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Last year, every red-blooded American breathed a sigh of relief when the NFL lockout ended before any regular-season games were canceled. Just a few months later, NBA fans had a celebration of their own when the hoops lockout was resolved in time for a condensed season. (One that left many a beat reporter with under-eye circles and an enviable collection of frequent flier miles.)
On Saturday, the NHL completed the lockout trifecta, letting the old collective bargaining agreement expire and entering a work stoppage. Hockey fans are now left to hope the league and players' union can find common ground the way their counterparts in the NFL and NBA did. After all, a year without a Stanley Cup is like a year without Christmas.
We're on Day 3 of the lockout and I'm already starting to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. I have the Blackhawks' goal song, "Chelsea Dagger," running on repeat on my iPod; I can't stop watching Patrick Kane's 2010 Cup-winning goal on YouTube; and I contemplated wearing a Jonathan Toews jersey to a wedding Saturday night to show my solidarity with the players.
OK, I may be exaggerating a little. With just under a month before Oct. 11, the scheduled start date for regular-season games, there's still time to mend fences and save the season.
In the meantime, I've come up with a few ways for hockey fans to get through these long days of uncertainty and despair.
• Drink a few Molsons, set up uncomfortable lawn chairs out back, roll the television up to the window and watch through the glass. If you're drunk enough, you might think you're at a hockey game. And if you really get into it and pound on the glass, you can always cast your kids as the on-ice staff, picking up shards while you grab another beer.
• Start betting on football and baseball. A lot of die-hard NHL fans like other pro sports, but not with the same passion and fervor as their beloved hockey. One way to add a little more excitement to games is to place very large, very irresponsible wagers. No matter how boring you think baseball is, just imagine how much you'll care about the outcome when your rent money depends on it.
• Have a hockey movie marathon featuring "The Mighty Ducks," "Slap Shot," "Goon" and "Miracle," plus about 25 browser windows cued up to the best of HockeyFights.com.
• Speaking of fighting, become a fan of roller derby. It's got the speed, skill and violence of hockey, but with fewer pads to cushion the blows. When Babe Ruthless knocks Punky Bruiser into next Tuesday, you'll forget all about Devils-Rangers line brawls.
• Worried you'll miss the drama and humor of HBO's "24/7" hockey series? Buy some flipcams for the kids on your local high school hockey team and tell 'em to film for a month or so. Not only will you be entertained by the terrible skating and the cringe-worthy adolescent interactions, but you might get enough blackmail material to live off their parents' hush money for years.
• Play "NHL 13" for days on end until you're so delirious you don't know where the game ends and the real world begins. Better yet, find an old Super Nintendo system, cue up "NHL '94" and make Gretzky's head bleed.
• Move to Russia. A number of the NHL's best players have already agreed to join teams in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), and countless others are expected to join them. After a few hours of Rosetta Stone and a weeklong, tolerance-building diet of borsch and vodka, you'll be ready to make the move.