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Hey, these aren’t my pants!

Ever wake up and it’s just one of those days? Your socks don’t match, your shirt doesn’t fit quite right and you don’t seem to recognize a single pair of pants you own. Everything just seems to be off.

Welcome to my life, day 138.

That’s the amount of days we as sports fans have been deprived of hockey.

It’s been nearly five months and the NHL season is still on hiatus. The NHL Players Association and the owners continue their stalemate over a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners want a salary cap.

Meanwhile, at the mere mention of a salary cap, the players squeal like Gizmo in bright light.

Something has got to give here.

I feel like I’ve been in hockey detox for about a decade. Tampa Bay Lightning fans have to be at least mildly perturbed. The former doormat of the NHL locked up its place in history last season by defeating Calgary in the Stanley Cup Finals, not to mention it went to seven games. The Lightning had a much better chance of defending their title than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Think the average fan is going wait patiently for overpaid players who don’t want to take a pay cut to save their game?

The irony of this situation is that most of the players overseas are playing in leagues with a salary cap. Talk about a slap in the face.

At the same time, what is wrong with a salary cap?

The NFL and NBA both have salary caps and both leagues are flourishing. The NFL has found a way to snake around the cap by offering inflated signing bonuses for its players while limiting their yearly salary to stave off heavy cap hits.

Only shivers remain for Lightning fans who wanted to see a banner raised at the start of the 2004-05 season. The problem with this whole situation is that everyone seems to be at fault.

When the league expanded and a boatload of expansion money was passed to the owners, rather than invest for the future, they spent it all on astronomical player salaries. The blame falls on the owners because they continued to hike up salaries while not having enough incoming revenue to sustain the franchises. The players are to blame, as well, because they signed contracts knowing full well the current collective bargaining agreement would expire after the 2004-05 season.

So where does the fan fit in?

We’re left with a lame-duck sport that hardly had an audience to begin with.

Fortunately, the Tampa Bay Storm season has begun, so the St. Pete Times Forum can stop collecting dust.

But where does that leave me?

I guess I’ll just sit here, sans pants, waiting for my hockey to come home.

At least there’s World Series of Poker reruns to count on.