Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Hockey Life: That didn't take long

The opening day of the Tampa Bay Lightning's training camp
at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. (Photo by Colin)
During the recent NHL lockout, I played the role of a somewhat indifferent and occasionally indignant fan. I canceled my $10-a-month sports cable TV package, as it carried the NHL Network. I groused a little about greed, pinning blame on owners and the players.My biggest lament was nodding off to replays of games.

Sure, it would have been nice if the 2012-23 season actually started in 2012. Who knows, we might've even attended a couple of games so far. And, yes, I would've dusted off the hounding bag and, any time a Western Conference came to town, added to the collection.

Even a season lost, I projected to those who asked, wouldn't have bothered me too much. Look at the money we would save, only to likely spend elsewhere on Colin's hockey and other life expenses. It would serve as an important lesson to Colin, too young to remember the season lost during his infancy, that money, not a love for the game, drives the NHL.

My strongest statement, in one of those indignant moments, was it would take time for the NHL to win me back. Little did I know, though, how short that time would be.

Really, all it took was walking inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum last Sunday for the opening of the Tampa Bay Lightning's training camp. Even though we arrived late for the Fan Fest activities, the buzz we felt upon entering was palpable. People, decked out in full Lightning gear, were laughing. You could feel the chill. You could smell the ice. It felt like a game night.

Even before we found our seats, I felt a growing sense of relief that we'd have an NHL season, albeit a shortened one. It was nice knowing that games could serve as teaching moments, for father and son. It was nice knowing that Colin could see his heroes, even if one wears black, gold and white. It was hockey, the best in the world. And it was back.

Seeing friends, mostly from Colin's hockey roots, certainly eased the transition. We weren't 50 feet inside the Forum when he ran into one of his former teammates. Before long, we were all sitting together, catching up, sharing news and swapping stories, with the sights and sounds of the Lightning's practice serving as a backdrop. It doesn't get much better than that.

To me, that's the best part of hockey, no matter the level. It's the common bond over the love of a sport. Despite physical or financial differences, we're all cut from the same cloth. We're hockey fans. We know it. And, really, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Still, I won't be making a deep financial commitment. At the least, I've called my cable TV provider and had a $10-a-month sports package added back, so I can watch the NHL Network. I imagine, too, we might take in a game or two. Anything else, I'm not so sure.

So, yes, my indifference was nothing but an act, a brave front masking a sadness I felt because the sport I hold so dear was, once again, being held hostage. I'm glad it's back and I know, without a doubt, I'm not alone. Am I?

1 comment:

  1. You are definitely not alone. I think there were a great many people excited to see the NHL back.

    I hope the teams try to make a concerted effort to thank the fans for the commitment they've shown and I hope there is an extended period of labor peace.

    It's amazing how fast those feelings of frustration or disappointment can be dampened when the players fly out onto the ice.

    I'm excited to see them back. I'm excited at the shortened season. I'm excited that every game really means a lot.

    It's going to be fun.