Life Tips: Protecting Your TV, Guiding Your Significant Other Through the NHL Lockout

"What's in this for fans? Less TV time, more honey-dos. Unless they have adequate, unified representation."

The current NHL-NHLPA CBA fiasco is a healthy reminder that life is filled with tricky negotiations, and we humans approach them in many different ways.

Of chief interest to hockey fans -- once the reality of lost games sinks in -- is how they will protect their share of the remote control and prevent an increase in domestic "us time" while the NHL and NHLPA shoot themselves to spite each other. What will you do with the extra time suddenly "gifted" to you by the greedy powers that be? How will you ensure you and your partner avoid sinking into a new domestic reality that cannot be reversed without casualties once the NHL returns?

It may sound like a silly, trivial issue, but trust me: Managing this situation properly now is essential to your happiness later. Before we get to tips on how you can navigate the lockout with your relationship and independence intact, you must first identify which kind of negotiator you are:

Sociologists break negotiators into three categories:

  1. "Fans" approach negotiations with fatalism, a resignation that no matter what they do, they'll get screwed by the worst possible outcome because powerful forces are always out to get them.
  2. "Player" negotiators assume whatever is being negotiated was created for them, by them, so they are entitled to whatever they want and yet their needs are chronically neglected. They also figure they'll never get old and less desirable, nor less able to command what they command now.
  3. "Owners" approach negotiations by assuming it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, because they own the means of production and you don't. They'll take whatever they want and you should thank them for it. Now pickup that blood.

As the category names suggest, when in negotiations most NHL fans behave as "fans." So they generally assume whatever nice thing they have will be taken away by someone else, often a penguin wearing a suit or sometimes a band of illiterate physical specimens in t-shirts and flip flops.

But in this domestic negotiation which is fast approaching, it's absolutely essential they not behave this way. For one, that's a losing approach. For another, this is a negotiation fans can actually win.

How To Preserve Your Hockey Time, Even When There's No Hockey Time

If you are an NHL fan who either: a) shares with a partner a TV/living room/space with giant screen HD to watch nice things, or b) has a partner who appreciates -- and gobbles up -- "time for us" as much as possible, then you need to plan for this lockout ahead.

There are two approaches:

Approach 1: Act Like Nothing's Changed

"What's that, honey? No no, there's no lockout. They resolved it. Everything's cool. I'll see you at 10:30 p.m. for a full-contact scrimmage."

Works Best With: Partners who don't follow the sport. Partners who don't follow the news (if in Canada) or know any of your friends (any country).

You can only take this approach with a partner who is resigned to you owning the TV and/or game nights and wants nothing else to do with you during those times. (If you are in this group, bravo.) That means a partner who might occasionally stroll into the room while you're watching a game and ask "is the blue team the good guys?" or "how many extra quarters is this thing gonna go into?"

Even the most hockey-oblivious partner will periodically realize that she/he hasn't noticed that annoying ice game on the TV in a while, but you can usually dismiss it with a quick, "Oh, it's just on commercial" or "Oh, it's intermission so I'm flipping around."

This kind of partner already knows there is hockey time, and there is stupid-Bravo-show time. And they won't bother you until it's stupid-Bravo-show time. Best you keep it that way.

Example: In 1994-95, I dated a girl who didn't know much about hockey. I could've told her the New York Islanders won the Cup the prior spring and she would've believed me. During the fall 1994 lockout, I preserved the time normally reserved for watching hockey by ... just playing more hockey. Success.

* * *

Approach 2: Adopt Another Sport or Hobby, and Fast

"But honey, I have always religiously watched the NBA, gone mountain biking, and bowled with my friends. The lockout is just giving me more time to follow my true passions."

Works Best With: Partners who realize 12+ hours per week is a lot of time to waste on goddamned hockey. Partners who view you as their personal fix-it man.

You might be partnered with someone who is acutely aware that there are starving people in the world, or that the world is falling apart at the seams with stupid people, or that the seas are rising while we consume, consume, consume, and that maybe watching hockey is a really inefficient way of addressing any of those problems.

Or maybe this person just thinks that by vowing to spend your life with them you really meant to spend your life with them. Finally, they might just expect that you are around chiefly to fix shit.

When hockey suddenly creates extra idle time, this kind of partner is very dangerous. They will think the extra time means more TLC shows for them. They will think since you're not watching hockey, they should be able to watch Conjoined Addicted Little People Hoarder shows while you fix the sink. They will think you should stop complaining about politics or municipal policies and actually go door to door to do something about it. (Perhaps campaign for Kate Murray, for example?)

Worst of all, if you let them think these things, while the lockout drags on for months ... they will get used to it. When hockey returns you'll have set up a major fight if not a complete break. (Which, granted, might be your preferred end game. But it's messy.)

How To Pull It Off: Fill up your calendar now. For every hockey game on the schedule, figure out an alternative sport to watch (bull fighting?) or play, or a long-lost hobby to do. Schedule it now, and when the time comes you say, "Well since the NHL season is delayed a bit, I figured I'd use this game night to bowl with the guys."

It's important to act like the lockout will be very brief, so that you can establish these patterns (though your partner won't realize the initial one-off events will become "patterns") early on. It's easy to get sympathy when you say, "Honey, I'm depressed the games are canceled this week, so I'm going to go hang out with the guys."

Not as easy to pull off? "Honey, the games are canceled for the next four months, but to make sure you don't get used to having me around more and being a productive member of this household, I'm going to join a 16-week softball league. Also, I'm a permanent sub in that other hockey league now; they really needed me." (And by "need me" you mean, "They like that I bring beer.")

Example: In 2004-05, English and European soccer were finally having their "Center Ice" moment: Finally, you could count on games televised in North America from all kinds of leagues, as Fox Sports World (now Fox Soccer Channel) became a thing and vied with ESPN for blanket soccer coverage.

With Mrs. Lighthouse knowing I was a big soccer fan but not realizing most league games are on the weekend, I was able to pull off gluttonous soccer viewing throughout the week as I caught games "live" for the first time on replay. When NHL hockey resumed the next year I managed a seamless transition. Domestic tranquility uninterrupted.

* * *

Now, granted, the above tactics come more from the "fan" negotiator approach -- or at least the reformed "fan" negotiator who realizes this is one negotiation he/she can win. They don't apply to practitioners of the "Owner" style negotiation nor the "Player" style of negotiation.

But that's because if you act like an owner, your partner already thinks you're an asshole who does whatever he wants, and if you act like a player your partner already believes you're the most important yet somehow abused person in the world.

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