Let’s face it, with the looming season shrouded with the uncertainty of a lockout, no true hockey fan can sleep easy. Anyone who experienced the ’04-’05 lockout still has fresh scars from going more than a year without a decent hockey fix. It’s a tragic slap to the face of the most important part of the game; the fans. The loyal and steadfast fans; buying tickets, jerseys, shirts, and hats to cheer on their favorite team, donate their time and money to do what they love. And I realize that the lockout is the least thing either side of the argument wants, but it’s more than just losing a season, a lot more.
The real loss from scratching the season can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Player’s and owner’s will carry on their seven figure lifestyles without us. The real loss is on the kids that miss a year of watching SportsCenter highights ten times in a row to see Malkin dance around an entire team. There’s a knife lodged into a fan’s loyalty with their favorite pastime. It’s the heated battles friends will get into over whose team is better. Without the season to draw from, it just doesn’t feel the same.
Not to be out done, the real hockey fan, tried and tested from experience, doesn’t waiver at the sound of a lockout. It’s the new fans, the tens of thousands of people that jump on the bandwagon for playoffs in non-hockey markets, the fans that need convincing, they’re the ones lost. Especially for a sport that is still expanding overseas. In 2010, six teams travelled all over Europe to promote not only the NHL, but the game in general. It’s common sense that a lockout would be a profound step in the wrong direction.
Financially, of course it’s terrible for the league, but any news report mentioning the possibility of a lockout will draw from a pretty frequent theme; businesses bank on the NHL. Bars and restaurants within walking distance from any arena braces for fan loads every game night. One Columbus news story went on to say that the hotels have been booked for the 2012 All-Star Game an entire year in advance.
As one of the boys, consider this my plea to you, the NHL, to stick around. We need our lightning fast, bone crunching, hockey fix. We need those magical moves so we can try endlessly to copy them in practice. We need something to bring us together. Impossible plays immortalized in Youtube clips, passed around the locker room on a smartphone. We need hits, we need fights, we need to see players block shots. You are the example we set our standards too. When we see a guy being stitched up on the bench, only to play the next shift, a fire burns in our chest. We need that culture to be passed on to our younger players. We need our fearless heroes to burn across the screen and light it up. Because when you’re gone, more than just the game is gone. There is no evolving hockey culture, no loyalty, no passion. It’s a one-way relationship when you’re gone and here’s hoping you hold up your end.