The NHL lockout continues, amid many rumours and stories and discussions that do nothing but raise and crash the hopes of poor hockey fans like me and millions of other Canadians. While they bicker and squabble, we the fans lose out the most. We make other plans for our Saturday nights, wondering what to do on those chilly winter evenings, thinking "Why have you abandoned me?"
We haven't only lost a hobby, or a favourite pasttime. Many people have lost business, some have lost jobs, and we have all lost a big part of our culture. NHL hockey is something that helps define us as Canadians, and that has been taken from us. Sure, we'll go on without hockey, and probably be just fine, but it won't be what we used to have, and it won't be what we really want.
What stings further, is that we simply can't sympathise. Billionaires squabbling with millionaires over what to do with the millions that we the fans collectively pay. The owners, of course, are winning - have won, essentially - the PR battle for three simple reasons:
- The owners are losing money, while the players are making it. Ignore the actual numbers and that's a simple premise that everyone can understand.
- The players got rich because of hockey. The owners got into hockey because they were rich, not the other way around. To the blue-collar fan, that shouts exploitation.
- The players are refusing to accept millions to play a game that millions of us would play practically for free. Meanwhile, half of those players have gone off to Europe to play for a fraction of what they would be making under a new deal here. That's simply a slap in the face.
Of course, when hockey does eventually resume, whether it's next week or next year, everyone knows we'll come roaring back. Hockey may be history in places like Anaheim, Florida, and Carolina, but we'll come running back with arms wide open. Many people would wonder why; if they have treated those who supported them so poorly, why would we accept them back?
I think that people who ask that question don't know the extent of NHL hockey in our culture. It's our pasttime, it's our pride; it's practically our religion. Here in Toronto, the Leafs are so dear to us that they are practically family. We are enraptured with their success, grieve in their failure, feel pride in work well done, and feel injured when let down. And, when they finally come back, we will treat them the same way. "We [have] to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of [ours] was dead and has begun to live; was lost and has been found."