Why I can't quit the NHL

Bruce Bennett

The lockout is stupid and annoying for a multitude of reasons - but I'll be back.

The lockout is stupid and annoying for a multitude of reasons. Only the National Hockey League would stunt the growth of its league to put more money in the pockets of the owners. The owners for the most part own a team as part of their portfolio. The PR spin to gain fan support is embarrassing on both sides. The owners try to placate the "best fans in the world" by simply telling them they are "the best fans in the world" while going through its third work stoppage in 20 years is a joke. You know what else ticks me off? Seeing NHLPA players tweet about showing up to little kids practices because they #foundaplacetoskate. Guess what #theplayers? How about you show up to a little kids practice just cause, I’m pretty sure you can and have found ice time somewhere during this lockout.

I’m pretty much on the player side , but at this point it’s bubbled over to annoying. The owners and players can’t get away from their own freakish PR sideshows to negotiate how to split up our money – forget going from 57 to 46 or 50/50 – my tickets have gone up 100% since the last time we did this stupid dance.

News flash: I’m coming back. Giving up something I can’t imagine living without based on principle doesn’t seem to hurt anyone but me. If I give up my tickets, someone else will take them. Let’s be honest I love Hockey and more specifically The Bruins more than I love bacon. Do you know how awesome bacon is? For me, it’s more than just the game of hockey; it’s the cult like culture that comes along with being a fan of what is a niche sport in the USA.

In my opinion hockey is just the greatest sport on earth and best enjoyed live – though HD does make a game appealing for a couch night!

It’s the sport you can be closest to the action, even with my seats up in the balcony I have the best view of a play developing and I’m still close enough to hear the sounds of the game – unless it’s drowned out by awesome crowd noise. It’s fast and tough. There is an amazing mix of skill players and will players. Fighting is awesome. How often have you been at work in a meeting and just wanted to drop the gloves and solve the issue when you see someone being a real weasel? While an 82 game season is long, the current rules typically lead to pretty neat playoff races all the way till the last day of the regular season.

The NHL Playoffs – most sports fans can agree it doesn’t get much better. A seven game playoff series is usually a true test of the better team. Playoff overtime – are you kidding me? No time limit – play till you’re done. There’s a reason they call it sudden death. The players play hurt and it’s amazing to find out who played through what when a series is over. While NBA players will leave the court before the final game is over, in the NHL even injured/suspended players have been known to take the ice for the handshake.

I’m still considered "new" in a section that I've sat in for over ten years. The people in my section are amazing hockey fans and even better people. And it’s basically true about every hockey fan I've met; they are typically hard working, proud, loyal and opinionated folks. My first game, I felt like I was among friends. That’s a big part of why I stay – in fact probably the biggest.

A few years back, I decided to start making "GROWN UP" decisions and be more financially responsible. Looking at the spending – it was obvious the easiest cut was the tickets and all the spending that was around that. When I told my mom who doesn't know a hockey puck from anything she was appalled. Why would I give up my tickets and my friends and essentially what had become my way of life? I explained that I should try to save money and be more responsible. She told me that was stupid because I loved it. She couldn't imagine me without it. She was right – when I look back I realized so many of the people in my life are connected in some way because of hockey.

I met my best friend in the world in section 322. We've been to many great North American cities together to see the Bruins play. The stories are too many to litter with here about our amazing adventures in our section and on the road. We've mastered the art of discussing any topic during a game without looking at each other. We've been to New York, Chicago and Toronto. Perfect road trip partners, we plan and scour for the best deals and wait for the ideal situations. Toronto – we had to go on his birthday because it was his birthday and it was Hockey Night in Canada. I learned he cheats at bubble hockey that weekend – even a passerby gave the "no goal" sign!

When I lived in Arlington, a woman in our section offered to give me a ride home after games since I took a bus and a train into town for work. I came to find out, she actually got picked up from the NH contingent and they dropped her at her house – they were happy to bring me along. Then she would start her car to drive me a couple miles down the road. She said there was no way I would train and bus at night. So for a couple years she would start her car after 10 at night during the winter and drop me at home.

I agreed to go out with my now husband because he was a DC transplant that had adopted all the other local teams except he couldn't give up his hockey team from home. When we got engaged, the first people to take us out to celebrate were the couple that sits next to me in my section – it was the summer. Word moved fast, they called us and invited us to one of the nicest dinners ever with the added bonus of solid advice on marriage.

A couple years back one of the little kids in our section got his jersey stolen in the ladies room when his mom took him to the bathroom. We found out at the end of the game, by the time we hit the bottom of the first escalator there was enough money pooled between us to replace his jersey. That’s just something that happens with hockey folks.

If the NHL or the Bruins were a bank or a grocery store or a salon – I wouldn't use them. They are unreliable, they can’t get out of their own way, and they take their customers for granted. The truth is, they aren't a bank or a grocery store or a salon – for folks like me – it’s a way of life.

I probably should give up all of that because my league is run like a freak show at the circus. I KNOW it is – but I wouldn't ask anyone to give up the thing that makes them happiest or builds the best memories. I’d challenge anyone to straight out walk away from what they loved.

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