Less hockey, but look—more Bettman!

Let us take a moment to consider the upside of the NHL lockout

Less hockey, but look—more bettman!

Getty Images; FilmMagic; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

So here’s the thing: I’m enjoying the NHL lockout. I’m actually enjoying it a lot. I’m fine with it lasting another three or four months—even longer if that forces a desperate CBC to give Don Cherry a primetime cooking show. OK, so listen and everything, this is how you do a good dinner! [Opens can of Alphagetti]

The key is making the best of our forced hockey hiatus. Put another way: When life hands you lemons, you do what the NHL owners do—force their butlers to make lemonade, then throw the glass into the fireplace yelling, “Dammit, I wanted a Coke!”

It’s not as if the lockout puts an end to hockey as we know it. If you’re missing the game, you can watch minor hockey or the junior leagues. If you’re missing an air of despair and futility, well, the Toronto Raptors also play at the Air Canada Centre. Sure, no hockey means you can’t spend hours obsessing over your fantasy team—so now what are you supposed to do at work? But here are six things to enjoy about the lockout:

The overwrought essays. Sports writers across Canada have been engaged in an informal competition to describe just how much we’re all going to miss the NHL and just how many of us are going to hurl ourselves from cliffs in despair as a result. These are hilarious to read.

The Globe and Mail recently published a piece that described Canada as “a hopelessly addicted nation” that has “come to let its national game matter too much.” Really? Most Saturdays, CBC can get barely two million people to watch Hockey Night in Canada. That’s not “a national addiction.” That’s “realizing that Law & Order: SVU is a rerun.”

The truth is that writers and politicians love glorifying our supposed love of hockey more than we actually love loving it. Yes, hockey is great and everything. Yes, sometimes some of us watch it. And yes, it’s part of our culture and a terrific thing to pretend to write a book about. But let’s save the word “addiction” for things that we as Canadians are truly helpless to resist, like weather-based small talk and Cinnabons.

Family time. To be clear, the lockout has not actually prompted me to do more things with my wife and kids. Nobody wants that. But I have discovered the thrill of grabbing a beer and watching Family Board Game Night from the couch. As a rooting substitute, it’s quite satisfying— mostly because for once the players can actually hear me when I heckle them: “Boom! Park Place with a hotel! SUCK IT, THIMBLE.”

The owners. We don’t hear much from the team owners, do we? What with their busy schedule of monocle fittings and afternoon harrumphings, they tend to let the commissioner do the talking. Still, they’re a delightful bunch. They’ve forced this lockout in part to create rules to stop themselves from signing hockey players to absurdly rich deals. So naturally, they spent the days preceding the lockout deadline frantically signing a bunch of players and, by accident, several pets and a 7-iron to absurdly rich deals. This makes roughly as much sense as stopping off to score some heroin on the way to rehab.

Player desperation. I’m backing the players in this dispute. Still, I think we can all enjoy the spectacle of a young man who’s earned $5 million a year having managed his money so poorly that by November he’ll be making appearances at local car wash openings for $25 and a free ShamWow.

Watching certain TV reporters try to comprehend and relate the nuances of complex, high-stakes and deeply intricate contract negotiations. Just like watching kittens try to build a model of a sailboat inside a glass bottle.

Gary Bettman. There’s something spellbinding about a villain at the top of his game. Who among us wasn’t mesmerized by Darth Vader Force-choking to death a subordinate or by Brian Mulroney doing everything he’s ever done?

When the NHL commissioner attends hockey games, he’s always shown on TV jawing with some rich dude or staring glumly at his phone. He seems bored. But engaging in labour negotiations—that makes Gary’s eyes twinkle, like Scrooge denying Cratchit a shilling or Jenny Craig denying Kirstie Alley a Frito. And now a lockout! He’s in the spotlight. He’s getting all the attention. I’m here to tell you: Gary Bettman hasn’t felt this alive since he killed Harry Potter’s parents.