- Steve Etheridge, ESPN Playbook
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If you’ll recall, hockey is a sport that sometimes happens in America. It might not have as many close-ups on wet butts as football, and it might not be as board-game-like in pace as baseball, but to some of us it’s a dependable escape from winter’s pitiless campaign of misery and crystallized mustache snot.
Hockey, for the time being, isn’t going to happen this year. The NHL’s owners feel they deserve more giant bags with dollar signs on them, while the players want to protect their own rights to more dollar-sign bags in the future.
Unfortunately, the opposing sides aren’t united on much except their willingness to deprive fans of one of the only bearable aspects of winter, even though it’s the fans who fill their giant bags with money.
It’s all very frustrating, but maybe, what with all their rich-people problems and lingering concussion symptoms, they simply forgot to think about us. So I thought I’d take a few moments to itemize exactly what their withered Grinch hearts would be denying us with a lockout.
Anything and everything we know about Eastern Europe
With the Cold War in the rearview, curriculums have replaced Eastern European history with assemblies about safe sexting and saying no to gluten. Denied regular exposure to names like Nikolai Khabibulin and Vyacheslav Voynov, our awareness of this vital global region will be reduced to YouTube videos of Putin hang-gliding with flamingos and late-night reruns of "Rocky IV."
Bryz being Bryz
Perhaps Playbook’s favorite Eastern European, Ilya Bryzgalov has delighted us with everything from discourses on monkeys dying in space to comparing his dog to a hot blonde. Take Bryz from us and you’re silencing one of the greatest philosophers of the 21st century.
Tim Thomas not being Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas, according to his own team, is a “[Expletive] selfish [expletive].” He’s like your overly political uncle on Facebook whom you can’t block because he’s family, so you have to put up with his deranged conspiracy theories and daily FarmVille requests. Mercifully, Thomas announced he’d be taking his Drew Carey-like head and sitting out the 2012-13 season. But if there’s no hockey through which to relish his absence, then what’s the point? This was going to be everyone’s chance to finally learn how to spell Tuukka Rask.
Bush and Pearl Jam
Being at hockey games affords you the chance to listen to great high-octane '90s alt-rock jams that don’t really fit in anywhere else in society. Like “Machinehead” by Bush and Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow.” In fact, many scientists have speculated that outside of hockey arenas, these songs are entirely extinct. They no longer exist on iTunes, or in your old Kazaa files, or on the CD mix labeled “GeT PuMpEd!” that your cousin gave you in fourth grade. Without hockey, you’ll never hear Eddie Vedder sing that incomprehensible first verse again: “Freeeeeeeezinnnnnn’ waka flocka dookie docka pillow bought me some new cleatsssss.”
Inordinately modest postgame interviews
“Jonathan Toews, tell us about that first goal.”
“Just tried to find an opening, then my line mates did the rest, really. Wouldn’t have scored without them.”
“How about your spin-o-rama, through-the-legs penalty shot goal in the second?”
“It was all the ice, really. Their goalie’s a class act, one of the best in the league, and if the ice were a little fresher I’m sure he would’ve covered the net in time.”
“How about the third goal, where a skate cut your arm off and you had to use your other arm to catch a falling baby?”
“Yeah, well, I gotta hand it to my line mates for moving the severed limb so I didn’t trip on it, and then Kaner put the puck up in the air so I could head-butt it in, freeing my hand to catch the baby, who tucked his knees perfectly to be caught. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
A big, goofy, toothless smile is something you don’t ever really see anymore. You get it with hockey players, and you get it with unstable old men at bus stops who claim to be prophets from another galaxy. Let’s not give this one to old lunatics at bus stops, OK?
Goalie fights are the grown-up version of you and your brother suiting up in couch cushions and colliding full-speed from opposite ends of the hallway. So when Capitals center Brooks Laich told reporters on Friday that “a lockout is what happens when adults get in the way of a kid’s game,” I doubt he could’ve articulated the fans’ frustrations more accurately.
And normal fights, too!
Because the UFC won’t even give ‘em to us anymore.
Hope that maybe your team will win? Even though they're not any good?
In the past 33 years, only nine NBA teams have won a championship. In the NHL, there have been nine different Stanley Cup winners in the last nine seasons. Everyone’s got a chance, y’know? Except the Blue Jackets. They’re not allowed.
What are you going to miss most about hockey? Let us know in the comments, and then we will print out those comments, stuff them in a dead mackerel, and mail them to Gary Bettman.