David Pressgrove: No hockey, no problem

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I'm not a huge hockey fan.

I grew up in Eastern Kansas and hockey was not a part of my childhood so I've never really caught the hockey bug.

It actually took me a couple of weeks to realize that SportsCenter was missing something this winter until a roommate commented on how nice it was not to have to watch hockey highlights.

No hockey on ESPN affected me minimally, but what about the fan who does turn on SportsCenter to watch hockey highlights? This must be a disappointing winter for them.

Think about the lack of hockey for sportswriters. What are the sports editors in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary doing this year?

They could hang out with the players during workouts and write about it. That would be about as exciting as reading about a snail race, especially after the seventh player talked about keeping himself occupied during the lockout.

I looked at the Web sites of several NHL teams and their main headlines included "This day in Canadiens' history," "Backchecking with Bernie" (an interview of a Philadelphia Flyers hall-of-fame goalie) and "Stanley Claws visits hospital" (a report on the Florida Panthers' mascot).

None of those headlines appear as interesting as "Canadiens win fourth straight" or "Panthers' center suspended for bloody fight."

It's probably harder for the Canadian cities because hockey is so much more a part of their lives. Most of the U.S. cities have other professional sports teams to focus on.

The Pittsburgh papers have to be thankful that the Steelers are doing well or they would be writing about a bad team and no team at all (the Penguins and the non-existent NBA team). The folks in Tampa Bay are facing that exact problem. They pick up their sports page to read about how Brian Griese is their quarterback and that's about it. At least the Lightning might have had a chance to still be in the playoff hunt right now.

Even here in Colorado, Jake Plummer might not be scratching his head with his middle digits if fans had a chance to take out some of their aggression at an Avs game. OK, maybe not, but at least the Avs would give us something else to read about other than the Bronco collapse.

I sympathize with those fans and writers without a sport.

As a sportswriter who relies mostly on high school sports coverage, this time of year reminds me of being a hockey reporter. Nothing is going on.

This is one of the toughest times for me of the year because there are very few local sporting events to cover during the Christmas break.

I've devised five events to help both myself and hockey-reliant newspapers with story ideas.

n Snowball Fight Club -- Dodgeball leagues are popping up all over the country, including one in Meeker. If dodgeball can have its own league, why not have a snowball league? Each team gets 15 minutes to build a fort and gather ammunition and then go at it. Remember though, you can never talk about snowball fight club.

n Extreme Ice Fishing --Nothing against ice fishing, but it's hard to report about. Let's spice it up and make it a competition from the start. All fisherman start on the shore wearing ice skates and at the sound of the horn they race to their desired spot. If someone else claims their spot, they have to duke it out for three, two-minute rounds.

n Sled Jousting -- Build a bobsled-like track shaped similar to a half pipe. Each competitor mounts their trusty sled and tries to knock off their opponent with a padded joust.

n Marathon Bell Ringing -- While the Salvation Army bell ringers are out, time who can ring for the longest without taking a break. I can imagine the coverage now. "We've got John 'Steel Arms' Labowski going up against Fred 'Wicked Ringer' Jones. Labowski is the returning champion from the Kmart on Seventh and Lincoln while Jones outlasted Mary 'Bell of the Ball' Hart last week at City Market."

n Snow bogging competition -- We have mud bogging. Why not snow bogging? Pile tons of snow and each vehicle attempts to see how fast it can plow through it.

Craig hockey fans can still go and watch the Cougars or go to open skating time and play an imaginary game against invisible opponents.

As for me, well I'll keep making up silly columns until the high school seasons start back up.

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