OUR LONG NATIONAL nightmare is over; check that - Canada's long national nightmare is over:
The National Hockey League is back, baby!
Midweek Predators-Coyotes games. John Tortorella news conferences. Andy Sutton suspensions. Late June Stanley Cup finals.
During the 113-day lockout, I felt like a woodchuck without wood. Over the years, I had come to depend on the NHL as a faithful companion on many cold, lonely nights in southern California. Then, suddenly, I was lost and confused on the couch, caged in my own personal, hellish penalty box.
It's like the old song goes: "I can't live/if living is without the NHL/I can't live/I can't give anymore."
I even got into a lockout routine: Every evening I'd TiVo NBC Sports Network before going to sleep, hoping that when I arose the next morning, my DVR would be filled with live NHL action on tape. And every morning I'd awaken to boxing, auto racing and "World of Adventure Sports."
Losing the NHL was similar to the withdrawal I feel every time McDonald's pulls the McRib from the menu; you can never know if and when those succulent babies are going to return. What am I supposed to do, wander into Arby's and order the Arby-Q?
I'd buy one of those "I Hate Gary Bettman" T-shirts, but it would clash with my "David Stern Is an Egomaniacal Despot" sweat pants.
How brutal was this lockout? The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin committed the cardinal sin of having too much time off - HE GOT ENGAGED. He'd be better off getting pinned against the boards by the Penguins' Matt Cooke.
Meanwhile, Devils star Ilya Kovalchuck is still in Russia - he's been playing for St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League - because he's unwilling to pay the change fees on Delta.
(Column Intermission I: I believe Joe Flacco's 70-yard fling-and-a-prayer to Jacoby Jones Saturday that led to the Broncos' defeat was the darkest moment in Team of Destiny history. I have been unable to move off the sofa since that pass was completed - it's now approaching 48 hours since I have had food or water - and unless I can find a licensed therapist to make a house call, it is possible I will not watch another NFL game in this or any subsequent lifetime.)
(Column Intermission II: Remember the June 15, 2011 riots in Vancouver after the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup finals? Well, Sophie Laboissonniere - who was a Miss Congeniality winner at a Vancouver beauty pageant - just pleaded guilty for rioting that night. Miss Congeniality was rioting? That's like a member of PETA running a dog-fighting racket.)
(Column Intermission III: After a brief pep talk to coach Tom Crowell, the Robinson twins and my stepson Isaiah - I told them to step up their game or get out of Dodge - the Springbrook High boys basketball team is back on track. Denying Isaiah dessert three straight nights did wonders.)
Here are the particulars of what's left of the NHL's 2012-13 season: