A lot has changed since 2004. The economy sucks instead of merely stinking. A record hovering around .500 is disappointing for the Phillies instead of standard. I’m still a layabout who writes stupid articles on the Internet, but now I get paid for it.
Unfortunately for Flyers fans, the National Hockey League is now in the same place it was eight years ago. NHL owners have locked out their players; games are certain to be missed and the season in whole is in jeopardy.
Here’s a quick explanation of the NHL lockout: The players currently get 57 percent of hockey revenue and the owners want more. It’s basically, the same boring, simple eyes-glazed-over stuff that led to the NBA and NFL lockouts, which is pretty disappointing. Hockey is the only major team sport that occasionally interrupts play so guys can have a fistfight, perhaps the stupidest, greatest feature in any sports. And its lockout is just as boring as the NBA’s? You disappoint me, hockey.
I do feel bad for hockey fans, of course, despite their propensity to evangelize a bit on the greatness of hockey traditions that also exist in every other sport (see: the post-game hand shake). What stinks as a fan of a locked out sport is there’s really nothing you can do. It’s like pro football refereeing: The number of people not tuning in to the NFL due to replacement referees is probably zero, and in more of a niche sport like hockey all the fans are going to come back when it ends. You have no leverage! This is the second work stoppage in a short period of time. What’s a Flyers fan to do without a local team to get his hopes up and inevitably disappoint him or her in the end?
Don’t worry. I’m feeling as generous as I was last week with bathrooms. I have you covered. After all, you can’t spend the whole lockout making fun of Sidney Crosby. Actually, wait …
1. Spend the lockout making fun of Sidney Crosby. I bet some Flyers fans, actually, have already decided to do this. Remember, Philadelphia is a city where Nodding Head brewed a beer called Crosby’s Tears only to see the Flyers eliminated in relatively easy fashion in the next round of the playoffs. Anyway, keep it clean, but you can make fun of him for months in new and original ways each week.
2. Follow the players to Europe! Are you an obscenely wealthy Flyers fan who lives on the Main Line? Well, guess what: All the good players are headed to Europe. Take some time off work and travel around Europe, seeing all your favorite players in arenas not nearly as nice as our taxpayer-subsidized palaces here in America.
Don’t have the money for Europe? Some Flyers may play in Quebec. This is where the Flyers played when the roof blew off the Spectrum in 1968, so it should feel like home to old-school Flyers fans.
That still too pricey? Fine. Flyers forward Scott Hartnell is actually renting out the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. (“He was a little tough on the skate at the end, but I guess that is what was needed,” Danny Briere said, sounding essentially like me after going to my trainer at the gym.) So you could probably go watch the Flyers’ players stick it to The Man by giving him several hundred dollars for ice time. As this continues and the bills add up, one can only imagine they’ll end up at Grundy or Rizzo Rink. Go watch there, too!
3. Pick a minor league club to follow. A few years ago, I was walking down a dark alley in between two giant casinos toward the Atlantic City boardwalk. (This describes essentially every entrance to the boardwalk in A.C.) My friend and I suddenly heard a booming voice behind us. “Scared, huh?” We weren’t, really, but he continued. “It’s okay, you’ll be saved by the Dog Protection Agency!”
He and his friend were decked out from head to toe in garb from the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, the minor league hockey team that played at Boardwalk Hall in the early 2000s. This man and his friend were Boardwalk Bullies super fans. If two grown people can be into the Atlantic City pro-bullying hockey team enough to carry around giant plastic bones, then you, too, can at least watch a minor league team or two.
Unfortunately, your options are a bit limited. The former Philadelphia Phantoms play in the Adirondacks now, and the other Pennsylvania teams (Hershey Bears, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins) are affiliates of Flyers’ rivals. Your best bet is probably following the Trenton Titans, who were also unfortunately terrible last season. Hey, you won’t be set up for disappointment at least!
4. Follow the Philly Roller Girls. What? This is skating. The annual championship of the Philly Roller Girls’ season, the Warrior Cup, is on Nov. 10 at the Liacouras Center. If you’re a hockey player who actually wants to do some roller skating, there are skate workshops and tryouts coming up. If you’ve never seen flat-track roller derby, um, you are in for a treat. Seriously, it’s awesome.
5. Become an NFL replacement ref. Best I can tell, this requires no qualifications whatsoever. Yeah, you’d have to quit your job and all, but NFL referees make decent money, and you could probably get your job back in January or whenever the real refs come back. And think of the television time you’ll get!
6. Volunteer. One casualty of the lockout is players’ charity efforts. Scott Hartnell had a charity golf tournament on Monday and none of the Flyers’ brass showed up. The NHL actually warned management not to look chummy with the players. So pick up the slack and go clean up your neighborhood! Or maybe find Scott Hartnell, like on the street or something, and ask him if he has any charity work for you to do. I’m sure he won’t mind being bothered; it’s for a good cause.
7. Play NHL 13. Hey, there’s a new hockey video game! Unlike in the old Sega Genesis versions, the old “skate to the corner a little bit in front of the net, then skate across the ice and score on a backhand” trick doesn’t really work anymore, but it’s not all bad news. Did you know that video game graphics have increased in quality by leaps and bounds since NHL 94?
What’s also neat about NHL 13 is its “NHL Moments Live” feature, where you get to control players (or teams) during significant moments in hockey history. There are 24 scenarios from last season, including Sidney Crosby’s return to Pittsburgh! So take control of Sid the Kid and have him lose his first game back. There also moments involving legends from hockey history, but unfortunately no mode where you get to play as Bobby Clarke and try to break that Russian’s ankle. I guess a moment of such significance deserves its own game.
8. Cheer on the Phillies’ last-ditch push to the Wild Card and, eventually, the World Series. Okay, maybe this one is a little far-fetched. They’ve gotten pretty close, though; there are just four teams in front of them. Hey, it could happen!
9. Watch basketball. Hockey and basketball aren’t that much different, you know. Teams of five use motion, deception and athleticism to move an object toward a goal. So what if one is played on ice and uses a puck instead of a ball and has a goal with a man in front of it instead of a hoop 10 feet off the ground? That sounds pretty similar to me!
What’s great about being a basketball fan in Philadelphia are all the options you have: There are the Sixers, who traded for star center Andrew Bynum this offseason, have a hilarious, awesome, incredibly emotional coach in Doug Collins and a bunch of young players who tweet a lot. But there are also six Division I basketball teams, and Penn’s Palestra is just about the best place to watch a basketball game. It’s like the Maple Leaf Gardens of hockey, if that hosted a college team. Oh, wait, it does now!
10. Put your head in your hands, crawl into a fetal position and realize there just probably won’t be any NHL this season. Sorry, I’m going for tough love at the end of this listicle. The very strong possibility of there not being a 2012-13 NHL season is something you just have to accept. Go see a therapist. Put your hockey sticks in the garage until you can face to look at them again. Watch MVP: Most Valuable Primate a few hundred times. Whatever you think you need to do to get over hockey, try it. If you start accepting it now, it will be easier in the future.
Or, you know, you could just play bubble hockey the whole lockout. That’s almost as good as the NHL. I mean, c’mon. Look at how Europe dominates international bubble hockey competition. We need some Americans to get involved!