And so the matter is at hand. The lockout that we've all known was coming for a year (or more, depending on your personal level of pessimism) is official. The season will be, at best, delayed and may possibly, again, wind up cancelled. And what are we supposed to do about it?
Despite the bombardment of emails and tweets I'm getting from various fan "organizations" that want us to rise up and make a stand, fans have literally no course of action in this. Protest all you want at the NHL store in New York or sign all the online petitions that come across your inbox or keep bothering the active players on Twitter with your pleas for them to compromise and get back on the ice, but none of that will work. Pseudo-journalists who somehow get jobs at ESPN may blame the fans for the lockout, but it isn't our fault. But it isn't our fault that our favorite game is going to miss games yet again.
At the heart of it, and I have purposely stayed away from the details of the negotiation because I'd hate to waste brain cells with that stupid information, it just comes down to two sides who really had no interest in making a deal happen anyway. The NHL created a false timeline of September 15th before locking the players out and then failed to present an initial offer until a few weeks ago. For their part, the players felt no need to even work in the same conventional framework as this negotiation or any one before it. Instead, they presented a 'groundbreaking' offer that was 'completely different' than anything before. The two sides, reading from scripts to two different movies, didn't even feel a necessity to meet regularly or even frequently in the days leading up to the false deadline of tonight.
So what did we expect? There wasn't going to be a compromise and there doesn't seem to be one coming. I wish that fan involvement would put pressure on one or both sides to make something happen. It won't, though. We can all threaten to stop caring and stop going to games and to stop buying, and many of us will. But it still won't matter.
As for me, personally, I've been fully invested in the NHL and the Blues for a long, long time. I became financially invested in 2005 when I started the Game Time paper that we sell before all Blues home games. I knew it was dumb at the time, but I didn't really care, either. I loved to watch hockey and write about hockey and somehow link those loves into jokes about hockey. It didn't matter that the paper I was following, Game Night Revue, had died because of the last lockout. I didn't care that I was tying my stupid business model to the NHL's stupid business model.
I should have.
I don't have a plan for how to get through this lockout. But I have an idea of how it will go. I imagine that I'm going to have an uncomfortable conversation with my ticket representative about what kind of refund plan they expect to implement. And no, good sir, I do not want to roll my current investment forward towards playoff tickets should we lose regular season games.
I imagine that I'll have a hard time finding occasions to wear all the stupid NHL gear I've purchased over the years. Even when the teams start playing games again, I don't know that I'm going to be Up With People that I'll want to immediately throw on my jersey for a game.
I guess that at some point I'll end up talking to the representative at my copier company about what the penalty is if I turn that hunk of shit back in to them before my contract expires.
I feel like I'll still have fun playing the game and watching my kid play, but that I'll be more hesitant about encouraging the full-immersion therapy of hockey that I go through every year around this time.
I don't know if I'll go the way of the hardcore fans I was surprised by last lockout, but I'll admit it's possible. I personally talked to two guys who used to write for the Game Night Revue every game. Both told me they were done, burned out and turned off by their former mistress - the NHL. Both said they'd never write about hockey again. Both said they'd never attend a Blues game again. Both said they'd found other places for their passions.
Even last year I ran into people who told me it was their first games in attendance since the last lockout. I wonder what happens to those people.
I wonder what happens to me.
The harder you work at a relationship, the harder it is to give up. But when it's over, really over, the harder it is to ever come back.