Empty Arenas

Michael Heiman

When your favourite things about hockey become the things about hockey that depress you the most.

The Bell Centre is cavernous.

During your average Canadiens game it's incredibly loud, and during the playoffs it shakes. But take one of them touristy tours of the place and they'll bring you into the lower level and sit you down in the reds for a couple of minutes. If you've ever been on one, you've probably noticed how the place seems oppressively silent at those times.

Giant, empty, quiet rinks. I used to love them. Being in them, pictures of them, the idea of them. Be still, my heart.

Now all I can think of when I think about an empty ice rink is the lockout. The NHL arenas aren't empty on non-game nights, of course-there is other hockey to be played in some, basketball in others, Justin Bieber in all, but to most hockey fans, they may as well be.

Today was supposed to be some made-up deadline for the NHL and the NHLPA to come to an agreement and hammer out a CBA in time to salvage an 82-game season. Instead, they're arguing about-well I wish they were arguing about something. Instead they're alternating between not talking and refusing to talk. I started out hating everything the NHL or NHLPA said about the situation, and now I'm starting to hate the quiet, too.

What terrifies me is not that any hope I had for the lockout to end before 2013 spontaneously disintegrated last week, but that it took with it the last remaining fuck I had to give about the whole mess.

"The two sides seem to be close, much closer than they were to an agreement," say all the people who know more about hockey, labour negotiations, financials, and the parties involved than I ever will.

"The opposite," say the words and actions of the parties involved.

"I don't know if I care anymore," say an exponentially increasing number of fans.

This isn't one of those rants where I swear off the NHL. I would never make such a promise because I know I'll go running back the second they come to an agreement. I know I'll sell a kidney trying to get tickets to the home opener and I know the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators will make money off of me very shortly after the puck drops on the season. I know there's a ton of Canadiens merchandise with my name on it, waiting to be bought.

But I'm tired of every word that comes out of Gary Bettman's or Bill Daly's or either Fehr brother's or any player's mouth, and quite frankly, I just don't care anymore. Unless they're saying "we've agreed on a new CBA," every one of those words is as empty as all the NHL arenas are in our heads right now.

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