Over the next few days, you’re going to read a lot of stuff from everywhere about what happens now. Do the fans come back? Should they come back? Should they forgive? What should the league do to try and start to make it up to us? It will go on and on, and you’ll hear every possible opinion.
From our perspective, I’ll just say that there is no wrong answer. If you feel burned and don’t ever want to come back, that’s fine. If you love hockey and the Hawks so much and that you’ll stroll right back into the UC when the season kicks off and not think twice, that’s fine too. There isn’t one path to what makes all of us happy, and whichever you want to do is how you have to go about it.
But for a lot of us, there is a conflict within us that we have to resolve. But that’s easily done.
To me, there’s two parts to being a hockey fan — or really a fan of any sport. The first is buying your tickets, tuning into to watch, buying the shirts and the gear. This is the part we all feel conflicted about, I’m sure.
The second, and to me the far more important, is not going to the game, but who you’re sitting next to at it. Or who is at the next barstool over or bringing over the chicken wings to your house to watch the game. It’s striking up a conversation at the bar with another guy you saw in a Hawks jersey and talking about who should be on the wing on the second line or what it would take to get Jarome Iginla to Chicago. It’s commenting on this blog and having it devolve into a discussion for your favorite Joy Division song. It’s sending taunts via twitter or email to your friends in St. Louis or Detroit. It’s all that and more.
And you can have all the second part, and not feel the least bit bad about it, while not contributing to anything that took the first part away from you these past few months. You could not wear or buy new merchandise. You don’t have to buy tickets. And if you go watch the game at a bar — a business that was truly wounded by the lockout quite possibly — you won’t even be contributing to their ratings. Reading this blog, commenting on it, or others as well. You can have all of that. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice all that makes this fun and special to merely exact some kind of vengeance on the much smaller first part of being a fan.
Because in the end, it’s hard to know what we’ve truly lost. Yes, our emotions have been skinned. We’ve been reminded where we stand. But deep down, didn’t we know all that already? We knew the owners merely look at us as dollars on legs. We knew that the players don’t think of us as much more than scenery. We may lie to ourselves from time to to time, but we know. Tickets for games not played will be refunded, planned trips for road games can be done in the future. Yeah, we’ve had to fill a lot of empty nights with things we didn’t like, and we won’t forget that.
None of this is to say I’m ready to just pretend it’s all over and try and go back to normal. As I stand here writing this now, I have to say that I would be shocked if I actually attend the first home game. I’ll be outside at my post before selling the CI, but I heavily doubt I’ll go in the doors. It just doesn’t feel right. Nor will I be donning any Hawks gear soon. It’ll be the Liver bird hat for me for a while.
But does that mean I won’t immediately leave my post, haul ass to HQ, walk in and slap Killion upside the head with a fish before taking the stool next to him, order a round for both of us, and watch said first home game next to him? Of course it fucking doesn’t. Shit, I want to do that right now. I can hardly wait the two weeks to do that again.
As for apologies, I don’t think I need one. Sure, free Center Ice would be nice. Maybe some promotions or discounts. But what we all want really is the players back on the ice and playing as hard as they can. The game is enough, it’s all we’ve asked for since September when this madness started.
As I always say, and it’s stolen from my brother, hockey is like Tom Petty. Life is just better with that in it. So let’s all enjoy it in our way together again, shall we? We better enjoy it together, because for that first month, man is the quality going to be shitty.