Hockey when there’s a lockout

I will be the first to admit that I have been incredibly apathetic when it comes to the NHL Lockout.  I hate that there’s no NHL hockey being played, but at the same time I haven’t been a fan of the NHL for a while.  I love the Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers, and there are a lot of players that I love and look up to, but at the end of the day I cannot call myself an NHL fan when the league continually adds unnecessary drama to a sport I love.

So with all the talk about an announcement to the lockout ending coming on Monday, I gave no interest.  Instead, I invested my time and emotions into an incredibly different hockey draught end.  Tonight, I saw the Kelowna Rockets play.

Kelowna Rockets @ Prince George Cougars. Jan 5, 2013

I’m from Prince George, but have been cheering for the Kelowna Rockets since I was about 14 years old.  I’ve never been one to cheer for the hometown team after all (I’m a Senators fan, not a casucks fan).

Back in high school, I used to always go to WHL games when the Rockets were in town.  Of course, moving to Ontario kind of ended the times I could the Rockets, and the team was never in Prince George when I visited my parents during the Christmas season.  This year, however, me and the team were in Prince George at the same time, and I couldn’t say no to attending this game.

Kelowna Rockets win in PG

This was my first time seeing the Kelowna Rockets since November of 2008; it’s really amazing to think that over 4 years have passed since I last saw my team.

This was also the first Kelowna Rockets game I’ve attended wearing a Rockets jersey, and the first game where I’ve ever cheered in “enemy territory.”  It was interesting, but fun, experience.  A number of people told me to sit down after cheering, and one guy asked me how much I was paying the PG goalie to let in goals.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only Rockets jersey in the crowd.  Made me wonder who those other people were.

Kelowna wins 8-4 in PG

The Rockets won in a spectacular 8-4 fashion while scoring 6 goals in the second period alone. It was such an exciting thing to be a part of.  Though attending this game really made me realize how much I love and miss WHL hockey.  It’s very different being able to attend games of your favourite teams.  I always knew I wanted to move back West when I felt my time in Ontario had come to an end.  The WHL was one of those reasons.  As good as the OHL may be, it simply doesn’t compare to the WHL.  Part of that is probably nostalgia, but I can’t imagine liking any other junior league more than the ‘Dub.

And that is something the NHL can never get from me: loyalty.  With all the drama among lockouts, contracts, head shots, fighting, and everything else, it makes it very hard to support or be loyal to league that forever wants to sully this sport with bureaucracy and unnecessary changes. Seeing my favourite junior team just showed me again why I fell in love with junior hockey 8 years ago: the game.  While I know the CHL isn’t perfect, I still believe that these players haven’t been blinded by dollar signs and business and simply play because they love the game.  The WHL cares about its players and, at the end of the day, the quality of hockey we get to see. And those are the reasons I miss watching WHL hockey everyday, whereas with the NHL, I barely care.

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