Every player and fan already knows, the current NHL labor dispute, sucks. There is simply no other way to describe it. For most American hockey people, the closest professional hockey team is an NHL club. For that same demographic, the only televised hockey they usually get to see are local market and nationally televised NHL games. If the NHL is not playing games, most American hockey people are not watching professional hockey, in-person or on TV. So, the prospects of getting to attend or at least watch an actual, professional hockey game pitting the Hershey Bears against the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL Showcase at Verizon Center last night was very exciting.
For myself and a whole Verizon Center section full of my fellow men’s leaguers, it would be particularly fun to watch our friend, Tommy George (@The61Car) work his part-time AHL linesman gig. And it was. We got to cheer for our local celebrity. We were hockey fans again. We got to drink beers and get loud at the game. However, there was this dark side to all of it.
Hockey people are fed up with the lockout and they expressed their frustration in different ways. The arena was quiet. Probably as quiet as it has been since the Rock the Red era began. Sporadic “Fire Bettman” chants broke the calm. Some people had makeshift shirts and jerseys denouncing the labor dispute. During a TV timeout, a video showed Slapshot, the Capitals’ beloved mascot, doing Christmas-y things around the Caps’ offices at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. It was booed. In our section, it was unmercifully booed. It reminded me of the story of Santa Claus being booed and pelted with snowballs at a Philadelphia Eagles game in 1968. As hockey people, we weren’t booing Slapshot celebrating the season just as Santa wasn’t the real target of Philly fans’ frustrations 44 years ago. We were booing what the video represented; an organization that’s part of the problem, keeping us from the game we love.
After the video and booing ended, I turned to Jon Walker (@jonnywalker36) and said, “I really hope Uncle Ted is here and they show him on the board.” Alas, it never happened.