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The Grinches Who Stole Hockey

“Never write about a place until you're away from it, because that gives you perspective.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Perspective is a gift that never gets old at Christmas. I’m not actually that concerned anymore whether Santa slips some into the stockings of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA). I’m not going to lie. All I want for Christmas is my NHL. But, I have gained an early present of perspective this holiday season: The NHL’s labor dispute really doesn’t matter at all.

We are living among an unsettled global economy. We are living in a world where lunatics open up fire in movie theatres and elementary schools. I refuse to pay any further attention to this process. All these millionaires, and billionaires yet, trying to figure out how to reasonably add another zero to their bank accounts. Is this what I should be concerned about?

Watching NHL hockey is among my favorite things. But, it’s not number one. Let’s get some perspective here.  It’s not top five; not even top ten. It falls somewhere in the low thirties behind taking all four of my kids to a crowded McDonald’s on a Saturday for lunch and slightly above barbecuing. Let’s face it. If it was summer, it might not even be ahead of that.

My favorite thing to do, you ask? It’s not even up for dispute. It has been number one with a bullet for well over four years now. It’s been top of the charts ever since my oldest started sitting up. It’s reading my kids a bedtime story. And, our favorites have always been Dr. Seuss.


Every Fan down in Fan-ville liked hockey a lot,
but the Grinches, who presided over the NHL and the PA did not!

The Grinches hated hockey! The whole hockey season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that their heads weren’t screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that their wallets were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
may have been that their egos were ten sizes too tall.

But whatever the reason, their egos or billfold,
It was the NHL season that must go on hold.
Staring down from their offices with sour, Grinchy frowns
at the warm lighted windows of 30 towns.
For they knew every Fan down in Fan-ville was tense,
hoping and praying for the season to commence.

"And they're wearing their jerseys!" they snarled with a sneer.
"Soon, the season must start! Or they’ll lose one more year!"
Then they growled, with their grinch fingers nervously drumming,
"We must find a way to keep the season from coming!"
For, soon, they knew all the Fans and their pets
would gather in bunches and rush for their sets!
And then! Oh, the cheers! Oh, the cheers! Cheers! Cheers! Cheers!
That's one thing they hated! The cheers! Cheers! Cheers! Cheers!

Then the Fans, young and old, would sit down for the game.
What a game! What a game! What a game! Game! Game! Game!
They would start watching Kings and Devils vie for the Cup.
All of Stanley’s fervor made the Grinches throw up!
And then they'd do something they liked least of all!
Every Fan down in Fan-ville, the tall and the small,
would sit close together, with the game’s end nearing.
They'd sit side-by-side. And the Fans would start cheering!

They'd cheer! And they'd cheer! And they'd cheer! Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!
And the more the Grinches thought of the Fan-Hockey-Cheer,
the more the Grinches thought, "We must stop this whole season!"
“Why for many years we've put up with it now!
We must stop hockey from coming! But how?"

Then they got an idea! An awful idea!
The Grinches got a wonderful, awful idea!
"We know just what to do!" The Grinches laughed in their boots.
And they made a quick podium, ties and two suits.
And they chuckled, and clucked, "What great Grinchy tricks!
"With these suits and these ties, we'll look like two <cough>!"

"All we need are two geniuses" The Grinches looked around.
But, since geniuses are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinches? No! The Grinches simply said,
"If we can't find someone smart, we'll use these guys instead!"
So they called on their sidekicks. To the Grinches they sped.
And each Grinch shoved a big microphone in front of their head.

Then they came up with a message;
a big plan they started to spout.
Standing at the podium,
they told us the season’s in doubt.
Then one Grinch yelled, "Lockout!" And the snowball started down
toward the homes where the Fans lay bemused in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Fans were all living hockey dreams without care
when the news came to the first town and all their Fans.
"This is stop number one," The old Grinchies hissed
and ignoring the Fans was first on their list.

Then one spoke of fiscal certainty, how it’s a rather tight pinch.
But if Goodell could do it, then so could a Grinch.
He never backed down for a moment or two.
Then he stuck out his head and said “A lockout will do.”
Where the league’s share of 43% is too low.
"These and long terms," he grinned, "are the first things to go!"

