Do you remember the NHL Lockout? The feeling of dread and despair stemming from the possibility of not having any NHL hockey. The countless hours invested in reading about salary caps, contract length, players’ share, etc. etc. All that useless knowledge that made being a hockey fan feel like you were studying for your CPA exam. Remember?
The NHL Lockout was a dark time for many hockey fans, myself included. It was like the NHL was black-tar heroin and the lockout was your dealer getting busted. Hockey fans had to resort lesser product like college hockey, the Word Junior’s tournament, the AHL, to get their fix. It did the job but it was like picking up a bum bag, that is probably cut with drain-o or something, from the homeless guy on the corner. It temporarily satisfied that urge but in the end it left you feeling empty and wanting more. (wow, that analogy is terrible. If I had an editor he/she would probably slap me in the face before commandeering the delete button on my computer.)
What I am getting at is this, the NHL Lockout sucked but it had one thing going for it that made it bearable. At the bottom of the darkest depth of lockout related despair, there was always hope. Essentially my entire experience of the lockout was this:
There was hope that the two sides would settle their differences and there was hope that hockey would eventually be played this year. There was also the hope that when hockey did return, the Florida Panthers would pick up where they left off last season and continue to thrill their fans with a brand of playoff caliber hockey not seen in South Florida for many long years. Here is where I almost get a bit nostalgic for the lockout. Once the games started Panther fans’ hopes were quickly and brutally anesthetized by the realities of wins and losses.
The worst part about the Panthers season was how it started, with a thrilling win. That 5-1 scoreline indicated that there was so much more to come. Newcomers Jonathan Huberdeau and Alex Kovalev had three points each and the goaltending was spectacular. But from there, things went south. What was at the time thought to be a starting point on a long upwards journey instead turned out to be the summit. The elevator had reached to top floor and instead of bursting through the ceiling to heights not yet imagined, the cable snapped and what followed was a free fall into the darkness of the pit below.
Had the Panthers come out and dropped an egg in their home opener against Carolina, we would have at least known what to expect. Our expectations would have been tempered and our hopes dashed quickly like ripping a band-aid off your skin, the pain only lasting for a second. Instead the Panthers told a joke, made us laugh, then ripped off the band-aid, and then punched us in the gut for good measure.