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Wood's Word: Professional hockey on thin ice

My worst nightmare had come true.

I had been living in a foreign country for a couple of years, with no information or news on what was happening in the wonderful world of sports, and was about to head back to the United States to reunite with my dear companions, ESPN and SportsCenter. Upon my glorious return to Utah last October, one of my deepest desires was to immerse myself in an alternate reality where I would do nothing but catch up for a few weeks in my parents’ basement on the sports news I had missed and prepare myself for the 2011-12 Utah Jazz season. I had to familiarize myself with the year’s schedule, team roster and player bios in order to know more than my friends knew, proving me to be the ultimate Jazz fan and, therefore, He-Who-Must-Control-the-TV-Remote.

I came home and, to my utmost horror, the NBA season was postponed. The league would be on a “lockout” until a new deal could be reached between the league owners and the players concerning revenue sharing and the league’s salary cap, for the previous deal had expired.

My life was ruined. I saw no hope. Major League Baseball was nearing its end, and the NFL and college football could only satisfy my needs on the weekend. I even tried watching Major League Soccer, but, needless to say, the results were disappointing. Nothing could fill the void in my life that was growing ever larger. When were these professional athletes and owners finally going to make the money they deserved?

So, I did what I never thought possible of myself. I started watching hockey.

I knew almost nothing about hockey. I knew that a lot of hairy people with no teeth have to put a giant checkers piece into a net while zipping around on ice skates. And when they do accomplish this, you will never have noticed. Thank goodness for the police siren and lights atop the goal posts.

I gave the NHL my best shot. And I still know nothing about hockey. But, until the NBA agreed on a deal in late November of 2011, I spent a decent amount of time devoted to television puck-searching and hoping that even more teeth would be lost in an on-ice fistfight. To my surprise, I came out thinking that hockey is not getting enough credit. Yes, the hockey puck is hard to see! But these competitors are putting on a very impressive athletic display, all while blazing down the ice and praying no one drops them to the floor.

So when I recently heard that the NHL is now in the same situation the NBA was in a year ago, I can’t help but feel a strange sense of loyalty and hope for improvement to the sport that kept me company during those lonely basketball-less nights.

That’s right: The NHL season is currently suspended due to a lockout between the team owners and the players. Did you know? Of course you did!

The current holdup of the professional hockey season marks the fourth postponement of a hockey season since 1992. The entire 2004-05 season was suspended due to a failure of agreement between the league and the players’ association. It was the first time in history that a major North American professional sporting league’s season was completely canceled.

Similar to the NBA, the NHL and the players’ association are currently in a disagreement concerning the sharing of hockey-related revenue and profits. The season, currently on hiatus, was scheduled to begin on Oct. 11, 2012, but, with the failure to generate a deal between the two sides by the Sept. 16 deadline and the preseason already canceled, that day is beginning to appear unrealistic.

While I may not love hockey as much as, say, every other sport, I do respect the fact that there are many jobs and futures involved in this situation — not only with the owners and players, but also with those who help maintain the sport from the ground up. It’s a serious situation within the sporting world and calls for some attention, no matter how much you like hockey or not.

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