It's 7:00 PM, and I'm stuck at work. Unbelievable. My boss (for the purposes of this article, pretend he's Donald Trump) has really been working me hard these last few days. I'm just a few blocks from the Staples Center, and I can already imagine the revelry going on as the Kings and Blue Jackets prepare for tonight's game. Every other website is blocked here (Trump's internet policies make no sense at all!), so I just have to guess at what is going on while I check the score on my phone.
7:10 PM: "No score." I'm sure the Kings came out flying, and the Blue Jackets came out looking to prove they belong. I wonder how Jack Johnson looks, he's certainly a polarizing figure in Los Angeles these days.
7:20 PM: "No score." I sigh happily. Surely, Jonathan Bernier is on top of his game. With Quick rehabbing in Manchester, Bernier must see this as a huge opportunity to convince Darryl Sutter he's capable of a heavier workload. I'm sure he's robbed R.J. Umberger at least twice.
7:30 PM: "No score." Well, I wish the Kings offense was doing a little more, but that's okay. Maybe Sutter is giving a lot of time to Nolan, Fraser, Lewis, and Clifford. Provide some energy even if they're not on the scoresheet.
7:40 PM: "No score." Mr. Trump is ranting about the electoral college, but I could care less. The election was a week and a half ago.
7:50 PM: "No score." It's probably the end of the first period. I would kill just to see a Zamboni at this point. Trump notices my vacant daydreaming and yells at me to focus.
8:00 PM: "No score." All right, how have we not broken through against Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski? Steve Mason isn't that good. I hope Anze Kopitar isn't heading for an early-season slump, we can't have that.
8:10 PM: "No score." Is that cheering in my head? Probably. Maybe Dustin Brown just laid a big hit.
8:20 PM: "No score." I'm going crazy with anticipation. Something has to happen soon.
8:20 PM: "No score." I wonder if Tom Hanks or Will Ferrell is at the game. No one does the Dance Cam better.
8:20 PM: "No score." HIT THE NET, JARRET STOLL! Probably.
8:20 PM: "No score." Wait a minute...
Alarmed, I slam my laptop shut and bolt out of the office. I hear a startled yell from Trump as he watches me run away, but I don't care, I need to get to the bottom of this. It couldn't have happened again, right?
By the time I finish sprinting the ten blocks to the Staples Center, my breathing is heavy and I'm sweating profusely underneath my Justin Williams jersey. I check my watch. 8:20 PM.
Time has stopped. Again.
I run to the Staples Center doors, but they're closed. I frantically dash to the other side of the arena, but it's the same story... I can't get in. My mind races. What is going--
"They won't let you in."
I slowly turn around. An elderly man is sitting on a bench, wearing a sad smile and a Jaroslav Modry jersey.
"The NHL. They won't let you in."
"But... the game... tonight..."
"There's no game tonight, son."
I slowly realize that my phone told me that there was no score in the Kings game. It didn't mean 0-0. It meant that there was no score. No game. No hockey...
... But why did time stop? I relate the same question to the man. He shrugged. "I showed up here eight years ago, on a night much like tonight. No one told me there was no hockey. ESPN wasn't talking about it, so how could I have known?"
"Didn't you check Twitter?"
"Anyway, that day, I made a vow not to follow the NHL anymore. I've been here ever since, waiting for things to change. The rest of the world moved on. I thought I might go back to the NHL someday, but your arrival seems to make it clear that things haven't changed. Not at all. To me, it's still 2004."
I admired his persistence, but I couldn't imagine being trapped, waiting for the NHL to come to its senses against all odds. I decided to move on.
"Wait. Why did I think there was hockey tonight, then? I've been following this lockout from the start."
"Combination of denial and work-related stress."
He's absolutely right! Man, I was in a weird mental state. Hope I can get past that.
"So if I walk away, will time start up again?"
"That's my understanding, yes."
What a relief. I shook the man's hand and began to walk away. But there was something I needed to find out first.
"Last season, we played the Blue Jackets and time stopped for a couple seconds at the end of the game. There was no lockout at that point. So, what caused that?"
He shrugged. "Not sure. Have you heard of coulombs?"