Then they slithered and slunk, with a smile most lame,
Around the towns, he took every preseason game!
No Crosby! No Stamkos! No wannabe Dominik Hasek’s!
No Parise! No Sedin twins! No Winter Classics!
And the players went away. Where would all our stars go?
Some went to Europe. Others stayed home shoveling snow.

Then the Grinches slunk to the houses in each town.
They took the Fans’ season tickets and caps.
They took the Fans’ jerseys.
They took their NHL live-streaming apps.
They cleaned out the ice rinks with not one bit of manners.
Why, those Grinches even took all the Stanley Cup banners!
The Grinches then argued about escrow, I think.
Next you knew, more games were gone in a blink.

The Grinches started talking when push came to shove.
The Fans had hope about the game that they love.
All the hope quickly fizzled
when the Grinches didn’t trust each other.
And the one Grinch’s sidekick didn’t trust
the other Grinch’s brother.

The Grinches had been caught heading down a road too far travelled.
All the rhetoric and posturing left the Fans in Fan-ville baffled.
Fans all over were voicing displeasure
why the Grinches weren’t using every measure.

But, you know, those old Grinches were so smart and so slick.
They said “Forget us Grinches. The clock’s starting to tick, tick, tick, tick.”
They told all the Fans that the plan’s changing full circle,
“We’re bringing in Mario, Crosby and Burkle”

The Fans saw an ending, but the mirage was a big trick.
The Grinches thought up a lie and they thought it up quick!
One Grinch said that they were close to a deal.
The next they said, “The deal is not real!”

And this fib fooled the other Grinch who sternly said,
“Our deal is off the table! We’re back at square one, instead.”
And the Fans could only shrug it off, shaking their head,
wondering how much longer before they’ve all given up
and the Grinches have taken the season and the Stanley Cup.

Then the last thing one Grinch pondered was union decertification.
Something only understood by those with an Ivy League education.
Was this fuel for their fire?
Could they get unstuck from the mire?
To have a season, times were getting pretty dire.

And the last specks of hope were enough to prevent frowns
even though the Grinches tried to take hope from all 30 towns.
The Fans were spent with the process.
The Grinches were evaluating losses.

It was about that time, for the season needed to be saved
when Grinches headed back to their offices on gold roads that were paved.
They packed up the table. They packed up the make whole provisions.
They packed up the term contracts and revenue divisions.

86 floors up, they rode to their Manhattan bastions.
They rode leaving the Fans with no satisfactions.
"Pooh-pooh to the Fans!" they were grinchishly humming.
"They're finding out now that no season is coming!
They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two.
Then all the Fans down in Fan-ville will all cry boo-hoo!"

"That's a noise," grinned the Grinches, "That we simply must hear!"
So they paused and each Grinch put a hand to their ear.
And they did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow.

But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so! But it was merry! Very!

They stared down at Fan-ville! The Grinches popped their eyes!
Then they shook! What they saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Fan down in Fan-ville, the tall and the small, was cheering! Without any NHL hockey at all!
They hadn’t stopped hockey from coming at all!
It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same!
The Fans were playing on flooded rinks or watching their kid’s minor league game.

And the Grinches, with their grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without luxury boxes and ten dollar beers!
It came without TV deals!
It came without escalating prices or souvenirs!"
And they puzzled three hours, `till their puzzlers were sore.
Then the Grinches thought of something they hadn't before!
“Maybe hockey," they thought, "doesn't come from a room with a desk.
Maybe NHL hockey, perhaps, means a little bit less!"

And what happened then? Well, in Fan-ville they say
that each Grinch's ego took a big hit on that day!
And the minute their pocketbooks didn't feel quite so tight,
they zipped down their elevators at the speed of the light.
And they rushed to the podium to bring a message to the masses.
“The lockout is over!! Sorry, for being a couple of <cough>!”

Bob Sullivan writes periodically for and can be followed on Twitter at @mrbobsullivan.

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