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The Vent: Transitioning to the casual fan; the lockout is destroying families, this baby

THE VENT is a forum for rants, raves, pleas and laments from hockey fans across the world about the NHL lockout. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you've got a take on the lockout and need to let it out, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com, Subject: The Vent.)

Lewis Twain is tired of having no leverage as a diehard, so he has officially downgraded himself to a "casual fan" so the NHL will care more about him. Slow clap, sir.

The following writing is not intended for Gary Bettman or Bill Daly. It is not for Donald Fehr or his brother Steve. It is neither for the owners nor the players whom they employ. This is for the customers. This is for the "fans". This is for every consumer of the National Hockey League.

You might not like to hear it, but you are a hockey fan. Yeah, I said it. You're a fan and the worst part is everybody knows it. You say you "live for your team", you "bleed" your team's colors, you are a "die hard". Listen to yourself!!! You're a fan, a fanatic, a person with such extreme zeal and enthusiasm for the NHL's product; you have begun acting like a drug addict. Well, if that is how you're going to behave, that is how the NHL will treat you. You/I/we are nothing more than drug riddled junkies looking for our next fix of NHL hockey and the NHL is happy to provide it to us…but only on their terms.

What do you expect? We tell them how much we love them and how much we need them. We tell them we're loyal and berate others for "jumping on the bandwagon". We inhale every new product and marketing gimmick they can think of, and we do it at a higher price year after year. How is this any different than a drug addict? You just want to watch a little hockey after along day at work. Hockey helps you forget your every day problems. Does your life feel just a bit empty the last 40 days? Yup, there it is…the realization that you are addicted to their product, but much like the tobacco and drug industries, they knew it well before you did. That's why there is nothing you can do about the lockout.

Here's the bad news: we have become the worst type of consumer, a consumer with no leverage. Even a drug addict can find another dealer but the NHL has monopolized their brand. No one else is doling out as perfected of a product as the NHL. Everything from the on-ice talent to the perfectly curated arena experience is top shelf and no hockey league in the world has quite matched up to it. This of course was no accident. It took time, effort, money, and it was all for you, the loyal customer. I hope it's everything you wanted and more.

Here's the reality: the NHL will use the right words and hire the right people to tell you how much you mean to them, and some of it might actually be true. But they know you're a fanatic who can't drop the product. You "live and breathe" for them and you tell them. They have all the power and maybe that type of relationship is fine for you but until you can honestly tell Gary Bettman that you really don't need his product, your voice is completely useless.

I will make no declarations. No promises that I am done with the NHL. But I am no longer a "die hard". I don't "live for my team". I am now the casual fan that the NHL is so desperately seeking. Two lockouts in 8 years has taught me that my money, time and emotional investment is not valued by the NHL. Find someone else to go to games in October and buy all the crap you sell in your stores. I'll see you on January 1st with everyone else. Just be happy I already know what an icing is.

Even the very young are at their wit's end about this. Here's the 21-month-old son of Matt Baxendell lamenting the lockout. Hockey please!

Reader Pam Demato reminds us that the NHL lockout is ruining families. And yet Dr. James Dobson does nothing.

I grew up in the New Haven, CT area. My parent's fist dates consisted of going to New Haven Blades games back in the 1960's. I grew up bleeding the red white and blue of the New Haven Nighthawks and New York Rangers. My two most beloved items were my Ron Duguay Rangers jersey and color poster. Ooh La La! I loved the Hartford Whalers and sent my favorite players birthday cards. One year, a very sweet rookie by the name of Ron Francis, sent me a thank you. Can you imagine how awesome that was for an 11 year old girl? Swoon! Many nights were spent with my dad or mom flipping channels between the Bruins game on Channel 38 and the Rangers game on Channel 9. We were a family who went to hockey games, watched games on TV and listened to hockey games at night on the radio when our teams were out of town. I read every Hockey News, and sometimes my dad would bring home a New York Daily News or Post if the Rangers were featured in color in the sports section.

