09/17/2012 05:07 EDT | Updated 11/17/2012 05:12 EST

Break Out the Ice Cream, Hockey Fans: You Just Got Dumped


It's obviously hard to do. At the beginning, you'll just be faking it, like when the girl you always loved but who continually played with your heart finally tells you she doesn't love you, and you have to move on. You'll wince and wait until you get in the shower to cry, but you'll put on a brave face.

It seems unnatural, especially for those above the 49th and the ones in the only state they see as being just like them, Minnesota. You can't help but care, or be heartbroken, or watch that Molson commercial from 2004 over and over and over... and over.

But, if you want to make it through this, and if you want to fix the problem, you have to do it. You have to stop caring.

The real story here is that -- just like that girl all of us guys know, with the long black hair, the brown eyes, and the smile that doesn't stop glowing (yes, I just described my type) -- the NHL doesn't care about you. It says it does, because you support it. You buy its tickets. You keep its lights on, even if you're just watching TV.

But, like any politician who tells you they care about you and you only, they don't. And, it's not the NHL's fault, or your politician's fault. It's actually your fault, if you fail to see it. If you think they care about you, you only have yourself to blame.

We're all selfish, and the NHL -- as a corporate body made up of real human bodies -- is no different. Oh, we may think we're not, but we are. That's why we hate picking our younger brother up from his high school party at 2 a.m. and it's why we don't work for free, whether we make $20,000 a year or $5 million. Greed is greed, no matter how big the purse.

Our biggest fault, though, is believing that the NHL and hockey are the same. They aren't. Hockey's a game, and the NHL is its symbolic corporation. It's no different than differentiating between Kleenex and tissues.

So, as long as we continue to report on it or write about it (*yes, I realize that's what I'm doing right now), it will continue to wave its finger in our face. As long as we care, we keep it relevant. And, if the NHL isn't relevant, the lockout will end.

Gary Bettman does want hockey to come back. He just wants it to come back on his terms, or the terms of the owners he represents.

The players do want hockey to come back. They just want it to come back on their terms.

It's a Mexican standoff like the ones we're used to, only there's no burrito and nobody has to draw their gun from its holster if they don't want to.

That's because the owners haven't made their fortunes solely off their teams, and the players can go to Russia, or Germany, or Sweden, or wherever they want. They can rehab lingering injuries and recover from off season surgeries. And, if you're in Montreal, you can apparently almost still get paid, but not really.

They don't need this, they just don't want to appear weak. It's why Michael killed Fredo, and it's why the NHL is killing its product.

The more hate you reserve for either (and any) side, the more they'll drag this out.

Have you ever seen a playground fight? There's always two kids -- boys, of course -- who are getting cheered on by every other sprite near the monkey bars. The ground is concrete. Hard. The lunchroom monitor decides to let this one go a little, because if he or she (but, normally a she) breaks it up, the kids will only want it to happen more.

But, as soon as the audience walks away, it's done. It's over. They don't want to fight anymore, whether they've thrown no punches or 20.

It's why the full-of-himself high school quarterback can't use that on his resume. Once the crowd stops watching, the selfish stop benefitting.

How else do you explain this lockout, anyway? In 2005, there were a multitude of issues and contentions. The NHL wanted a salary cap imposed, which the player didn't want to accept (they caved, obviously). That was a major issue that has since reshaped the game and changed its on-ice product. It's revolutionized the competitive gap between big market teams and broke ones. It's why the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils were two of the final four in 2012, while baseball has to produce books like Moneyball to explain the miracle seasons that happen every six years in Oakland.

The last lockout allowed fringe franchises like Carolina and Edmonton to reach the Stanley Cup Final in the league's first year back in operation.

But, this time? It seems like they're just striking because it's the thing to do. Even the owners' demands seem like they're going for a fourth plate on Thanksgiving, while the players seem scared to death of being fooled or played by their daddies.

Of all four NHL lockouts in the past 21 years, this one seems the laziest. This just seems like it's been a long summer and your kid doesn't want to wake up before 8 a.m. for the first time in two months. This lockout is the snooze button on a season that was coming too fast, especially since it's clear negotiations didn't "start" until the 11th hour, or not at all.

And so, when that girl finally calls you back -- when she's finally tumbled in the weeds and her boat's been beaten down by life's whitecaps -- what will you say? Will you take her back with open arms? Will you laugh in her face?

Who knows? But, I'm not waiting by the phone.

*This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.