For as long as I’ve called Edmonton home, which is going on 24 years, the last ride down the road in whatever noisy, too-fast, only-on-sunny days ride I’ve owned before I reluctantly tucked it away in the garage before the snow flew has marked the official start of the NHL season for me.

As soon as training camp started, and with pre-season just around the corner and the leaves turning, I’d always check the extended local weather forecast to see when, and if, I could squeeze in one more jaunt down the highway before giving way to the change in seasons and turning my attention to the Oilers.

Frost on the windshield in the morning, as we’ve had the last few days around the city, was always a sure giveaway time was short and that shifting gears and the simply joy of listening to the glorious roar of a well-built engine under acceleration would soon be replaced by the relative monotony of line rushes, depth charts and camp cuts.

With my paying job, not to mention Alberta weather, taking precedence over the pastime that is old iron, I’d always hope for one last perfect, sunny day to get out that last ride. Today was that day, and my son Sam and I took advantage of it at sundown. Purple sky. Open road. Faster, dad. Perfect.

Now what?


That’s a rhetorical question, really. With the NHL having already shelved the start of the schedule, including the Oilers season-opener in Vancouver against the Canucks next Saturday, because of the lockout, I don’t have a pat answer. How about you?

With my time as the every-day beat man at the dailies five years behind me now, I’m blessed that I don’t have to cover yet another work stoppage or fly to Oklahoma City in search of an actual training camp to fill column inches while acquainting myself with AHL travel. I got my fill of that in 2004-05.

I’ve got a new business to run, Sam to drive to school and time on my hands I didn’t have when I was toting a notepad. I’ve just got to figure out what to do with it, now that the Biscayne (she sure sounded sweet today) is on blocks. I’m guessing fans are facing the same question – unless, of course, you’re too busy pacing the floor while waiting for Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr to sort things out to turn your attention elsewhere.

There is still lots of hockey to watch in this city, as Jason Gregor has already pointed out, if you need your fix. After all, we all have our own versions of the last ride before we lock on to the NHL season, which was supposed to be just around the corner. Now, it’s cold turkey with Thanksgiving Day almost here.

Now what?

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Well I for one can say that my house is cleaner than ever, my yard is immaculate and my truck (a 2005 toyota tacoma in need of a new windshield) has been taken care of more than it normally gets.

    Girlfriend is loving it too… smoked up a huge batch of beef jerky today, got fish in the brine for tomorrow to smoke and going to hit a few cheese shops for some interesting stuff to smoke with the fish.

    If hockey doesn’t start soon… I’m gonna make a good husband sooner rather than later…

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    now what? i’m just going to keep busy doing other things other than spending my money on the NHL. Oil Kings for live hockey, and lots of NFL and CFL football and movies to watch!

  • RexLibris

    Anyone remember that commercial awhile back where the guy is driving down the highway and he realizes this is it, the perfect moment, when everything just slows down and he enjoys even the wind blowing on his arms?

    Maybe that’s it. We take this time and enjoy it to do something else. In Robin’s case, family and a new business (congratulations on that, btw).

    For others maybe it means watching your children grow up, spending time turning on a lathe, cleaning out the guest room, organizing those old family photos. Who knows.

    Apparently in my case it means commenting on blogs, but you get the picture.

    A great read, Robin, thank you.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I think what can be counted on, is that the longer they wait to start, there are many who will continue to enjoy the new hobby/activity they have found after the NHL resumes. They are taking their fans for granted: foolish.

  • Yesterday I cleaned the eavestroughs. Today I might build IKEA furniture that has been in my garage for a calendar year.

    This is what I have been reduced to, NHL. Is this how you want me spending my time?

    Bob McKenzie’s latest updates on twitter have been nothing short of fightening. Hes expecting a full year lockout and then the NHLPA to put the salary cap back on the table. I only have so many eavestroughs.

  • Zack

    With this being my last, and by far the busiest, year of university at the U of A, the lockout couldn’t have come at a better time. I really miss the hockey but at the same time I can focus on the more important things in life.

  • Slapshot

    If the NHL and NHLPA do not settle this soon,they will kill the goose that laid the golden egg,and they will not have to worry about HRR it will have been reduced for them already by the fans not showing up.

      • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

        While i can appreciate your e-sarcasm, i would expect a different outcome as the last lockout was for, seemingly, a completely different reason.

        I think more people are going to actually follow through with their personal boycotts this time around. The old fool me once, shame on you fool me twice shame on me thing.

        That’s my thought anyways, that they think they will rebound like last time. Only last time things didn’t work out the way the people thought it would and i doubt that things will work out the way people expect this time.


      • Slapshot

        I haven’t missed the NHL this time around as much as last time,I have even found myself watching NFL and CFL football again and enjoying it.If this lockout goes the whole year, I will find better things to do with the money I save on season tickets. Than support the NHL and NHLPA.At the end of the day, they have made it very apparent that they do not care about the fans,why should the fans support them?

  • @Reg Dunlop. I’m with Reg.Mayan Apocalypse will soon be here. The End is near! Not.

    The reality is the leaves,the pruning,the car needs winterizing.The son needs to be taken to swimming lessons.The dogs need to be walked.The honey-do list needs to be attended to.

    NHL?At this point most of us are propbably thinking that a year off will be good for our relationships,our pocketbook,our children and our stress levels.

    Robin is losing a full season going to bw worth it?The players give up 100% of thier salary in exchange for a deal that asked then for a %20 rollback. They offered a five year deal. Isn’t 5×20 equal to 100%. Thats essentially what they are giving up if they stay out the whole season. It equates to a 20% rollback every year. Makes no sense.

  • I’ve already quit following the “news” on the negotiation. As Robin says, the players have little or no leverage in this situation. Even if a few actually went to the KHL or elsewhere, that’s not going to change the bigger picture. Also wouldn’t say much about supporting your own union, would it?

    The players will take it on the chin, so they need to decide how to make the best of it and minimize their (short-term) losses. Negotiated contracts should be honoured, so I understand the players’feelings about the proposed roll back, but they need to get past the outrage if they want to get back to playing. This is ultimately a battle of the wallets, so the owners will win every time (whether that’s fair or not).

    I’ve followed and supported the Oil since the WHA days, and have been (winter) driving 3 hrs each way for games for years. I’m starting to ask myself why. Maybe one road trip per winter to get to the airport and a nice warm island in the sun makes more sense? At least they appreciate my business…

    • For me, Scottsdale in the third week of January makes all the sense in the world. Been to the Barrett Jackson auction every year since 2007– heaven for a car guy. Best car show you’ll ever see even if you never make a bid because there’s 1,300 cars there.

      I forgot how long winters here are until 2007 because I was always on the road with the Oilers and we spent half the winter, about 90 days in total, away.

      I’m not a skier or a snomobiler or an ice fisher so a week away where it’s hot is a terrific break from the monotony of winter — hockey or not.