I'm sorry, hockey. I just don't know how much longer I can do this.
The last few months have been an uphill battle because of the CBA negotiations, and I'm afraid the strain has fallen upon us. It isn't right because the hair-pulling frustrations are a result of the NHLPA's and owner's lack of communication. We have nothing to do with it and you did nothing wrong, but so long as you're tied to their actions, I cannot invest myself any more than I already have. I can't care with the voracity that I have cared about you for most of my life.
My head is hanging in shame as I admit this to myself. I'm not sure when this change occurred, but I have an idea when I realized things were changing between us.
Thanksgiving Day afternoon, my parents and I drove through Pittsburgh on our way to my aunt's house. As we headed through downtown, we passed the Consol Energy Center. My dad casually pointed it out anyway while bemoaning the loss of his beloved Mellon Arena across the street. If we were in the midst of a season, he and I would have been making our yearly venture to see a Pens home game the next day. I wanted to be upset I wouldn't be spending my Black Friday evening surrounded by fans who felt the same about the Pens as I do, but I wasn't. I mumbled something inaudible and cranked the music up on my iPod.
It's funny how fired up I was at the start of the lockout. I remember thinking just how difficult it would be, going evening after evening without hearing Badger Bob's "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh." The ambivalence of some fans was shocking to me. I wouldn't be one of those people who would give up on hockey, I told myself. The thought was inconceivable. Too many hours were spent watching games, pouring over stats sheets, listening to "don't go to bed yet" tweets, and searching the depths of Google for an obscure Craig Adams quote. A few hockey-less months shouldn't have changed the way I felt about this game other amplify my desire and appreciation for it.
I was wrong; things have changed. Like a breakup that had its complete run of despair and misery, I woke up one morning and realized I didn't miss you, hockey. The feeling was foreign and felt so wrong, like it required absolution and penance, but I had become numb. Just a few months ago, I was that girl who had lost her identity following a rough break up and I had no idea how I would be without that piece of me. In time, however, it became a necessity to find my feet and continue moving forward without you. So I did.
Then Thursday, I realized just how important it's become for me to stop caring. After those ridiculous podium talks, the news that the ship could be righted with a few more changes, I felt myself missing you again. I started watching highlights like I did over the summer and I was engaged in hockey talk on Twitter again. We all know what happened later in the evening and I felt that devastation all over again. Last night was a moment of weakness, of falling back into my old habits. I know better now that until I hear the words "we have an agreement," hanging on to anything else is just wasted emotion.
It's still hard to believe everything has come to this, that hardcore fans have to emotionally remove themselves from the sport that invokes so much joy into our lives. How devastating this will be to the casual fan, as annoying as they may be. We were all casual fans at one point. And we can't forget how much this burns the NHL players, ready to play a game they were destined to play, and even AHLers, patiently waiting their turn.
The negotiations chess game continues, albeit halted at the moment. I now know how meaningless words can be to both sides, so unless I can watch a puck drop at 7:07 pm, I will remain numbingly demure when the "significant strides were made" comments arise once again.