At Large

Column At Large

The Observer-Reporter staff column to discuss their views on stories and beats.

NHL lockout takes its toll

December 8, 2012

The true gravity of the situation really sank in on Oct. 13.

Before then, the National Hockey League lockout had been an inconvenient delay; a temporary work stoppage caused by a love triangle between players, owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman.

But on Oct. 13, things got real …

That was the first time in the 2012 season that both my college and professional football teams lost in the same week. On Thursday, the Steelers lost to the Tennessee Titans via a last-minute field goal. The following Saturday, West Virginia University, my alma mater, lost to Texas Tech in a spectacular display of defensive incompetence.

It was at that particular moment, when I turned off the rout that the Red Raiders were offering the Mountaineers, that the hockey lockout truly became intolerable. The two months since have been nothing less than torture.

Like most people brought up in Pittsburgh as a sports fan, I have come to employ a number of superstitions when watching my teams. These rituals serve the dual purpose of appeasing the sporting gods while also helping my mind consume athletic realities without becoming a fractured, desolate waste.

One time-honored tradition for me has been shutting down any unwanted football results by switching to an ice hockey game. This helps me deal with the negative season and general bad mojo associated with a tough loss.

If the Penguins are on, that’s great. But I’m not exactly particular about which game I watch, I just know I need to throw on some puck to help pull myself out of the existential funk that comes with a double-dose of gridiron shock.

Taking ice hockey therapy off the table causes a condition that psychiatrists call jockular catharsis, which inflicts awful sensations of malaise and doom when the athletic clubs most closely associated with one’s Id have their delusions of grandeur suddenly exposed.

The lockout is affecting hockey fanatics all over North America in ways that were totally unexpected. Despite warming temperatures associated with climate change, 2013 is already turning out to be an unusually long winter, indeed.

I’ve been an ice hockey player my whole life. It’s hard enough being passionate about something that so often plays second fiddle on SportsCenter to football, basketball, NASCAR, poker, equine obstacle courses and any B-roll they can find to put on the Top 10 above Ovechkin’s dirty dangle, stick-side snipe. But having to put up with the third work stoppage of Bettman’s tenure – the second in seven years – is truly unbearable.

Aaron Kendeall is a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter.



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