NHL lockout 2012: An airing of grievances

Bruce Bennett

This is purely my own opinion, but...wow, do we all suck at this NHL lockout thing or what?

The NHL lockout has reached idiotic proportions. Wait. I guess it did that a while ago. Insert your own descriptor here, I guess.

It's not so much the fact that there's a lockout as it is that there's a lockout for the third time within 20 years that gets me. Seriously, how ridiculous can we all possibly be? And I'm talking everybody - players, fans, media, etc. - not just the team owners and governors.

For the fans, it's like being children caught in an ugly, abusive marriage. You sort of feel like you're partly at fault, you're not sure whose side you're on, and you can't really do anything about it. You're devastated that it's even going on because you love them both for providing you with NHL hockey.

The NHL and NHLPA are on the verge of breaking up, and you're not sure what happens to you if they go through with things and actually get divorced. You're hopeful when things go well, and crying insanely when they don't. This is the emotional roller coaster that NHL fans are forced to endure.

...Or not. We always have the option to just run away. Tell them we're not taking their awful relationship anymore and find somewhere else to live. Perhaps our uncle, the AHL, will take us in. Or we can find another family to join that's much happier, like the NFL. Who wants to willingly put themselves through all of this childish drama?

And, believe me, it is childish. Reasonable adults ought to be able to come to an agreement in a timely manner. There's absolutely no need for all of this posturing and finger-pointing in the press. Both sides had plenty of time to get a deal done, and they didn't. Instead, they're letting their egos dictate things, and here we are in November without NHL hockey.

And the fans aren't much better. There is hockey still, just not NHL hockey. To lament the loss of "hockey" is to do a disservice to everything else out there. Sure, the NHL isn't playing, but there's still the AHL, ECHL, NCAA hockey, college club hockey, high school hockey, junior hockey, and the rest. All but the AHL and NCAA hockey can be found in and around Tampa, if you look. Maybe it's not exactly what you want, but have you even tried it to find out?

Or, if you don't play yourself, then why not try to learn?

There's also the empty threat of, "I'm never having anything to do with the NHL ever again!" turning into, "when can I buy tickets?" as soon as there's a positive development in the negotiations. You can't have it both ways, you know. Either accept that you'll be back no matter what when the NHL resumes play - whenever that may be - or decide that you're really done. This sort of posturing is just as bad as what the NHL and the PA are doing.

And then there are fans like me: the ever-growing body of those who are disillusioned and increasingly ambivalent about the outcome of this venture. We're not really interested in keeping up on what's going on with the negotiations anymore, tired of all of the talk with no action, and seriously thinking that maybe hockey isn't that exciting or important, after all. Those people are filling up the time that would've been spent on the NHL with other things like family, projects, and trying those new things that they've always wanted to. And they're definitely enjoying the extra money that comes with not buying tickets, traveling to games, or purchasing new merchandise.

The longer this drags on, the more that final group of "fans" will increase. Three lockouts in less than 20 years have taken its toll on the serious NHL fan, and some are just done. We're done with the drama, done with the posturing, done with the stupidity of the whole deal, and definitely done with the idea that this could happen yet again in 5-10 years.

Of course, the people hurting the worst are the arena workers. Just in time for the holiday, no less. Thousands of people are out of work - insultingly considered acceptable collateral damage by those running things, if they're even thought of at all - simply because of groups of people wanting things their way. They, of everyone involved, deserve far better treatment than that.

The NHL is slowly killing itself with these work stoppages, and the sooner that the owners and players realize this, the better. Nothing will change until the fans just finally give up and won't come back anymore. But because they will "always" come back - the NHL has the "best" fans, after all - the potential threat of future lockouts will keep going on.

Until everyone realizes this cycle of lockouts is run on what's perceived as "guaranteed" fan money, the NHL will continue to alienate its fans.

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