Past Time

The NHL lockout is making people crazy.

It’s October. The leaves are changing and hockey should be fighting for attention alongside postseason baseball and the perpetual motion machine that is the NFL. Instead, Ryan Miller frolics in the sun and the Sabres are pretending a statue unveiling is the highlight of the month.

Two weeks of the regular season are cancelled and it’s not looking good for the rest of the month/year/season. Talks are stalled and players are seeking employment elsewhere. Sad faces all around.

Not knowing what to think about the lockout is okay. I think the mechanics behind it are interesting and worth understanding. They are also an absolute bore to discuss day after day after day. That’s the fastest way to lose your goddamn mind. If you’re searching for enlightenment in all this, good luck. You can argue properly for either side, or simply take the side of the guy who sounds the smartest at any given time. That’s your call.

Agonizing over the lockout is simply something I can’t bring myself to do just yet. I hope I never get there, to tell you the truth. There’s just better shit to do. Lots of it. I mean, have you been bowling? It’s loads of fun and they totally serve beer, too.

To tell you how to be a fan is presumptuous and rude, but hearing someone say “we’re lost without it” when lamenting a lack of hockey sounds downright disingenuous to me. I’ve seen a lot of similar statements over the last few weeks and I wonder why we do that to ourselves.

Hockey is not your compass point in life, your rudder in the vast ocean of existence. It’s an island you frequent, at best. You have a family. A job. Maybe some kids or a DVD copy of Growing Pains season one. Throw all that in with three square meals and I’m sure you can manage a 16-hour day that even provides the a doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep.

There’s also plenty of hockey out there elsewhere, if you need it. The Sabres even own a team in Rochester that will start playing soon. They’ll be on television if you don’t feel like making the drive.

It’s clear that most Sabres fans are NHL fans first and hockey fans second, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Really, don’t let someone in a Mike Modano Team USA jersey circa 1998 tell you otherwise. You are not a communist if you miss a World Juniors game or 12.

Hockey, however heavenly the place it’s played, is not everything for fans. When you consider how likely it is we will be without hockey for an extended period, it’s probably a good idea to come up with some kind of backup plan. Please don’t pick cannibalism.

We will survive this, even if it means you have to actually think about what to do on a Wednesday night in November. Our lives as hockey fans were familiar, a fun and frustrating existence that spans many months and gives plenty of excuses to spend disposable income.

That income will find a way to get spent, though. You will fill the three hours after Jeopardy airs with something. Time will pass, and it doesn’t have to slip by in agony. Hockey will come back someday, and we will come back with it. Or, you know, not. Take a stand on that too, if you want.

Until then, I say stay away. There are other sports to watch, other books to read and plenty to worry about elsewhere. The only people required to think and talk about hockey every day are the ones who get paid to do so. We should pity them at times like this.

Being a hockey fan shouldn’t require a thorough understanding of collective bargaining agreements and union-busting tactics. This is not a league of steelworkers or railroad builders. This is hobby, a pastime that’s isn’t passing the time at the moment.

Lamenting its loss is no way to watch the clock hands turn.