This time next week I should be in Nashville at a Predators/Hurricanes pre-season game. Am I fan of either team? No. Do I care? No. I want hockey. We all want hockey. We've been waiting for June for the sport to come back, attending prospect camps and kids' games and crossing off every calendar day until September 15th, praying that the CBA get resolved. Just hoping against hope that the season and everything that comes with it started on time.
That was a pipe dream, obviously. Here we are, with the lockout starting tonight in less than seven hours from the writing of this post. No pre-season games, no puck drop on time. All we have is our frustration at the owners and the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (and deputy commissioner Bill Daly), whose smugness has been wrapped around every aspect of these negotiations. Bettman feels terrible about the lockout. Empty platitudes; he felt terrible about the Thrashers' relocation after it was announced, too. Bettman's an expert at feeling terrible, because there have been more than enough disruptions under his tenure as commissioner to be upset about.
Atlanta? Gone. Quebec? Gone. Hartford? Winnipeg? Poof. Three work stoppages? Check. Threats of relocation due to the hiring of terrible owners? Tons of times. Fans getting upset and angry? Go on and take off your shoes and socks, because you'll need to so you can count. Fans coming back after the stoppage? Absolutely. Everyone knows that'll happen.
We love the sport, and we're impacted by the lockout as much as the owners and players are. Sure, we're not getting paid, but we're still missing out on the chance we've been waiting on for months: to support our teams. What do we do until the work-stoppage is resolved? Well, other than just playing NHL 13, try to frequent the businesses around your teams' arenas. Those people are going to be shocked by the drop off in income without games. Keep those who work for the arenas and teams in your thoughts, because they'll be out of work for a few months. Try to not get too angry, and remember the sport is bigger than the owners -- and it sure as hell is bigger than Gary Bettman.
In conclusion, find something productive to do, because it might be a while.
It isn't just "it might be a while", it will be a while, primarily because the two sides feel absolutely no need to get a deal done in a timely fashion. Note the lack of negotiations until well after the season stopped. Note the final days leading up to the imposed lockout date with no new negotiations. If either side thinks it's winning the PR battle here, they better have another think on the matter.
It's clear that you, me, and the kind of folks who read this aren't in the segment that the players and the league need to be worrying about. We'll get our hockey one way or another, and we'll be back with the big club of our choice when they finally get around to playing. But the casual fan? The one that doesn't even realize this is coming? Hint to the league and the PA: That's where your big revenue boom came from, that shiny new 1B+ in revenue. That's what you stand to lose by dragging this out.