Over this past week many became optimistic that a new deal would be hashed out and a shortened season would begin by Christmas. Owners met with players without the presence of league commissioner Gary Bettman and PA executive director Donald Fehr on Wednesday and talks were on and off throughout the day and past midnight.
And while the approach to ending the lockout was new, the end result was the same. Talks hit a wall and both sides blamed each other. This snag in any potential progress hit many fans hard and any optimism that could be found over the twitterverse quickly turned into anger at both sides and claims that hockey has lost them as fans….again.
My own reaction was different. I simply paid it no mind. I choose not to follow each and every update on these ongoing talks and I in no way shape or form allow the continued failings to get a deal done get me down.
Simple, throughout the course of this circus referred to as the NHL lockout, I have completed the five stages of grief, lockout edition.
Stage One – Denial.
Although there was talk of the impending lockout in the months leading up to the September 15th deadline, a part of me refused to believe it. “We just had a lockout eight years ago” I would say, “What sense would it make for the league to lockout after the progress it’s made during the current CBA”.
Sure enough September 15th came and there was no new CBA in place. “Doesn’t matter” I continued ” There’s still a few weeks before puck drop, they’ll get something done. They’d be stupid not to”. Looking back I knew full well there was no stopping this mess.
I may not have known it would get to the point that we’re at now but I knew I was wrong about the start of the season. I just chose to deny it.
Stage Two – Anger.
I remained in this second stage for quite some time. After missing an entire season in 2004-05 I was in no way prepared to miss even another game. I was angry at the owners for letting it come to this. These are billionaires who in their quest to earn millions more were willing to take away from fans a game that they hold so dear.
And the players? What’s the matter, you’ll be forced to play for fewer millions? Boo Hoo! You get to play a game you love and while doing so you will earn enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your lives. You know who doesn’t make that money? The fans who pay hundreds of dollars a year to watch YOU play while wearing a jersey with YOUR name on it.
Billionaires vs. millionaires….. cry me a river.
Stage Three – Bargaining.
This third stage seemed ironic. The two sides causing this mess can’t even seem to get any bargaining done, what chance do I have. During this stage I would bargain with myself in an attempt to get my hockey fix. There may not be a season to watch but I do still have the NHL network.
Watching old games helped tide me over for about, well, one period of the first game I watched. While past games can be fun to re-live at times, it just wasn’t enough for me. My team had just had their worst season in years followed by an off season managerial overhaul. I don’t see how I honestly expected watching games from the nineties would be enough.
Then came NHL13.
Fun game. Making deals with AI GM’s and leading the Habs to consecutive Stanley Cups is a great way to pass the time but it’s just silly to try to replace the real thing with a video game *cough, Pat Hickey, cough*
Needless to say step three lasted maybe a week.
Stage Four – Depression.
Stage four hit hard. NHL13 wasn’t even an option. What’s the point, it’s not realistic enough without a lockout mode. All Habs t-shirts and jersey’s were stuffed to the bottoms of drawers and hidded in closets. I couldn’t even look at the CH without being hit with a wave of longing for the game that was taken from me.
Saturday nights were spent with empty feelings and I longed for “Mechant Mardi’s”. I kept my distance from my computer because I couldn’t even bring myself to write about anything hockey related. At times it was even difficlt to speak with many of my friends seeing as how 90% of our conversations revolved around hockey.
It was at this pont where I asked “Who even cares anymore? Why bother with hockey?”.
Stage Five – Acceptance.
Stage five was monumental. Without any heads up stage four was complete. Something inside me clicked and I realized that this game I have so much passion for, this game that I have followed and loved my entire life, is just that. A game.
Whether or not it’s this season or next it will come back. And until it does I need to shape up because, well, I’m an adult for crying out loud. This game took me hostage in 04-05 and had me hanging on to every development and wasting too much time and energy on something that was completely out of my control.
A lot has happened since the last work stoppage eight years ago. Most importantly I got married. How can I mope around the house and waste energy on hating people I don’t know when I can go out and enjoy evenings dining with my wife?
I’ve replaced sitting around bars and screaming at t.v.’s with spending quality time with the woman who had the patience to marry me. She has sat alongside me in those bars and put up with my many hockey rants over the years. I think she’s done more than enough to earn my attention now that my other love has turned it’s back on me.
I’m not going to lie, hockey still remains a focal point in many converstions with friends but at least now our discussions last longer than the duration of intermissions and commercial breaks.
It wasn’t easy to complete these five steps but now that I’ve accepted the mess that hockey is in I feel it was worth it. I love hockey. I always have and always will. However now it’s been made abundantly clear that it’s more about the business aspect than the love of the game. I now realize that as a fan I am merely an afterthought, and I accept that because at the end of the day, it’s just a game.
Sean is a freelance writer currently contributing to HabsAddict.com. He is also a regular blogger and frequent panelist on the Habs post game show at MontrealHockeyTalk.com