Locking myself out
As you’ve noticed (or judging by the hits on this site, you haven’t) there really hasn’t been much to read in this space this summer. A couple podcasts, some brief reactions, but nothing special. If you actually enjoy reading this site, I figure that would be disappointing to you. I get that.
Unlike during the season, there has been no drive, no sense of obligation to fill this space. Usually, that’s the main motivating factor for me even opening up WordPress, because if I’ve got a nugget of information or opinion that doesn’t merit elaboration, I’m just gonna tweet it. But the internal discussions I have with myself have collected to the point where I find myself here and writing.
It’s honestly been a mentally draining experience being a hockey fan this summer. Whether it’s been the constant anticipation of trades, signings, reaction over the lack thereof, the bombardment of statistics we face now, off-ice drama… the list goes on and it’s a lot to handle if you stay on Twitter regularly. And you do. We want to, because that moment something happens, we need to be there. We need to know. We want to know. We have to know. And we have to analyze it, ad nauseum. That’s just the way it is.
But lingering amongst all this is uncertainty. We’re mere weeks away from potentially seeing the league lockout the players. It sucks that it’s at this point, but the moment the NHLPA announced that Donald Fehr was coming in, we all collectively said “Fuck, there’s gonna be another lockout, right?”
And here we are.
I’m not going to sit here and wax poetic about how the owners and/or players are greedy, that they make enough money, that the fans deserve better, etc. That bullshit is for “I’ll hang up and listen” people who still use ham radios and don’t understand the business. The league business model needs to be readjusted. I accept that. We all should. We can all benefit from a better system, where teams can compete equally, the league is financially stable to the point in can invest in the future of the game and the players are fairly compensated for their services.
Is that system unfathomable? No. Is it going to be easy to find that middle ground for the NHL and the PA in time to make this seamless? Absolutely not. But they’re going to work at it until they get to a spot they’re comfortable with because neither side is going to be willing to pass the point of no return. They know what happened last time.
And so do I.
I remember well how I felt in 2004. The impending doom through the final months of that 2003-04 season. The crushing reality of the Sabres’ home finale loss to Toronto, which ended not only a playoff push, but something bigger than that. I still remember how I felt sitting in my seat at HSBC Arena, devastated by the loss and not knowing when I’d see a game again. Every day that summer was spent on HFBoards (which was incredibly intelligent then, don’t judge on the current form) looking for the latest news on negotiations.
Then there was the lockout. It happened. We all wondered to ourselves, “They couldn’t really let this go on forever, could they?” until they actually did. The day they announced the season was officially cancelled, I took my lunch break to go watch the news conference at a bar near where I worked. I sat there dazed and disenfranchised. Since I had become a fan, there was always next season. Now there wasn’t.
Then a funny thing happened. I learned to be okay with it. Even though everything about the Sabres was a huge part of my daily life, I found other things to do. Of course, I didn’t run away to never come back, but I wandered off. And everything turned out okay.
The interesting thing I’m noticing now is how the newer fans are reacting to this scenario. Out of the lockout, the Sabres had two of the most exciting seasons in franchise history and acquired a whole new legion of fans. Many didn’t deal with all this last time around. And if they see the “point of no return” sign on the road and drive right past it, they’re gonna find out what it was like last time. I’m not expecting it to be as bad (nobody should) but it’s still going to suck if it happens.
But we’ll all be fine. I know this. If you don’t, you will. But I feel no anger towards the situation. To be honest, it’s almost relieving for me at the moment. Instead of spending the summer deliberating over what prospects need to get signed, who’s competing for what roster spots, who can we sign… I’ve mentally checked out.
I’ve locked myself out. Voluntarily.
Sure, I still visit twitter multiple times daily and remain in contact with everyone, but I can’t say I’ve been thinking much about the hockey team I follow. Certainly not enough to engage in active discourse on the topic. Which is why this place in particular is so quiet.
And honestly, I’m in no rush to end it. The system we know as the NHL is pretty fucked, not nearly as bad as last time, but this time around, my team is a part of the problem.
In ’04, we were the ones who needed help because the big boys were paying dudes like Bobby Holik $9 million a season (This really happened) and the little guys, like us here in little old Buffalo, didn’t have a chance. Now the Sabres are the assholes trying to pay people like Shane Doan $7.5 million a season at 36 years old. Shane Doan.
Maybe I could expatiate on how disturbed I am with the Doan offer, the direction of the franchise and league in this regard, but again, I’m just fine tuning it out for now. If there’s no training camp, no games… it just makes it easier. I’m not going to stress about when they’re coming back, I’ll come back to them when I’m ready.
So, NHL, NHLPA, go figure your shit out and get back to me when you do. I’ll be around here somewhere.