Lockout Lit: A scene from "Death of a Hockey Salesman"

Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

Willy Loman spent a lifetime selling hockey to everyone who would listen. He loved the game and loved the NHL. But a third lockout and waning public interest in the sport has taken a toll on Willy's sanity and his will to live.

BIFF ENTERS THE KITCHEN. HAPPY AND LINDA ARE SEATED AT THE TABLE. WILLY IS JUST LEAVING.

WILLY: Hey, hey, Biffo! (Willy exits to the left, with a laugh)

BIFF: (starting to go out after Willy) What the hell is the matter with him?

LINDA: Don't - don't go near him!

BIFF: Stop making excuses for him! He has to get over this NHL lockout. He's crazy!

HAPPY: He got over the last two...

BIFF: What the hell do you know about it?

HAPPY: (surlily) Just don't call him crazy!

BIFF: People are worse off than Willy Loman. I mean, it's only hockey.

LINDA: Willy Loman never saw a lot of wins. His team was never in the paper. They're not the best franchise that ever lived. But he's a hockey fan, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. You called him crazy...

BIFF: I didn't mean...

LINDA: No, a lot of people think he's lost just a hobby. A silly pastime. But you don't have to be very smart to know what his trouble is. The man is exhausted. He's tired of this damned lockout business.

HAPPY: Sure!

LINDA: A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He ballyhoos a league fifty-one years this October, opens up hundreds of minds to the sport, and now in his old age they want to take his hockey away.

HAPPY: (indignantly) I didn't know that, Mom.

LINDA: You never asked, my dear!

HAPPY: But I watched that one hockey game with him last...

LINDA: One game! Oilers and Wild. In March. Two terrible teams just playing out the string. But it meant everything to him. And now, they're taking it away from him.

BIFF: Those ungrateful bastards!

LINDA: Are they any different from his sons? When Willy Loman talked hockey, when he was young, everybody listened. But now his old friends, the old fans that loved to get together and go to games and buy season tickets and wear hats and wave pennants and honk horns - they're all gone, given up. Moved onto other things.

He used to be able to take six, seven guys to a game in Boston. Now he starts talking about Ilya Bryzgalov or Loui Eriksson or even Anze Kopitar and he's exhausted. They look at him like he's speaking Chinese. So instead of talking hockey he tries to mention a baseball player or a Kardashian. Why? Because no one cares any more.

How long can that go on? How long? You see what I'm sitting here and waiting for? I'm waiting for him to hear the word that the lockout is over so he can watch the games again. When does he get the medal for that? Is this his reward for beating a drum his whole life? To turn around at the age of sixty-three and find his sons, one a lousy golf fan...

HAPPY: Mom!

LINDA: That's all you are, my baby! (To Biff) And you! What happened to the love you had for him? You were such pals! How you used to talk about the Blues and Leafs and Sharks to him on the phone every night! How lonely he was till he could take you to a game!

BIFF: Just don't lay it all at my feet. It's between me and the NHL - that's all I have to say. He'll be all right. I'm going to bed. (He starts for the stairs)

LINDA: He won't be all right.

BIFF: (turning on the stairs, furiously) I hate that league! They're phonies and fakes. I stopped watching it in 2004 and I won't watch it now. What do you want?

LINDA: He's dying, Biff.

BIFF: (after a pause) Why is he dying?

LINDA: He's been trying to kill himself.

BIFF: (with great horror) How?

LINDA: For the last month... Oh, boys, it's so hard to say a thing like this! He's just a big stupid fan to you, but I tell you there's more hockey in Willy Loman than in many other people. I went down the cellar. And behind the old VCR and little television - it happened to fall out - roll of aluminum foil. It had been opened and had teeth marks on it.

HAPPY and BIFF: (looking at her confused) What....

LINDA: He's been chewing on aluminum foil while watching his Don Cherry Rock 'Em Sock 'Em hockey tapes.

HAPPY: (angrily) That jerk.

BIFF: Wait, mom, can a person die by eating aluminum foil?

LINDA: I don't know, but it's not right, Biff. It's just not right! A man like Willy Loman should be eating popcorn and hot dogs at a hockey game. Not chewing on thin sheets of metal in his basement. How can I mention it to him? I don't know what to do. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he put his whole life into hockey and they've turned their backs on him. (She is bent over in the chair, weeping, her face in her hands.) Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in their hands!

HAPPY: (to Biff) How do you like that you damned fool?

BIFF: (kissing her) All right, pal, all right. It's all settled now. I'll stay, and I swear to you, I'll talk hockey with him again. It's just - you see, Mom, I haven't followed the NHL since the last lockout. That was my breaking point. But I'll try. I'll try to be a fan again.

HAPPY: Sure you will. The trouble is trying to enjoy a sport while the business world keeps getting in the way.

BIFF: (angered) Screw the business world!

END SCENE

___

My sincere apologies to Jonathan Brunelle and his family for using the above picture of Brunelle going undrafted at the 2010 NHL draft. Fortunately, he's still playing, and apparently very well, for Cape Breton of the QMJHL.

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