Niagara Gazette

January 11, 2013

ROOT: He ain't heavy, he's my hockey league

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The NHL lockout is over, and I find myself being part of the group of people that find this to be extremely refreshing news. My relationship with the NHL is very similar to that relationship most people have with their best friends when they were younger. Your best friend was usually a free spirit that preferred to do things that got you in trouble as opposed to being a productive citizen. But nomatter how much your best friend made you angry, you just could not stay mad at him.

The NHL is the same way. No matter how counter-productive and annoying the NHL may get, I just cannot stay mad at him. The NHL is that friend that calls you at three in the morning because he knows that you are the only person that will put up his bail money after an especially adventurous night on the town. Oh, the NHL has his own money. But he prefers to borrow his bail money from you.

Why do fans like me put up with the antics of the NHL? Because the NHL has our beloved Buffalo Sabres, and life without the Sabres would be downright unlivable. When you bail the NHL out of jail at three o’clock in the morning, you make him promise that he will still get up for work in the morning and give us our Sabres. When you get up in the morning and the Sabres aren’t there, then you feel cheated. You want your bail money back, but you know you are not going to get it. Sometimes you just want to punch the NHL in the mouth.

None of your other friends understand why you put up with the NHL. “You know, there are plenty of other hockey leagues you could be friends with,” they tell you. “Hockey leagues that don’t need to reach into your pockets for bail money and hockey leagues you can rely on to make it to work every morning.”

Yeah, I know there are other hockey leagues I could be friends with, and I actually have some very good acquaintances that are hockey leagues. I like the AHL from time to time, and I have even knocked back a few with the KHL. But the NHL is that friend that you get completely drunk with and then wind up in a Canadian jail for reasons that are still unclear. When you wake up on the cell bench, you can see the NHL sitting in the corner of the cell, smiling. “I have no idea what happened,” the NHL tells you. “Besides, you were driving.”

I suppose I could find other hockey leagues that don’t take me for granted all the time and that understand how hard I work for my money. But those leagues are so boring. When the NHL enters a room, he commands attention. The NHL has charisma oozing from every pore of his body. Everyone, whether they admit it or not, wants to be able to say that they are close friends with the NHL. But there are only a few of us that really understand what it means to be friends with such a conceited and unfeeling hockey league.

Besides, the NHL is not a complete monster. When the October storm took out the power in half of Western New York, the NHL did a silly dance and made us forget all about the weather. Our basements may have been flooding, but we were all happy to hang out with the NHL for the night.

When a plane crashed into a residential neighborhood and killed innocent people, the NHL put his arm around Western New York and made us feel a little better. Yeah, it was just a hockey game, but it gave us something to cheer about when all we really wanted to do was cry.

As much of a jerk as the NHL can be, he really is a good friend. When my wife and I need something to cheer for, we know we can cheer for the NHL. Big parts of my entire life are dedicated to the NHL, and I don’t apologize for any of the time or money I have spent, or will spend, on that guy’s bail money. I even married an enabler who encourages me to keep my close friendship with the NHL. She’s a truly great lady, and I can’t even begin to thank her for the way she turned my life around.

So, yeah, the NHL can be a self-centered jerk who feels like everyone owes him something. It can even feel like he doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. But the NHL has been there for me way too many times for me to not cut him some slack once in a while.

George N Root III is a Lockport resident. He can be reached at

George N Root III is a Lockport resident. He can be reached at