Back in early September, when the NHL and Players' Association were merely digging the trenches in which they're currently submerged, we all scoffed at the outrage from frustrated hockey supporters claiming that if the league suffered through their second lockout in eight years for even a day that they'd never return as fans.
"Sure you will," we said. "You'll continue paying your season ticket subscriber fees, if only to hang on to your right to playoff tickets," we said. "And you'll be happily in your seat come Opening Night as if nothing ever happened, whenever it comes. ...If it comes."
Two months and 326 unplayed NHL games later, that's starting to make a lot more sense.
The quibbling over percentages and length of contracts as the leaves changed colors has not been without an exhausting battle in the PR department, one which both sides seem to be losing. The casual fan is gone, and the exponential growth the League has enjoyed over the past eight seasons probably along with it. That, by the way, was the pillar in which both sides have been negotiating.
So now what's left for us die-hards to do?
Leave, that's what. It's tough love for sure but sometimes, that's what the situation calls for. Whenever these two sides do come to an agreement (which may not be before this time next year, keep in mind) they are counting on you and I to fill their pockets. That alone is enough of a deterrant for me.
Let's face it, the NHL has made incredible strides in the right direction since the "other" lockout. But what else is there to unveil? The game has been modernized, and the stars of today and tomorrow have breathed some life into what was a stagnant league with aging superstars. Innovations such as the Winter Classic and HBO's 24/7 series have captured the imagination of even the most luke-warm fans and given them an insight into the cult following we've all been a part of for so long.
But what's left for the NHL to do? Is there a Sidney Crosby-type savior in the draft this year? Well, not quite. Without any new cutting edge ideas, the gunshot wound the players and owners have inflicted in their own feet gets bigger by the day. So, until someone comes up with a really good idea as to why I should continue to put up with Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr trading shots across their respective bows, I think I'll step aside.
Hockey, in it's purest state, will always be on somewhere. You might have to dig a little to find it, but it'll be there. This is no longer an NHL I want to come back to. Not to the players, not to the owners. It's an ambitious move to say the least, and one I hope I'll stick to. But it's also one that's necessary. I'll find my hockey fix elsewhere. And if your passion runs as deep as you say for this game, I encourage you to do the same.