Most people echoed my sentiments. Some said I'd get over it. Nearly all said we'd be back in the seats as soon as the season started, whether this year or next. But I don't think so. Unless the NHL and the players get their act together and there is real, professional hockey on the ice before the end of the 2012 calendar year, I honestly think I'm done.
I'll tell you why, but let me back up for a moment.
The Blue Jackets are bad. They have been bad all but one season. This is no revelation, but last year was a real gut punch. The team spent more money on "talent" than ever before, yet they were a complete mess. The coach was fired. Pretty much everyone but upper management seemed to want the general manager fired. The trade deadline was a bust; the team couldn't even drop many of these players for anything of worth. Oh, and the captain wanted to get the heck out of town. He eventually got his wish. A last place finish, with an exclamation point of losing the draft lottery only to pick second in the draft, not first.
I worked a lot last year. I was working nearly every day until midnight. I started doing freelance work which meant even longer nights and earlier mornings. I once finished my full-time job at midnight and then had to wrap up a freelance project by the next morning. Needless to say, I didn't sleep. But all is well and good, and it was worth it. Except one thing started to fall by the wayside: the Blue Jackets.
I would record, and watch, every single game until the end. I would avoid the scores all day long and watch every minute of the game. The Blue Jackets won only 29 of their 82 games last year.
After awhile, when you're staying up until 3 am to finish watching the game only to see the team blow the lead in the third period, it wears on you. A lot.
So I started fast-forwarding parts. Then whole periods. Not a very interesting way to watch the game, stopping and rewinding just to see the goals scored.
Then I stopped watching the games at all.
You might say I'm not a devoted fan, and that's fine. The truth is, I was as dedicated as any. Even with my hectic schedule, my wife and I still made a trip up to Detroit to watch the Jackets lose (again). I've seen them play in Chicago, Detroit (x2), Nashville, and Pittsburgh. They won one of those games. Oh, and I was an intern with the team for three years. Yes, three years. Crazy.
I bled Union Blue. I'm not so sure anymore.
As with any crazy fan, I started feeling better this summer. Ryan Murray looked like a great draft pick, even if he wasn't #1 overall. The Blue Jackets had some good pieces in place. If they could just stay the course, they could actually start making progress this season. John Davidson was hired, on a mission to do what he did in St. Louis but finish it with one more thing: a Stanley Cup win.
Fast forward to November 2012, whispers of the season being canceled seem more real now than ever. I've been busy with work, planning my next film project, watching the Buckeyes, Bengals, and Bulls. I won't call the lack of hockey a blessing, but it's nice to not feel guilty if I have to miss a game, or to stay up all night just to watch the Jackets lose. Again.
This is the NHL's real problem. As more people feel burned by the lockout and the prospect of the second canceled season in a decade, more will slowly start filling the void with other things. Watching other hockey leagues, or putting more attention into other sports.
Hockey is the greatest game on earth, and watching the best players play cannot be replaced. But life does move on. If the league shows this little respect to its fans, I'm not sure I want to continue supporting it with my time, effort, and money.
I'm not so sure I care about the NHL anymore. That's their biggest problem.
They just don't realize it yet.