Saturday, October 13, 2012

Episode 4: What the Lockout Means to Me

My name’s Peri and I’m a Leafs fan from Australia. Let me tell you just what the NHL lockout means to me.

I’ve been into ice hockey for about 10 years. I spent six months living in Peterborough, Ontario when the Leafs last made it to the conference finals. But while I was in Canada, I never once went to an NHL game.

Since then, I’ve kept up however I could. Games are on about 9.30am here, so on weekends I sit around and listen to Joe Bowen’s radio commentary over the internet. Sadly, I now know the Alarm Force phone number off by heart. Sometimes I sneak home from work at lunch to watch the game in six videos on the Leafs’ website, putting a post-it note over the screen so they won’t tell me who wins. There are only a couple of games per week on cable TV here, and no-one has that anyway.

I have got into the hockey here in Australia. There’s a semi-pro league, and the local team is pretty good. I’ve been to dozens of games, and even volunteered as the arena announcer for a while. I gave it up after a few months because frankly I’d rather be sitting in the stands, watching the game.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of merchandise. I’ve had every hockey game from NHL 2K5 to NHL 13. I have this daggy old T-shirt, a vintage T-shirt, another vintage T-shirt, a Holy Mackinaw T-shirt, a jersey (Gustavsson, I know); a bunch of my friends previously went in to get me a Darcy Tucker jersey, but it got stolen out of my car one time. I have a bar mat, two face washers, a flag, a book, a squishy puck, a non-squishy puck, an Anaheim puck signed by Francois Beauchemin, a tiny Sundin, a middle-size Tucker, and an excessively large nutcracker. I’ve paid my dues to the NHL.

More recently, I spent several thousand dollars on flights to the US. After 10 years, I’ve still never been to a game. It takes about 18 hours’ flying to get to LA, so it’s a fairly significant undertaking. This November I’ll be at my mum’s place in Colorado for Thanksgiving. The schedule was released and the Leafs were going to be in Denver on Thanksgiving eve – I thought the stars had finally aligned. Ten years of waiting, a third of my life, was about to end.

Obviously, my grasp of labour relations in North American sports is not quite strong enough. I assumed, foolishly, that no sport struggling for recognition would shut itself down so millionaires and billionaires could haggle over the huge amounts of money they’d all been making. And the worst part? This lockout is making me bitter at the team I’ve followed for all these years.

So in closing, I’d like to offer a song to Gary Bettman and the owners, for shooting down my lifelong dream so they can get 53 per cent instead of 47 per cent. Some collective bargaining advice, if you will.

[Opening bars to “Give a Little Bit”]

Just play the damn game!

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