wasn’t hurt by this dispute, but I’m not so forgiving knowing people I love were.
The photos I’ve posted were taken at two games we attended during the lockout. Let them be your reminder that there is other hockey going on in your community, that it’s played by people who love playing the game and by guys who are still grinding for a chance at the spotlight instead of just a portion of profit-sharing. If you’re in the Lower Mainland, check out the Vancouver Giants, a major junior hockey team that is a part of the Western Hockey League or head out to the Valley to see the Abbotsford Heat, an American Hockey League club that serves as the farm team for the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Both organizations offer AFFORDABLE tickets starting at around $20 each, are housed in great venues (the Giants in the Pacific Coliseum if you’re feeling nostalgic) and offer the full arena hockey experience. Or take a walk over to your local barn. There are plenty of hopefuls of all ages who are more interested in working than in listing demands.
Better yet, watch lacrosse.