Let's begin by agreeing that Winnipeg has the hots for hockey.
An audience numbering 15,004 each time the Jets perform in the Little Hockey House on the Prairie, plus a season-ticket waiting list of 8,000, confirm that reality.
What, then, are we to make of Winnipeg Free Press online poll results during the current hockey hissy fit, which has arrived at its 93rd day and has positioned the 2012-13 NHL season on the very edge of the abyss?
This morning, for example, I peeked at the results of a Freep reader inquiry that asked: What do you miss most about there being no NHL hockey?
Turns out that, when I last looked, 551 (47%) of 1,171 respondents indicated they "don't miss" the NHL.
"No way," I said to myself. "That can't be."
I mean, I know Winnipeg. I grew up in River City. I know there's a frozen pond on just about every street corner.
At my old haunt, Bronx Park in East Kildonan, there were three hockey rinks for a would-be NHLer like my neighbor Neil Komadoski to hone his skills (I stood on a rinkside snowbank and watched in horror the Saturday morning he took a puck in the chops and lost most of his teeth). Three long blocks away, there were another two shinny sheets at Melrose Park. Plus a pleasure skating pond at each club for the girls.
That's five hockey rinks and two free-skating freezes in a three-block stretch.
And now I'm reading that a good chunk of the citizenry don't give a damn about the NHL? In Winnipeg? A town that mourned the loss of its original NHL franchise for 15 years?
What are they going to tell me next? That the Wagon Wheel and Kelekis are going out of business?
Oh, wait. Those two landmark eateries in River City have/will shut down, So perhaps it's true that the good folks of Pegtown really have tuned out the NHL.
Well, further evidence to support that notion was found in the archives of two earlier Freep NHL lockout-related reader polls.
1. The NHL has now cancelled games through November. What do you plan to do in the absence of hockey?
Results:5,636 (58%) of 9,793 respondents clicked "Won't miss it (at) all."
2. After comments from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr, do you still hold out any hope that there will be hockey this season?
Results: 5,197 (60%) of 8,659 respondents clicked: "I don't care anymore."
Keep in mind that these polls ran in the Freep sports section, so we're dealing with sports fans here, not people who open a paper to read the comics (come to think of it, perhaps they're one in the same). That's why the numbers caught me off guard.
Still, I do understand the indifference.
Personally, for me the tipping point in this saga came the day Bettman stamped his little feet, held his breath, then called Fehr a big meanie because he refuses to play by the rules. The commish's theatrics would have been quite funny if the scene hadn't been so Captain Queeg-ish.
It was a pathetic piece of diva-like drama from a man who draws a wage just shy of $8 million per-annum, a man you don't expect to act like a six-year-old who's been told to go sit in the corner?
It convinced me that, whatever the outcome and however long Bettman keeps the padlocks on NHL rinks, his time is up. He has to go.
In the meantime, I'm with a good number of River Cityites...call me when it's over.