Puck you

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Hockey fans — let’s take it personally this time.

The unconditional love we feel for our mistress, the NHL, is unrequited. As if that wasn’t obvious enough in 2004, the first time she disappeared, only to return a year later yelling “Puck, how I’ve missed you!”, we still took her back.

Now the NHL lockout looms again, as the NHL owners and Players Association can’t decide how to share revenue. Both parties stand firmly entrenched, hence the numbing déjà-vu we feel closing in.

Hockey lovers are hopeless, but we’re not entirely powerless.

The oft-forgotten fact is that fans are clients, customers who fuel the multi-billion dollar enterprise. Yes, we allow NHL executives to fly off to Miami bungalows and sip aged whiskey, in exchange for a beer and a hockey game.

If we learned to exist without purchasing NHL products this year, maybe they’d feel more inclined to reach a decision. It would at least damage NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s $8-million salary, which has more than doubled since the last lockout.

While players seek to increase their riches, owners seek to reduce them. Meanwhile, fans nauseatingly wave the finger of blame between the two, as we inch back quietly into NHL hibernation. Sadness quickly turns into indifference and forgiveness.

We’re lovestruck fools, too blind to see we’re being fully taken advantage of.

Our vulnerability lies somewhere between being Canadian, too forgiving, too generous, too obsessed and always too hungry for NHL action. She’s giving us the old “It’s not you, it’s me,” which in this case means “You took me back last time, you’ll do it again.”

I’ll take her back in a heartbeat of course, but the lockout is validated by our own collective belief that fans’ voices are unimportant. The NHL and the players union ultimately call the shots, but disregarding loyal customers can’t be good for business.

It makes little sense to be okay with losing our passion unnecessarily and in the name of stubborn indecisiveness. Fans desperately need to express themselves, otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for heartbreak.

Spend your lockout year however you please. Go to a Queen’s hockey game, find a relationship, ditch that beer belly — or don’t.

While you’re at it, tell the NHL how you really feel — stop buying their products, get feisty on online message boards, do whatever you can. We’ll follow the NHL when it comes back, but that doesn’t mean we won’t keep her in check.

If there’s one thing you can’t do, it’s forgive.

Peter Morrow is Sports Editor at the Journal.

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