We first met when I was five or six years old and played for the Picton Bears Novice House League Team. My only two memories of that year are scoring on my own net and getting the wind knocked out of me for the first time. It was love at first gasp.
The first Stanley Cup Final I can remember watching was 1987. I was six years old. I remember cheering for the Philadelphia Flyers because I hated the disgusting orange and blue Edmonton Oilers jerseys. Still do. I can remember being torn away from Game 7 because it was Victoria Day weekend and there were fireworks to be set off in our big farm yard. Having grown up and into a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, I'm glad the Flyers lost. Hindsight is great.
I remember the next Finals because the power went out and a game was cancelled. That was pretty cool.
The next Stanley Cup Final, which pitted Calgary versus Montreal, was the first one that I really had a vested interested in. My father was a Bruins fan, so I was, under no circumstances, to root for the Montreal Canadiens. My Uncle lived in Calgary and would send me autographed Mike Vernon and Al MacInnis posters, so I was very happy when Lanny McDonald got his Cup in 1989.
Then I saw Mario Lemieux play and was mesmerized. I have been lucky enough to see my favourite team win three Stanley Cups. Oh hi, similar-aged Toronto Maple Leaf fans!
I loved you, hockey.
However, something has been very different since the beginning of the current NHL season. Something between us just isn't right. We've lost our spark, it seems.
It's not you, it's me. Well, maybe that isn't entirely true. Maybe it is you. But mainly, it's everything in between. It's TSN. It's the 24-hour news cycle. I am sick and tired of you, to be brutally honest.
There is a game on every night. When I first experienced cable that was great. We couldn't get enough of each other. Times were good. But lately, I've noticed something. You don't mean as much to me as you used to. You seem, well, for lack of a better word, diluted. I guess it is true what they say: Too much of a good thing can be bad. That's basically where we are at today, hockey.
Sitting down to watch a game once or twice a week was great. It meant something. It was something I looked forward to. It had build-up, hype even. I especially loved it when Hockey Night in Canada added a late game on Saturday nights. I can probably blame that for me being a nighthawk to this day. Well, that, Saturday Night Live and Kids in the Hall.
Now, just like everything else, you're everywhere. I can't blame you really. Like a redheaded step child, you're a product of your environment.
Then again, as a product, you really aren't the same as you used to be. You're full of yourself. That really isn't justified anymore. The days of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and hell, even Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Bure being able to go coast-to-coast are long gone. Now, our 50-goal scorers have to rely on powerplays, chip-ins and garbage goals to ply their trades. Just not the hockey I grew up with, that is what it comes down to.
James Duthie and the company he works for have big parts in this breakup. For one, have you ever seen him and that host from America's Funniest Videos in the same room?
But seriously hockey, I don't need Duthie telling me about yet another minuscule rule change to the game in July. And I REALLY don't need that minuscule rule change to be the lead story on SportsCenter in the middle of the summer. Also, while we are on it, The Quiz is really, really stupid. All those things John Tortorella said about it when he was unemployed and volunteering at TSN? He's right about them all.
Do you know what I realized last summer? I didn't miss you. I miss baseball right now. That should tell you something, hockey.
Up until now, I watched every Pittsburgh Penguins game either on TV or online somewhere. This season, I've tried. I really have. It just seems that I don't care like I used to.
So hockey, I think we should see other people (sports?). Sorry. It's my loss, not yours. I would still like to see you occasionally. I'm trying to wean myself off of you, and if you haven't noticed that in the last two months, well you should open your eyes.
But do know that even as much as I want to sometimes, I cannot ever FULLY quit you. Between the months of October and June, we will still see each other, just not as regularly. I think we'll both be better off with it this way. This way, at least, I might stop hating you.
I hope you can understand.
Sincerely (I would have signed this "Yours in hockey," a few years ago),
P.S: Do you have baseball's number? I want to know when pitchers and catchers report.