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The gift of the game this holiday season

All some of us want as a holiday present is to be given our team back; for Tampa Bay hockey fans - a few alternative "gifts" that are the sport of hockey.

Gift giving time! Yule love it... unless you're an NHL fan... **grumble, grumble** stupid lockout....
John Fontana and Raw Charge

The season of the Yule, the winter solstice and the multiple holidays that dot the calendar to coincide it (be they religious, cultural or pop-culture derived observances) is what we associate with the month of December. Holidays and festivities tied to our celebrations give the month its reputation as the season of giving.

It's also a month of the sport of ice hockey, from kids playing on iced-over ponds in the great white north, to junior aged players competing on the global stage in a world championships,. This time of year boasts college hockey and professional leagues (such as the AHL, ECHL, and NHL) toil on in the third month of their respective marathon seasons.

Depending on who you ask at this point in time, the professional league known as the National Hockey League Is something that exists only in myth, legend, or by way of an ugly rumor. Folklore suggests that a team in southern California hoisted the silver chalice named for Lord Stanley in victory during the summer of 2012 before ceasing and desisting into boardrooms of New York City ever since.

In the season of hope, in the season of giving, at a time when empathy and charity is supposed to win out over greed and coldness, the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon the masses is to have our respective teams back.

The greatest gift that can be given to a Tampa Bay Lightning fan would be the Tampa Bay Lightning themselves. The best gift that could be found under a Christmas tree, Festivus pole, (or exchanged as a very late Hanukkah gift) would be a finalized collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHL Players Association. The kindest gift would be an end to the pettiness and a mutual desire to try to salvage the overall NHL brand after the substantial self-inflicted damage that have been wrought the past four months.

Yet that gift is about as likely as snow flurries in Tampa on Christmas Day.

So let me make a suggestion for a gift to a disillusioned Lightning fan in your life. Instead of getting him or her NHL branded team apparel, perhaps hockey tickets are in order?

No, no, NHL tickets aren't going to be had. That's an impossibility by way of Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Executive President Donald Fehr, Bill Daly, Steve Fehr and the hard-line consortium of NHL owners led by Jeremy "Scrooge" Jacobs.

Hockey tickets, in this instance, are to the alternative teams playing in the Tampa Bay region and central Florida in general. You'll likely have to plan a trip to take in some of these games, but making an event out of a hockey game is a great gift.

I mean, really, how about traveling down to the Ellenton Ice and witnessing the Tampa Bay area's junior hockey team, the Tampa Bay Juniors? The Juniors are in a bit of a rebuilding year as the squad is 7-16-0-1 in 24 games played this year....

You could also plan a trip to a USF Ice Bulls club hockey game at the Ellenton Ice or Brandon Ice Sports Forum. The Bulls can no longer charge for entry to their games. You can't beat that for an admission price.

If you'd prefer to hand over a tangible ticket as a gift and plan an event game, how about making a trip to Orlando to see the ECHL Solar Bears play in Amway Center? Or, if you favor a team with ties to the idled Lightning, take a trip down to Estero and watch Charles Landry, Alex Hutchings and Pat Nagle play for the ECHL champion Florida Everblades?

I'm really at a loss of what else to offer. I stand by my affirmation that the best gift for the season, the most fitting one for the season, would be for the NHL lockout to be resolved and play resumed. But that kind of gift is out of our collective hands.

The gift of an NHL season... That's the Red Ryder BB gun of our time.