Larry Mogelonsky was thrilled when he learned of the tentative deal between the NHL and its players and the looming return of on-ice action.
His wife was not as enthused.
"She said, 'Well, you know we went to movies, we went out on Saturday nights, and now it's going to be you and your buddies watching hockey.'"
While fans found various ways to fill the hockey void during the lockout, many plan to get right back to their normal winter routines once the puck drops later this month.
Mogelonsky—a Toronto-based hotel consultant—has a particular passion for the pastime.
In a December blog post titled "Ode To My Beloved Hockey," he admitted he missed watching "Hockey Night in Canada"—a tradition since childhood—and Monday morning office banter about the previous weekend's games. The lockout, he wrote, had turned the coming winter "into a rather dull one up here in Canada."
While the 60-year-old usually snaps up the sports section each morning to review scores and expert analysis on the game, hockey's absence from the pages—and the calendar—left him wanting.
"One, it's a Canadian sport. I believe it is a Canadian sport more than anything else," said Mogelonsky, who is particularly keen to see the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens suit up for play. "Two, it is fast, and three, there's emotion to it. There's a fluidity to the game which you don't get in other sports."
Joshua Marshall watched more football than usual during the lockout and tried to get his hockey fix by tuning in to the AHL and the world juniors.
In the end, though, he says he "just spent less time watching sports."
Added Marshall: "I've pined for the NHL to come back, because I do really like that brand of hockey," he said. "I tried watching the AHL and it didn't meet my need in terms of the calibre and the speed."
The NHL's third lockout in 20 years has left many fans fuming, with some vowing to protest the league's return by not buying game tickets or watching matchups.
Marshall won't be among those sitting on the sidelines.
"I watch hockey for the entertainment," he said. "Now that the entertainment is back, well then, I'm going to watch it—in whatever way that is. Whether it's games that are live, whether it's back on television, I'm just going to be very happy that they're playing."
Queen's University PhD candidate Atif Kukaswadia also found himself turning to pro football during the lockout. He says he was cynical about a resolution because of the 2004 labour dispute, which resulted in a cancelled NHL season.
"I was really anticipating losing the whole season again, and so I guess that was my mindset from the beginning. So I watched a lot of movies, a lot of TV shows, that's how I basically filled a lot of my time."
Kukaswadia—an Ottawa Senators fan—said he thinks the league may have lost "bubble fans" as a result of the latest work stoppage.
"The people who are going to watch hockey are going to watch it regardless," he said. "If they lost the whole season, they're still going to come back. But I think a lot of the people who may have jumped on hockey towards the end of last season—especially with L.A. winning the (Stanley) Cup—I think a lot of those people probably won't come back."
Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson had contemplated retirement at the end of last season and hinted at hanging up his skates if the lockout resulted in a cancelled season. Now, Kukaswadia welcomes the chance to see the Swedish star play at least one last time live.
"I'm not going to cut off my nose to spite my face. I enjoy watching hockey. It's a fun sport to watch. It's a hobby. If it's not there, it's fine, If it's there, that's great."
Longtime Oilers fan Nelson Scott said he's looking forward to seeing a few games when play resumes—with a caveat.
"I'm not planning to boycott some of the games as some people have suggested, but I think where I will boycott is I won't buy anything from the concessions or with an NHL team logo on it," said the Edmonton-based speaker and author.
"I think that's a minor way I can protest what they've done."
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