Six months ago our Devils were battling for hockey’s ultimate prize. They would go on to lose that prize in 6 games and I thought that might be the worst a hockey fan could feel. Less than a month later, I saw my favorite current Devil bolt out the door to his hometown hockey team which only proved that losing the Cup wasn’t the worst feeling for a Devils fan. Then we arrived at the expiration of the current CBA and all of the sudden, it was 2004/2005 all over again, hockey was on hold and lost cups and lost players didn’t matter at all. All that mattered is that hockey wasn’t going to be played in the foreseeable future.
The emotions that NHL fans are feeling vary depending on the fan. Some have gone and gotten their hockey fix from other leagues. Some are done with the lockout, done with the NHL and just done with hockey all together. And then there are the few that have put hockey on a shelf somewhere and said I’ll be back whenever you get your act together.
I can only speak for myself but I don’t fit into any of those categories, not exclusively anyway. I kind of rise and fall with the news, well at least lately I have been. When the lockout first started, I stopped paying attention. I had a feeling that it would a long process but thought it would certainly have an end between the United States Thanksgiving and Christmas, so a few weeks ago I started paying more attention to the news, to Twitter feeds, etc. When it became clear that both sides were going to drag this out, I began to seek some kind of hockey fix from something other than the NHL.
I’ve tried to get my hockey fix from other leagues but the problem is that I live in Northern NJ and the AHL isn’t broadcasted in my neck of the woods and I am unwilling to pay for it online. Besides, I hear the production values are horrendous. When I tried to tune into the KHL games that sometimes get television coverage, I can't seem to connect with it. Besides, they play at 3am and while I would love to see Kovalchuk light up sub-par Russian goalies, sleep is way more important to me. I’ve tried to watch college hockey but there is just no consistency with the broadcast schedule and no real investment in schools/players on my part. Sadly, the NHL is really the only hockey that will do for me and the only fix I currently have is NHL13 but that only goes so far.
Sometimes, I find myself relating to the people I know that are just like “screw this, I’m done with it” after every failed negotiations becomes front and center with all the hockey media. Both sides try to spin the story so it looks like the other guy is the one being a massive jerk and responsible for screwing the fans but I’ve come to realize, it’s both sides that are doing the screwing. Both sides constantly mention that the NHL has the “greatest fans in the world” and every time I hear it said, it makes me want to puke. If we are so great, we deserve more. We deserve to be watching hockey. I constantly think about the people that depend on the NHL actually playing games (bars, restaurants, clothing stores, arena staff, etc.) and just can’t imagine how they feel on a daily basis.
Then there are times where I can relate to the people putting the NHL on a shelf somewhere only to dust it off when it returns. I love hockey and I’ve loved hockey for a long time. My oldest son is just getting interested in it and the NHL really does do a lot for a kid interested in hockey. How do I just walk away from a game that I have invested money and time into? As angry as the NHL/NHLPA and the lockout make me, most days I realize I will be back once they are. I may not be a crazy and obsessed hockey fan like in years past but I don’t see how I can just turn my back and pretend the NHL doesn’t exist.
This week, I was hopeful, more hopeful than I have been in recent memory but after last night, I am back to being a depressed hockey fan. I was hoping for a resolution so that I could get back to what I enjoying doing on this site. This is usually the time of year where I spend A LOT of time researching and writing Devils content, watching games and interacting with fans on the internet. Last season, I brought on three very passionate Devils fans to help me grow this site and we had really found a groove near the end of the regular season and through the playoffs. We all were starting to do podcasts and netcasts and things were really starting to pick up and this blog was starting to get noticed. Now, the groove is long gone, the appetite is certainly gone and so are most of the readers.
I watched last night as the two sides played tug-a-war with my emotions. One minute I was told that the two sides were very close and then the next minute was told that wasn't true and after actually listening to what the NHL said, realizing they aren't close at all. After last night, we sit here, scratching our heads and asking “what’s next?” I honestly have NO clue.