One of the things that I love most about living in Philadelphia is the instant bond you form with someone when you discover you’re both fans of a particular team, or player.
I love that no matter where you go, you can strike up a conversation about local sports with a stranger and feel like you’re talking to an old friend. I always smile when I catch someone wearing a Flyers shirt, especially in the middle of the summer, when hockey is only on the minds of few.
The idea of losing Flyers hockey for a season is a pretty depressing one, let alone losing all of the NHL for a season. Even if you’re not a fan of more than one team, it’s always fun to chat about it, to bicker, to say your team is better than someone else’s team and have the facts to back it up. Being a hockey fan is part of a community, and that community is going to be pretty dismal come October if the two sides can’t reach an agreement.
Yeah, there are other sports to watch. And yeah, maybe fans are suckers for going back to the NHL after a lockout (thanks for those kind words, Bettman). But we do it because we love it, because hockey is a big part of our lives. There are casual fans, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for the people who practically eat, sleep, and breathe hockey, who say things like “we need to improve on the power play” and “we really handed it to the Penguins tonight,” the lead up to a lockout is tough. Right now, maybe there’s a chance. It’s slim, but it’s still there. Come September 15, though, if the other shoe drops, so will our stomachs.
For a person like me — someone who loves hockey so much that I don’t just want to talk about it to the people I know personally, but to anyone willing to click a link and read a piece, or engage in a conversation on Twitter or Facebook — it’s been difficult thinking of what to talk about this Summer. I could write about what players will need to step up this season or who to watch out for, but it’s almost just insulting when I know there’s a good shot that those pieces won’t even matter because there won’t even be a season. It’s like assuring someone that their leg is going to be fine when it’s already been amputated.
Getting through the dog days of the calendar as a hockey fan is difficult enough, let alone getting through the months when hockey would usually be played. Autumn, Winter, and the beginning of Spring won’t feel the same without the anticipation, the frustration, the ups, the downs, the excitement and the disappointment that hockey brings. For as crazy as our favorite team can drive us, I’d rather watch my team play through a difficult season than not get to watch them play at all.
So I’ll keep hoping (maybe naively) that the league and the NHLPA reach an agreement by that fateful third Saturday next month.
Otherwise, we’re in for a long off-regular season full of watching old games by candlelight, crying ourselves to sleep while listening to the smooth sounds of Doc and Eddie O, and trying to contact Bryz to find out what it all really means.