So ... NHL hockey's back.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. I know how I felt about the lockout - frustrated and disgusted a deal couldn't get done in a more timely manner and that Darth Fehr couldn't get it together to start negotiating until September. Seriously, I don't believe you needed an entire year to get up to speed, Don.
I was annoyed the owners were throwing away the goodwill of hockey fans and crying poverty while the small business owners and little guys working as ushers, ticket-takers and beer guys were taking a financial beat-down. Add to that the real problem in the league - the disparity between have and have-not teams - wasn't addressed.
They said they're sorry. They understand that we're frustrated, but they need us cheering them on. It's important to them.
I don't believe them. I don't believe for one second the owners and players care about the individual fan. Or even the fans as a group. I believe they want our money to continue to feed the $3.3 billion dollar NHL machine. I believe they want us to buy tickets and merchandise and drive up television ratings. Because that means money for them, and, as they showed us during the lockout, they're all about the money.
And I understand that - anyone running a business has to make a profit, no matter how much their heart might be in it. No profit means a team won't be on the ice.
If you're in this to make a profit - and you are - please do us the courtesy of not trying to sell us that tired line that we're all in this together. Be honest with us. You did what you felt you needed to do, and how it affected fans, small business owners and your arena employees had very little, if anything, to do with your decision.
I would love to say I'm turning my back on the sport - at least, its highest level - and they won't get another view, click or dollar from me. I understand this would make no difference in the larger scheme of things and the NHL wouldn't know or care. I just wish I could meet their indifference to me with my own.
A boycott isn't going to happen. Even with someone influential called for one, there are too many fans hungry for hockey. People are going to deal with this in their own ways. Railing against how another fan chooses to handle this is as futile as wishing players and owners cared enough about the fans to avoid a lockout in the first place.
I miss hockey.
I miss watching with the Little Professor. I miss watching my favorite team win. Most of all, I miss the community among fans, friendships born of shared enthusiasm. I miss the camaraderie, in-jokes and half-friendly, half-serious rivalry with other teams' fans. (Orange polyester is an affront to human decency, by the way.)
I miss it, and, when the season starts again, I'll probably be watching.
I miss it, but I feel like I've lost some of my enjoyment. I used to think that, deep down, the owners, managers, coaches and players were fans of the game, too. Otherwise, what was the point?
Now I know better.
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)