BY MARK FITZGERALD
With the NHL lockout ending, you would assume that fans would cheer until their lungs gave out and raise their foam fingers to the heavens.
You would be wrong.
The fans are torn. The game they love is coming back, but they feel like there is payback to be had. Rumours of boycotts of the first few games are no joke. Even diehard fans are demanding a boycott, just to give the owners and players a taste of their own medicine.
Cameron O’Neill, a lifelong fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs from Cambridge, said there should be a boycott, just to show everyone that the fans were hurt by the lockout just as much as anyone else.
“We need to have a say too. They fight about money, but can’t make money if we don’t go. We have the ultimate say in everything,” O’Neill said.
In a Jan. 10 Montreal Gazette article, Montreal-based actor Bruce Dinsmore said he will boycott the first Habs game.
“Throughout the whole lockout, people have talked about the owners, the players and the NHL, but the missing parties at the bargaining table are the fans who inevitably are the bottom line, who pay everybody’s salary,” Dinsmore said.
Stephen Busch, an on-again off-again Canucks fan from Cambridge, believes the fans should embrace the end of the lockout and be happy that we get any season at all.
“They didn’t have to settle. They didn’t even have to give us a shortened season. Screw the boycotts. Can’t we all just be happy that hockey is back,” he said.
One of the biggest worries of the fans is that many of the star players who moved to play in the European leagues during the lockout might not return for the start of the new season.
Timothy Atkins, a Blackhawks fan from Cambridge, is one of those worried fans.
“Patrick Kane is playing like no other over in the Swiss League. He needs to come back though, it won’t be the same team in Chicago if he stays over there,” he said.
Fans are more than excited to be hearing all sorts of trade gems coming out of the rumour mill over the past few weeks.
The biggest rumour for Maple Leafs fans is that Roberto Luongo, star goalie for the Canucks, may be traded to the Leafs. Toronto is a place where goaltending has been nothing to be proud of for about a decade.
“Luongo moving to the Leafs would be a huge deal. Leafs for the Stanley Cup anyone?” O’Neill said.
Players have said they are glad to be back, after voting 98 per cent in favour of the new deal. Some players have said they are excited to be going back on the ice, and that it might take them some time to find their legs, but they will find them.