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How the Lockout Reminds Me of Growing Up

As fans, we want hockey to be all about the game, but that isn't the case.

Justin K. Aller - Getty Images

As a child, I worked my imagination like it was my job. My days were spent buried in perfect, fantastical thoughts that I was sure would become real one day. Aside from never-ending baskets of golden retriever puppies and pools full of Nutella and marshmallow fluff, I dreamed about what I would be when I grew up, like any young girl. I got a little carried away here, but I went from a meteorologist to a nun that makes Communion hosts (true story) to the next Mia Hamm to a JAG lawyer. Changing every time I discovered another "cool" career meant little; I was convinced that regardless of my future choices, my life would be perfect because that was how things worked in my head. Much like Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30, I had this image of what being a working woman (or nun, I guess) would be like. When the time came to find a job, I would just sprinkle some magic wishing dust and everything would fall into place, just like it did in the movies.

And then I grew up.

Months after graduating from college, I remember driving to my second day of work thinking, This is it. This is my life for next 40 years if I'm lucky. The unrealistic glitz and glamour of the working world I assumed went hand-in-hand with adulthood turned into insatiable clients and an exhaustion two pots of coffee couldn't lift. It was a reality check that felt more like I was falling head-first down a cliff.

To combat the drudge of work and responsibilities synonymous with adulthood, I turned to sports and hockey was top dog. For two and a half hours, multiple times a week, I lost myself in the story lines that developed as the season progressed. I fell in love with the feeling of watching hockey. The constant speed. Those moments when it was impossible to breathe. Even the heartbreaking losses. A full hockey season, even one that ended with the Stanley Cup, was never enough for me.

The way I devoted myself to hockey was very similar to how I devoted myself to my fantastical imagination as a child. It was a total embrace of reckless innocence. In both circumstances, I would fight so hard to believe that everything was good and perfect, to the point where I expected nothing less and disregarded any negativity.

It clearly didn't take long for me to realize I was off the mark in terms of adulthood. However, as we sink deeper into this hockey-less pit, I saw how I was doing something very similar with hockey and the NHL.

I will make one thing clear: hockey, in its purest form, is perfect. We may never forget what hockey is truly about, but, at the same time, we certainly "forget" that it is run by a very imperfect organization. Times like these remind us that regardless of the fans' and even players' child-like view of hockey, the core of the NHL has nothing to do with the little nuances that make the game perfect to watch. They take advantage of the fans' passion and use it for money, as any good business would. Our pure love of the game is what gives owners leverage during this lockout.

Hockey isn't as innocent and perfect as many so adamantly believed. There is so much naivety on the internet: people who like to believe hockey is this perfect sport with players who only have good intentions and never want to leave the cities they play for. That organizations care only about the Stanley Cup. That the NHL only cares about spreading hockey love to the world.

I was one of those people until a few years ago. After I got over the incredibly lengthy honeymoon phase, reality set in and it has been drilled into me ever since CBA negotiations started. The last few months have become bitter reminders that there's so much more to hockey than a wonderful sport, but in the end, that's all we, the fans, care about. That's the reason we tune in to games 82+ times a season. Because of that, I've almost removed myself from all of the CBA talks. While I understand their importance and want a fair deal for all, I'm at that point where I just want hockey back. Not the indigestion-causing politics of the game. I want the pure sport I fell in love with so many years ago, because deep down, the fan in me will always have the heart of a child. Of course, as an adult with knowledge of reality, those feelings are often suppressed because we know life doesn't always work the way we want.

However, there are times when we can't help but let those raw emotions flow freely. We weren't thinking about revenue sharing when Sidney Crosby glided on the ice for his first game on Nov. 21, 2011. We weren't thinking about the negatives of cap floors when Evgeni Malkin scored his 50th goal of the season. No, we were wide-eyed, tuned to every move and reveling in what have become glorious moments in team history.

Just like children.

We received word yesterday that the NHL officially canceled games through Oct. 24. The news wasn't earth-shattering; we all knew it was coming. In the end, we all sit around knowing there isn't much we can do to help the situation but learn to deal with the inevitable ache that forms when 7:00 rolls around and there's no hockey to be watched.