I am old enough to remember the first lockout under Gary Bettman, but young enough to not have understood just what was happening then. When the lockout occurred in 2004 I was completely lost. What was I going to do for a full season without the NHL?! Cruel and unusual punishment over here! Did I call UN? No, but Damn it! I wanted my hockey back. I was completely pro-owner. ANYTHING to get the NHL back. Anyone want a kidney? No? Damn.
Did I think we would see another extended off season? No. I didn't think the owners would want to risk it. You see, I fully believe that the players would have played without a CBA this year - acting in "good faith" that they'd be able to get a deal done. However, the owners had a different idea. Well, the same idea that they had in 2004, really. But in the deepest corner of mu gut, I knew that there would be no hockey in October.
I'm not going to discuss what the players want versus what the owners want. Let's be honest, that's been discusses so much, and there is nothing new. Aside from the demands there are two main differences that I have seen this year from the lost 2005 season: social media and fan apathy.
Within the last year or so we've seen a number of players join social media sites and to try and connect with fans. Fans loved this, especially when the players would tweet back (Sup, Winnik?). This was sanctioned by the NHL, although there were some rules, they can't tweet during a game or an official event for one. Some players use this to raise funds for charities - Ryan O`Byrne did - some post nonsense, some have even- accidentally I'm assuming- posted links to adult video content sites. They grew a following for a long time, and used this to voice their opinions out for the past year. When the owners locked them out, they thought they'd have the same public support they did in October of 2004. Fans were screaming that the players were greedy and that they needed to suck up the salary cap, sign on the nearest dotted line, and put on their skates. However, players didn't take the lockout quietly. They stood as one in front of the media, and supported each other using social media. They'd send tweets trying to get fans to understand where they were coming from. With so many fans getting information from the players, the NHL was in a desperate act to play "catch up" to try and get the fans on their side.
The other main difference is fan apathy. Now, don't get me wrong, fans do care, they've just experienced it in recent memory and so it's not as jarring to have to go through it again. The fans handled it in during the 2005 season, they'll be able to handle in during the 2013 season.
There is some good to come out of the locked out NHL. Yes, really. As long as it only lasts a season.
More money in my pocket.
Every season sees a lot of my money go into the NHL owners hands. I took a short inventory of some of the Avalanche items I bought last year off the top of my head: 4 jerseys - with names, 2 baseball hats, 1 tuque (or a beanie as AJ likes to call them), sleep pants, keychains, a garden gnome, some Christmas decorations, hockey pucks, flags, glasswear, water bottles, a couple t-shirts, the Peter Forsberg retirement scarf (love that thing), a pin, golf balls, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. None of this accounts for the money spent going to the games, the flights there and back, the car trips across the boarder to see the Avalanche take on their foes, parking money, money spent at the game on beer and snacks. And, of course, either Center Ice of Game Center Live.
Although I've always loved learning about prospects waiting in the Avalanche wings, this year I can actually catch a number of games and really get a feel for the "new kids". Some of these players are fantastic. They all feel the need to really prove themselves, there are no guys lazing around waiting for the puck. They are digging on every shift trying to make a difference. These players will have fans the very first time they step on an NHL ice surface because fans have gotten to see who they are. Even if you won't be back to watch the NHL when it returns, these games are fun.
In Canada, you can often find a OHL or QMJHL game on television. In the past several years I have gone to a number of OHL games. I saw Gabe Landeskog before he was drafted, and that kid was *good*. This year is no different, I've been going to OHL games and seeing some other kids that are really good that are undrafted because of their age. I will be educated about future drafts, plus, these kids play their hearts out every game. I haven't gone to an OHL game that I didn't enjoy - even when the home team lost. Plus, think of the costs! You can take a family of four for less than the price of one NHL seat. What a great way to get kids to fall in love with the game live.
I have time to do so much more that I ever have in the past. This year, I'll finally have time - if not the ability - to learn to skate. I have read books that I've been meaning to for years. I'm learning to play pool. I have watched movies that were on my "To watch list" - some of them had been sitting on that list from 2003! I have more time for my non-hockey loving friends. I can broaden my horizons and learn more about the world around me. I am becoming a more well-rounded person. I climbed out walked around the outside of the CN Tower 1.168ft above the ground. There is nothing I can't do now. Hockey is no longer my only passion.Speaking of books, do you faithful MHH'ers have any good book ideas?!
The Stanley Cup
Because of the lockout the "real" Stanley Cup, the traveling Cup - the one that is handed over to players on the ice, is actually the Stanley Cup that is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The European Leagues
This is one is two-fold. With NHL'ers making the leap across the pond, the skill level there is bound to increase. It makes for great, open-ice hockey games. This will bring hockey to the front of many kids minds. Maybe, just maybe, the next "Great Player" will be interested in hockey and take it up as a passion due in large part to this lockout.
Is part of me bummed at the idiocy of the league? Yes, of course. However, let's be honest. There is so much more to life than the NHL, and the owners - in their infinite wisdom - are just reminding us, their loyal fans, that we do not need them. There is other hockey, there is other things in this glorious world to pass our time with.