I’ve long said that I’ll love hockey until the day that I die. It’s easy to love our game – it’s beautiful, it’s difficult, it’s taken me to places that I would have only dreamed of if I wasn’t moderately talented on a pair of steel blades. From infancy, I was hooked and I have no intention of unhooking myself.
Love for the NHL, however… that’s another story.
For the third time in our lifetimes, the league has locked out the players. I won’t get into the specifics here (you’re already aware of them), nor will I give an opinion about who’s right and who’s wrong (neither side smells of roses and sunshine). It’s entirely possible that while I’ll never stop being a hockey fan, there’s a very real possibility that I’ve stopped being a National Hockey League fan.
I’ve given up my season tickets. I’ve canceled my recurring Center Ice subscription. I’ve refused to spend a single dollar on anything NHL-related for the holidays. I’ve very likely crossed the point of no return. The treatment we’ve received, as fans, from a second tier league that behaves like a third tier league and operates like a fourth tier league, is mind-boggling. I find myself questioning whether or not I can look past this latest transgression and once again watch in baffled admiration as the world’s best athletes participate in something that has – for over thirty years – been an important part of my life.
Might this attitude vanish once a deal is signed? Perhaps. Since not even two weeks ago, when I claimed not to give a shit in the least, the parties looked like they’d gotten close to a deal, I found myself wide-eyed and optimistic, even though I’d promised myself I wouldn’t. What should have been a laughable “of course they aren’t” moment upon the realization that this optimism was misguided was more of a disappointment and disbelief. Those aren’t attributes of a truly apathetic hockey fan. They’re indicative of someone who WANTS the game back, and HOPES the spark returns.
But like a jilted lover, there comes a point at which you’ve got to pick your head up, be strong, and throw the guilty party out of your life so that you can begin to heal and re-evaluate what’s most important in your life.
It is with great sadness, a heavy heart, a healthy helping of anger, and a touch of bitterness that I’m here to announce that The Production Line is closing its doors. While there’s no guarantee it’ll be permanent, it’s what we need to do at this time – step away and distance ourselves from the mess that’s become of our league.
There’s a lot to be proud of around here. The things that we’ve done, and the community that we’re lucky to be a part of, are nothing short of amazing. There was Herm to Hockeytown, which began as an attempt to raise enough money to get a Red Wings fan from Brazil to the United States and ended up becoming an opportunity for pledge games and fundraising for Children’s Hospital – a sum that neared $20,000 over two events.
There was Operation: Curly Fries, as silly an idea as we’ve ever had, aimed at restoring the delicious fried goodness as Arby’s staple giveaway should a Red Wing score a hat trick. The idea took on a life of its own, appearing in Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and eventually seeing us partner with the restaurant chain and with Fox Sports Detroit to oversee a vote of Detroit fans. A vote, by the way, that ended 94% – 6% in favor of our little initiative.
There have been dozens of episodes of The Production Hour, lovingly referred to around these parts as TP:60. We’ve had current and future Red Wings grace the airwaves, telling stories about lovey-dovey roommates, mustache wars, Doug Janik Story Time, and – of course – their Disney princesses of choice.
There was a weekend spent aboard Red Bird II, and with the team as they played back-to-back games. A trip that included a two-hour breakfast with Ken Holland, a pat-down from Ken Daniels, an awkward encounter with Todd Bertuzzi, and a brief but lovely conversation with Ruslan Salei, who unfortunately passed last summer.
There’s the Shirtuzzi, which has seen more of the world than I have – from New York’s fashion week to Mayan ruins. There have been Horsecops, Emodanos, Ping Pong Tables, The She-Tuzzi, moms ranking Red Wing hunks, strange Direct Messages from absolutely horrible additions to the blueline, Draft floor interviews.
We’ll miss you. We sincerely love being a part of this family, and we’ll forever cherish the real-life friendships we’ve forged out of what began as an attempt to stay in touch with far-away Red Wings brothers. Rob Discher and Chris Hollis are — without exaggeration — two of my best friends and I love them dearly. We’ve made friends with some amazing people — Stevie, JJ, Marlon, Casey, Natalie, Brian, Tyler, Brad, Graham, Maria, Jen, Zac, Jason, Sara, Greg, Clark, Matt… I’ll have to stop naming them because I know I’ll forget someone — and they’re no longer “internet friends,” they’re legitimate friends and I know we’ll remain in touch even though there won’t be new words on this page each day.
The Detroit Red Wings organization, particularly Ayron Sequeira, Will Posthumus (who is now with the Pistons), and Ryan Michaels (who has also moved on to the next phase in his life), have been an absolutely blast to work with. Whenever we had an idea — no matter how ridiculous or outlandish — they always listened, and did whatever they could to help facilitate. Their involvement in the aforementioned endeavors cannot be understated, and we’re all lucky to have had them as a part of our community over the last several years.
I’m going to continue loving hockey. There’s college hockey (which we all should have been watching anyway), the American Hockey League (which has always been entertaining hockey for a smaller price), and high school hockey which I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching for the last two seasons (Go Vikings). My involvement in the sport will remain as high as it always has… but unfortunately my involvement with The Production Line will not. It has been one of the greatest adventures of my life and I’ll never forget any of it — all 1,211 articles are special, all of the nearly one million page visits meant something to us, and all of the Red Wings moments were a little more meaningful because we got to share them with all of you.