After college, I moved down South. It was a hockey wasteland. I would visit my family at Christmas and go to as many Nighthawk games as I could squeeze in in a week. Life went on, Nighthawks folded, Whalers moved to North Carolina. When the Rangers played for the Stanley Cup, I was able to see the games NBC played and I realized how much I missed the whole hockey culture - screaming in the stands, wearing your team swag, socializing with complete strangers during a game and the game itself - really, there is no more interesting sport to watch than hockey!

When my oldest son was 2, his favorite shirt was a Hartford Wolfpack shirt my dad sent him and his favorite toy was his little plastic hockey net and stick. He loved all things hockey, even though he had never seen a game. By the time he was 6, we lived in Memphis, Tennessee, a town with a small but enthusiastic youth hockey program and a CHL team. He stepped on the ice and never looked back, bleeding the gold and blue of the Nahville Predators and the black and gold of the Riverkings. We live in the South, everyone is crazy for football. Not my boy, he is hockey obsessed.

My son is now in high school. Hanging out with your mother is not his favorite pastime, nor should it be. But I could always count on the nice long rides to practice for some opening up about friends, problems, the stuff you can talk about with your mom only when it is dark and you are tired enough not to filter. Those with teenage boys know the drill. Twice a year I need to be in Nashville for meetings and twice a year he begs to come. We make the 3 hours trip there, go to a Preds game, stay in a hotel, eat together, go to the game together and drive the 3 hours back home. All the yucky stuff of everyday is left behind for that small slice of hockey time, and it is wonderful.

All of this is not the end of the world, but as a parent, it is great to have SOMETHING real to have in common with your teenagers to lighten up those dark days when nothing you do or say is right or when they are suffering with all those angsts that teenagers always do. It is great to be able to say, " hey the Preds are on tonight, get your homework done and you can watch the game." It is great to know exactly what will make him smile each Christmas - items that don't get shoved into his ears or cost hundreds of dollars.

I know I am not alone in this, parents all over North America are probably nodding their heads in agreement, missing that special link - hockey.

And finally, Library Lady breaks up with the NHL in a Dear John letter.

Dear NHL,

I won't waste your time saying, "it's not you, it's me," because it isn't. It's all you, and I'm gone!

I fell in love with you at 12 and I've been in love with you for 15 years. I know, we broke up for a little while in college (2004-2005), but it was college, we needed to stretch our legs and be free for a little while. I get that. But we came back together after running into each other in Kentucky (of all places!), and it was clear the passion had never died. I was so thrilled to be back with you that I even moved back to Colorado in part to be closer to you. We started going on more dates, things were getting pretty serious. Last year I even invested in partial season tickets just to show you how committed I was to this whole thing working out between us! I'm 27 now, I'm ready to take that next step.

But now we're back to this. After all that investment of my time, passion and finances, you've spurned me again. You got so critical and judgmental, completely forgetting about the great relationship we had for what - 1-2% bigger share of the profits!?

I can't do this anymore, NHL. Our relationship has become toxic and dysfunctional and it's clear you never truly loved or even respected me. I think it's time I started seeing other leagues.

In fact, I met this really great one last week. Sure, it's not as well-to-do or talented or as ambitious as you once were, but it's really nice to me. For $20 less than my upper bowl partial season tickets I got to show you how committed I was - this league let's me sit right on the glass near center ice! And what's more, it even gave me free parking. Just like a gentleman, instead of making me take public transportation for our dates.

There's a couple other leagues I'm interested in getting to know better too, including this young up and coming college league!

All that to say - I'm done with you. I'm done with your disrespect. I'm done with your penny pinching. I'm done with your greed.

I will miss all the great times we had (2001 <3) . . . but I won't miss the abuse. I'm sorry to do this in a letter, but we're through. Please stop calling me!

With All My Love (and Scorn),

Your Fan

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