We are officially five days away from the return of NHL hockey to Buffalo, NY. Over 9 months after the Sabres lost their 2011-2012 season finale to the Bruins in a shootout, we are finally ready to drop the puck on a new season. Tickets have been sold, the Zamboni has once again been fired up and a new collective bargaining agreement has officially been signed, so naturally hockey fans have the right to be excited, right? Well, depends who you ask…
A certain opinion seems to be dominating various fans as we get closer and closer to puck drop. “The NHL can get away with whatever they want, because fans will always come crawling back.” Now look, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that opinion. 625 games were lost this season and yet more than 10,000 fans showed up at First Niagara Center last night for a scrimmage… yes, that’s right, a game in which the Sabres played each other, so naturally that opinion has more than a little validity. That being said, people have a right to be upset with the NHL, they took away the sport that many of us love because of what seemingly every business comes down to, money. What people don’t have a right to be upset with on the other hand, is their fellow fan.
Why should someone be forced to appease those angry with the league by tempering his or her excitement for the return of hockey? Is that really what’s going to show that the NHL who’s boss? All you have to do is scroll through your Twitter feed to find people openly saying they feel “guilty” or “hypocritical” for looking forward to this Sunday’s season opener. I’m here to say stop. Stop criticizing those people who let go of their anger go the second the NHL & NHLPA agreed on a new deal. Stop unnecessarily promoting your NHL boycott on the rest of the fans who could care less. If you want to be the one throw a pity party and think that by refusing to watch a game this season, or purchase a ticket that another lockout will never happen, be my guest, but allow others to make that decision for themselves.
After missing the postseason last year, Sabres fans were left wanting more. The incredible end of the season push was all for naught when the team finished 3-points out of 8th place. For a city that has become a hockey-town in recent years, that makes the anticipation of the next season that much greater. With teams set to embark upon 48 games in less than 100 days, this is exactly when hockey fans should be raring and ready to go, not feeling bad about whether it’s socially acceptable to display their excitement.
The NHL has taken this opportunity to launch a slogan behind the new season entitled: “Hockey Is Back”. Sure many people have taken offense to this claiming that “it’s arrogant” and that “hockey never left, only the NHL did.” Again, this is a valid point, but another instance in which fans are now seemingly looking for every excuse to criticize rather than embrace. Whether or not you like the slogan or the message the league is attempting to communicate, you understand what it is they’re trying to say. Nitpicking the word choice, at least in my eye’s, is a waste of said person’s time.
My point in writing this post wasn’t to tell people how to think or if they should or shouldn’t welcome the NHL back, that’s totally up to you. My point is rather; if others choose to do the opposite of whatever you decide, let it go. In another piece I wrote when the lockout ended, I talked about whether fans would stick to their word about rejecting hockey even if it did return. At the end of the piece I wrote:
“Whatever you decide, make sure to error on the side of caution… because while you think you’re punishing the NHL, the truth is you’re more likely just punishing yourself.”
The beauty of that statement is that it’s my opinion, something we are all entitled to. To be honest, I am more than a little excited for the return of the NHL and I’m sorry I’m not sorry. As I said earlier, hate the NHL, love the NHL, I don’t care… just let other fans that are ready to finally enjoy hockey do just that.
Feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter at: @BradleyGelber