In the eyes of a hopeless romantic, die-hard hockey fan, who has experienced both the staff and fan sides of hockey and baseball, I can say whole heartedly that the impending NHL lockout is comparable to the inevitable rain delay in baseball.
The sky is looking bleak as staff members and fans arrive at the stadium. The sun is hidden behind a massive, dark cloud and there is rumor of precipitation in the surrounding areas. Seeing this sight, everyone is pretty sure there will be a rain delay called. On one hand, no one wants to get his heart set on spending nine innings at the ball park while on the other hand, there’s that off chance that the storm might change directions just in time to save the game.
Aware of the uncertain weather conditions, the athletes, coaches, and staff working the game still have to prepare for the night with the mindset that there will be a game. Batting practice, pre-game meetings, and the whole pre-game show must run as if there is not a cloud in the sky, even though subconsciously, everyone is arranging plans for their potentially free night, feeling that the hours going through the routine are a complete waste of time because ten minutes before first pitch, the game will be called.
While down on the concourse (and for the very faithful, still in their seats, covered in ponchos and holding umbrellas), the fans are chowing down on overpriced hot dogs and popcorn, patiently waiting for a glimmer of hope from the staff about the start time of the game. The fans ask around, over exaggerating any speculation that may be made about the game’s outcome, everyone has an opinion and those opinions become a reliable source of information. The fans just want to know the truth, they want to know what everyone behind the scenes already knows or think they know. After all, these fans have invested their hard earned money, minimal free time, and emotions into this game. They wait in anticipation for the storms to dissipate so they will get what they came for, the game, and not be let down by its cancellation.
Equivalent to any other “scandal,” “accusation,” or “developing story,” no one really knows what’s going on with the lockout. Various sources provide a variety of opinions, each opinion varying day-to-day, but no one can truly pinpoint what is happening behind the scenes unless one is able to spend every waking minute until September 15 in one giant room with Gary Bettman, the owners, and the NHLPA.
Just like the rain delay, the owners, players, and staff are already making plans for their potentially “free” hockey season. Contracts are still being honored and players still have the peace of mind of belonging to a team. Sure the league will suffer in a loss of fans and a year’s worth of revenue, but the only ones left worrying about the outcome of their emotional, mental, and financial investments are the only ones that make the NHL possible to begin with – the fans.
Without hockey fans, there would be no NHL.