The NHL lockout is 26 days old, but hit home especially hard on Thursday because this was supposed to be opening night of the 2012-13 season.
In case you need to be reminded, there were four games on the slate Thursday night: Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens; Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers; Vancouver Canucks at Calgary Flames; and St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche.
Even though the NHLPA and NHL met twice in New York this week to continue to discuss ancillary matters, the sides have yet to gain traction on the main issue of what percentage of the revenues should be tied to player salaries. There still is no end to this labour dispute.
Now that actual scheduled games have not been played, how are you coping? Are you upset, angered or do you give a hoot?
We talked with some friends from across the country this week, hockey fans of varying degrees, and received an assortment of answers.
John, 48, Thornhill, Ont.
John O'Connell was raised in a home in which his family looked forward to Saturday nights. He was a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. His dad cheered for the Canadiens. So when the rivals clashed on the ice, the verbal shots between father and son were as entertaining as the old Dean Martin roasts.
John was into the NHL back then. He played AA hockey and closely followed the trials and tribulations of his beloved Maple Leafs. But his interest in the game has waned as he approached middle age.
John, a sales and project manager for Specified Construction Management, replaced his passion for the NHL with coaching AA hockey. But he's two years removed from his days behind the bench and now gets his hockey fix by watching his three nephews - Connor, Jack and Noah - perform on the ice.
"My love for the game has changed because it is no longer a sport but a business," John said. "The players play for money not the love of the game."
Chris, 40, Vancouver
My cousin Chris Kalbfleisch had his heart broken on June 15, 2011 when his Canucks were blanked 4-0 by the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. His mood didn't improve much a year later when the Canucks were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings.
"For me, not having the NHL is huge," said Chris, who works at the University of British Columbia. "I would say I'm a bit angry and bit frustrated. I'm going to miss following the Canucks and I'm going to miss my fantasy pools."
Unlike his Canucks, Chris emerged the victor in one of his two NHL fantasy pools last year. Now he worries that if the NHL doesn't get up and running soon time could run out for the current Canucks.
"I feel this team is in its prime," Chris said. "Teams only have a small window of opportunity and I hope it's not slipping away for them."
Kevin, 42, Rexdale, Ont.
As part of his job with Scotia Mortgage Authority, Kevin Carroll counts on NHL games across Canada to entertain clients. The lockout has forced this passionate hockey nut to find alternatives in junior hockey and the Canadian Football League.
"Being as spoiled as I am when it comes to access to NHL tickets, I never really paid much attention to the OHL, or the WHL for that matter," Kevin said. "The Quebec league I didn't really follow except for the [Cape Breton] Screaming Eagles [where his parents live] and Sid [Crosby], when he truly was a kid.
"I valued my NHL access because I would use that to entertain my clients as a thank you and it carried big returns for me/us as a business. Not everyone can afford to go to a game at the ACC because the prices are extremely high for the overall product they put on the ice. I'm just happy other teams come to town so I can watch hockey. Taking a client or family member to a game has been very rewarding in all aspects. I now use my marketing dollars to procure suites around the three junior loops to entertain my clients and find the return is equivalent to that of an NHL game.
"I also spend my money on CFL games in Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver. Again, I try to pick up suites or tickets and I have a much bigger bang for my buck because I can bring more people, and in those markets they really enjoy their CFL."
Jorge, 45, Montreal
Even though Jorge Couto has been a life-long Bruins fan living in Montreal, when he walks up and down St-Laurent Blvd. he's greeted like the King of Kensington was saluted on his old television series.
With the NHL embroiled in its labour dispute, Couto will miss his favourite pastime - chiding Habs fans about their team. But the absence of hockey also will hurt the bottom line at the establishment he manages, Bar Bifteck.
Sure Bar Bifteck will be lively on most nights because it's a primary destination to gather for McGill students, but every place like the haunt Jorge manages in hockey-mad Montreal fills up on game night.
"The place would have been packed for opening night and, of course, every Saturday night," said Jorge, who has been in the bar business for 30 years. "You really do notice the difference on the nights the Canadiens don't play. I don't know a place that didn't suffer the last time we had an NHL lockout.
"I know there is a sports bar up the street that will really struggle without the NHL. It's really sad. It will be empty.
"There's always curling."
At least Canadiens fans will get a break from Jorge in the short term.
David, 45, Toronto
My brother, the famous film editor, lives and dies with his Maple Leafs. He even believes all those wild trade rumours on internet chat rooms. It would be nice to someday see Toronto make the playoffs and end David's misery.
Who knows maybe this will be a breakthrough season for the Maple Leafs. With that possibility, I thought my brother would miss the NHL. But he surprised me.
"I think the season is too long," David explained. "A 60ish-game schedule maybe. I wouldn't mind a lockout every year as long as I could be guaranteed a Dec. 1 starting date.
"So I won't miss the game that much right now. Besides, as a Leafs fan I wasn't expecting too much this year. This softens the blow."
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