Hockey on Hold

Phoebe Hammer, Sports Editor

The only rumors I’d heard about Canadians before my trip to Toronto this fall break were that they said “eh” and loved hockey. Immediately after crossing the border, I realized that at least one of these rumors was true. After taking a wrong turn into a residential area near Niagara Falls, my friends and I found several kids playing street hockey outside, and the only two adults we saw were both wearing hockey jerseys.

It wasn’t until entering the city, however, that I realized that hockey is not just a popular sport; it is an integral part of the culture. The large warehouses randomly scattered throughout the city confused me until I realized that they were all ice rinks. I later learned that the city of Toronto alone has 40 indoor and over 50 outdoor rinks. In my hometown of Portland, OR, there are four total.

Hockey really caught my interest my first night in Toronto. I was sitting at a bar surrounded by TV screens playing a hockey game and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until my friend pointed out that the game was USSR vs. Canada.

When we asked the bartender what year the game was from, he responded, “It’s from 1987, eh. Canada wins. We just really like hockey here and the NHL lockout has taken its toll.”

The National Hockey League lockout, which began Sept. 15 after the NHL collective bargaining agreement expired, was something that I’d seen on TV a couple times and never really took seriously, but the economic and cultural impact, especially in cities like Toronto, has been huge.

So far, 326 games have been canceled, leading to $100 million in lost revenue. A local restaurant owner I talked to in Toronto estimated that another $1 million per home game is lost by restaurant owners and entertainment businesses because no one is getting their “pre-game dinner and drinks.” Additionally, thousands of workers, from parking lot attendants to ushers, are facing unemployment with the possibility that the entire 2012–2013 season could be canceled if agreements are not reached soon.

The NHL players, on the other hand, have had plenty of opportunity to continue playing professional hockey. Players eligible to play in the American Hockey League were assigned to their club teams and the more skilled players have been joining European leagues. The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club has already lost several players to Europe.

After my visit to Canada, I’ve become just as upset about the lockout as any hockey fan. While greedy owners and frustrated players fight over who gets extra money they don’t need, everyone else is stuck watching 25-year-old games, and that’s just not fair, eh.