Of all the things the lockout has taken away, the thing I miss the most is the conversations, arguments, and debates I would be having with other puckheads. One of the great benefits of NHL hockey over other forms of hockey is that it is pervasive. Here in BC, I can bring up the latest Canucks game with most of my friends and they will have seen the game, allowing us to start from a shared point of reference. If, instead, one of us brings up the latest Abbotsford Heat, Chilliwack Chiefs, or Aldergrove Kodiaks game, we can’t have a debate or argument: one of us is simply informing the other of what occurred.
Instead of conversations about the NHL, we find ourselves talking about the NBA, the trades made by the Toronto Blue Jays, and what the Vancouver Whitecaps need to do during the offseason. I have opinions – strong opinions - on the viability of the Princeton Offense in the NBA, particularly with veteran players who have played a very different style of game throughout their careers and – oh god, someone stop me.
Sometimes we even resort to topics of conversation that aren’t about sports at all.
When the conversation does turn to hockey, it’s all kinds of wrong. Instead of what we should be talking about at this time of year, it’s all idiotic nonsense with only the most tenuous connection to the game we love. While it’s all well and good to proclaim that “hockey still exists,” and I have many times, we lose something when we’re not all following the same league. We lose the common ground.
Right now, we should be talking about the surprise start from some unexpected second-tier star, like we were with Phil Kessel last season. That seemed to be the moment the hockey world collectively realized that he could be a top-tier talent and he ended up with his first point-per-game season in the NHL.
Instead of getting over-excited about a player’s “Gretzky-like” numbers and arguing if they’ll be able to sustain it, every conversation I have with one of my hockey-loving friends start the same way – “So, do you think there will be a season?” – and every response is the same: “Maybe. Who knows?”
We should be debating who the favourites are for each of the NHL awards at the quarter mark of the season. Which players would be carrying their team and be favourites for the Hart? Which Vezina-candidate goaltenders would be playing out of their minds? How would Shea Weber be coping without Ryan Suter and would the combination of flying solo and Lidstrom’s retirement finally give Weber his first Norris? Would Nail Yakupov be the frontrunner for the Calder or would Damien Cox have more than a one-game sample size in order to ask “Is that all there is?”
Instead, we’re talking about the intricacies of decertification, why it matters, and whether it would mean the cancellation of the entire NHL season.
We should be talking about which team currently leading their division is a paper tiger according to their Fenwick rating when the score is close, leading to massive arguments with said team’s fans over the legitimacy of advanced statistics. And yes, to some of us, that would be enjoyable.
Instead, we’re talking about Guy Serota’s Twitter account, which is hockey talk because he was one of the mediators stepping into the ongoing CBA negotiations and may or may not have tweeted a bizarre joke about Sarah Silverman being a terrorist whore. Yes, this is still hockey talk, somehow.
We should be talking about how Evgeni Malkin’s scoring slump is killing our fantasy team and how we should have picked Crosby first overall, but we still had concerns over his recovery from his concussion: what were we thinking?
Instead, all we can talk about is more reasons that the lockout sucks as a fan. Which is essentially what this post is. Sigh.
We should be arguing over whether or not a hit by a random sixth defenceman or third-line checker was worthy of suspension or not: did he leave his feet? Was it before the hit or as part of the follow-through? It wasn’t blindside, but the guy did have his head down…3 games? 4?
Instead, we’re left trying to figure out what percentage of hockey-related revenue the players are asking for in their latest proposal. They say it’s 50/50, but with the “make whole” provision, they actually get 55% in year one, then 54% in year two, and so forth, only getting down to 50/50 by year five. Right? Or is that 54% in year one and oh lordy, I don’t give a damn.
We should be getting outraged over the snubs on the NHL All-Star Game fan ballot, bemoaning the inclusion of, say, Stephen Weiss, over Matt Moulson. Completely meaningless? Of course! But arguing over which player is better is an essential element of being a puckhead.
Instead of arguing over which player should be on the ballot to ultimately not receive enough votes to play in a meaningless exhibition game for children, we’re arguing over which player has said the stupidest thing in relation to the lockout: Roman Hamrlik, for undermining the NHLPA? Ian White, for calling Bettman an idiot? Krys Barch, for getting drunk and tweeting about his plight as a poor NHLer? Or Dave Bolland for retweeting a fan’s wish for Bettman to die? Yeah, probably that last one.
We should be talking about how well or how poorly Justin Schultz is playing in his rookie year in the NHL. Instead, we’re talking about how amazing he is in the AHL, leaving us to ponder, speculate, and then admit we have no idea if his play will translate at the NHL level.
A coach would have been fired by now and we would all have our opinions on whether it was the right move and whether it would even make a difference. Meanwhile, we’d all be marvelling that some other coach still had his job.
Instead, we’re all arguing over whether Gary Bettman should still have his job. Okay, that one would happen regardless.
I hate talking about the lockout. I hate writing about the lockout. I hate that I now know what decertification is. I hate that “make whole” is now a more common phrase on hockey blogs than “great goal.” I hate that all I can do about it is whine and rant about it here.