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How Pens fans can get their hockey fix during the NHL lockout.
As I look at the list I have prepared below, I can't help but cower in shame. It seems so...pathetic? Alas, because of the never-ending bickering between owners and the NHLPA, this is what everything has come to. With the lockout in full force, we need to find other ways to occupy our time.
I put together a list of a few ideas that I'm currently enforcing in my hockey-less life. It doesn't come close to replacing the image of a James Neal one-timer or Marc-Andre Fleury's smile after a crazy save, but for the time being, this is all we have:
Pile on Pens Paraphernalia
Just because the NHL has halted doesn't mean our obsession with the Pens has to stop. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've found myself reaching for the Neal and Kris Letang sherseys more often lately. There's something comforting about sporting the team logo, even before the lockout became an issue.
Living outside of the DC Metropolitan area, it's always fun to wear my Pens gear because most of the time, I'll get a "Go Pens!" shout out or a high-five from a fellow fan. Many times, this turns into a short conversation about the team. I've already bonded with a few strangers, sharing our frustration over the lack of hockey. While it may not solve the problem, we all know that misery does love company.
For those of you who hate the idea of wearing the Pens logo while the NHL is locked out, might I recommend specially-made shirts for the lockout? My favorite is this one by The Classy Yinzer. In fact, I'm wearing it today at work.
This leads me to the next point...
Follow the Pens to Other Leagues
If you can get away with wearing headphones and watching members of the Pens play overseas at work without losing your job, this is a great option. In fact, I highly recommend it. The guys at The Pensblog have been on top of finding Magnitogorsk streams and posting them on gamedays so I would keep a close eye on them if you need a hockey fix.
The tricky part could be if more Pens decide to play overseas, who will you watch? Watching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could mean six hours of your day will be spent watching hockey. Not that that's a terrible way to spend your time.
And don't forget: the AHL is always an option (and probably more accessible).
Join a Hockey League
If you can't watch hockey, why not play it? Find an ice hockey league in your area, grab a bunch of friends, and pretend you're Mario Lemieux, turning Jon Casey inside out. If you can't skate to save your life (like yours truly), then I would recommend trying dek hockey. If joining a league in general is intimidating or you just don't want to put in that kind of effort, nothing beats playing hockey in a cul-de-sac with tennis balls for pucks and trash cans for goals.
Embrace your childhood days!
Watch YouTube Highlights
This has been my go-to fix. If I ever need a break from work, I get on YouTube and just watch highlights from previous seasons, sometimes through my lunch break (judge away). As many of you probably experienced, once you start watching highlight videos, you get sucked into more and before you know it, you've eaten up an hour of your day.
If you have NHL Network, I would also keep track of their schedules since they tend to replay games (especially major playoff games).
Learn more about Penguins Hockey History
One of the many great aspects of being a Pittsburgh Penguins fan is the rich history that this team carries. Many of you reading this probably weren't watching hockey since the establishment of the organization, so why not learn more about this team? I know my Pens knowledge pre-Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr could use a ton work. I would always tell myself to put in the time to do more research on past players, but I would always find an excuse like "What's happening right now in the League is more important anyway."
Well, can't make that excuse any more. There isn't a better time to really embrace just what this team and organization has been through since joining the NHL.
And speaking of educating ourselves...
Become a Better Student of the Game
I can only speak for myself, but since my hockey playing never left my driveway, my knowledge of the really technical, X's and O's side of the game isn't where I would like it to be. There's only so much you can learn by watching games and listening to commentary. Take some time to read up on how the game is properly played (and maybe use those skills you learned during a dek hockey game).
Your focus doesn't even need to stop at the technical side of hockey. I know I've read more about the CBA the last few weeks than ever thought I would in a season. Or if reading about the CBA gives you a belly-ache, maybe take the time to study other teams or even better understand the Pens' prospects.
The point is, there's always more to learn about hockey and now couldn't be a better time to study it.
Find Another Hobby
It hurts to say, but nothing could be more true. We need to occupy ourselves in other ways, plain and simple. Pick up another sport to watch, go to concerts or other avenues of entertainment, join a book club, take a basket weaving class, whatever it takes. One of the positives of the lockout is having that big chunk of free time between 7:00 and 9:30 PM. Take advantage of that—you don't have to plan your schedule around the Pens anymore.
However, I have a feeling that as we inch closer to the winter months, our thirst for hockey would love nothing more than a few hours of the Crosby and Malkin Show a few nights a week.
How are you surviving the lockout?