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I know this thought might not be shared by everyone reading this column, but I’d like to take this time and say: Hallelujah, hockey’s back.
Sunday morning, I woke up to the good news that the second lockout in 10 years was over. I know that, durin
g the lockout, I felt pretty bitter toward the NHL and had said maybe when they started playing games again, I’d teach them a lesson and not watch! But I came running back with open arms.
I can’t wait for the first game in a few weeks. I’ve already excitedly dusted off my Buffalo Sabres shirts and hats and have been listening to hockey-related music all day (OK, I’ve been listening to the one hockey-related song I know: “Hit Somebody” by Warren Zevon, who I’d be surprised if more than 10 people reading this have heard of, let alone heard the song).
I’m hopeful that other fans will continue to support the league and the NHL won’t be hurt like the MLB was following their lockout in the ’90s. While I am mad at the fact that the league has had two bad lockouts in recent memory, I don’t want to see bad things happen to hockey. I remember what it was like for the MLB after that lockout. Fans abandoned the league in droves. Stadiums were bare, sometimes only filling up a third of the way. That was bad, but what was worse was the steroid era that came shortly after.
I know a lot of fans may feel angry at the NHL and might decide to not go to games or buy merchandise, and while I understand the anger they feel, a few weeks ago I was there too. But now that the lockout is over and hockey is back, I hope fans will flock back to the arenas and support their teams.
While the lockout was bad and fans have a right to be angered, I think if fans stay away from the arenas and boycott the league, it may end up hurting more than it would help. I’ve heard fans say they wanted to send a message to the league, but if we look at the MLB, that message could do a lot of damage to the game.
Attendance and TV ratings sank following the MLB lockout in 1995. There was a 20 percent drop in attendance of games. The game suffered, teams suffered and the game took a step back. Eventually, the only thing that really brought the MLB out of the slump was the start of the steroid era, something that severely hurt the game of baseball.
On another hockey-related note, all American hockey fans should be over the moon this week. Not only is the NHL back, the USA just won the gold at the World Junior Championships in Russia. The American team played great and demolished Canada in the semifinal, winning 5-1. Then in the final, the USA took on defending champ Sweden and took a 3-1 win for the gold.
The tournament features international teams of under-20 players, so the future of American hockey looks bright. Throughout the tournament the team played well, and as an American hockey fan, it’s always sweet to beat Canada.
Now that the NHL is back, I hope fans will embrace the league, like that crazy ex-girlfriend who you know might end up hurting you, but you can’t stay away from them. I just hope they don’t hurt me again.