Hockey fans are finding that there's really no reason to get locked-in. There are alternatives.
Let us start with a parable...
Back in the late 1990's, the cookie company Keebler made my absolute favorite cookie in the world. It was a double fudge sandwich cookie with a dusty dry outer cookie and a chocolate fudge center. Out of the package, they were pretty marginal, but dunked in milk - up to the knuckle until the bubbles stopped - they were heaven. HEAVEN! This was the greatest dunking cookie in the history of cookie dunking. Oreos? Please. They completely lack balance. The cookie is too intense and the cream is too bland and greasy. If you let the cookie soak too long, it disintegrates into slime and a white disk of cream filling. Disappointing, at best. The Keeblers maintained structural integrity, and the cookie and filling just worked in harmony.
Getting back to the story... In 2000 one day, mid-August, I think, I went to my store and, to my horror, the Keebler double fudge sandwich cookies were gone. The store had stopped stocking them. I would have thought my 3 package a week habit would have been enough on its own, but no. I went to another store, but they too had no Keebler double fudge sandwich cookies. I spoke to the manager. He checked the Keebler order sheet. Double fudge sandwich cookies had been discontinued. I was crushed.
I tried to substitute Oreos. Then Chips Ahoy. It was no use. There was just no equal to the Keebler double fudge sandwich cookies, so I gave up cookie dunking.
Flash forward to 2004. Keebler introduces their "classic" line of cookies, including... the double fudge sandwich cookie! I bought a bag. I bought two. The first few were like a culinary orgasm. But, something was happening. I felt done after one or two cookies, and sometime in the interim, I had become unable to digest milk proteins. The second bag sat in the pantry for about 6 months before I finally threw it away.
Dear NHL and NHLPA,
You have become the Keebler double fudge sandwich cookie of my spare time. I survived this summer like I always do, but I was ready for NHL hockey come September, and you went and discontinued it. I've tried the NFL. It sucks. I even tried to watch the MLB playoffs. Thought I was going to die of boredom. Soccer has kind of caught my eye. I just wish it went faster.
Mostly, I've found that both of my daughters are in high school, and will be gone from my house before I know it (my son's already gone to college). I've found that I have an old car in my garage that I once intended to restore, but kinda forgot about. I've found that I (still) live less than 5 miles from some of the best mountain biking trails in the world. Why the hell would I waste 2.5 hours per day in front of a stupid television watching other people do things? For the cost of 2 lower bowl tickets, I can take both my daughters skiing, skiing lasts all day, and I get plenty of fresh air and sunshine (or freeze my ass, but even that's an experience). I could have more life! What was I thinking? If I do feel the need to wear a hockey sweater, I have most of the WCHA hanging in the closet.
Sorry NHL. I will still watch from time to time, but what can I say, you no longer taste that great and the milk makes me fart.