July 14, 2005
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Yesterday’s announcement of a tentative labor agreement that would return professional hockey to the country’s ice rinks this fall caused jubilant fans across the nation to break out in spontaneous celebrations consisting mostly of staying home and watching Law & Order reruns.
Don’t remember hockey? Think figure skating with weapons. Two teams meet on the ice and beat the hell out of each other for a couple of hours. The mayhem is broken up only by the occasional running of a “Zamboni” (Italian for “period of ceaseless boredom”) the purpose of which is to give fans time to come up with creative pejoratives for the opposing team such as “you suck” and “you really suck.” On occasion an object known as a “puck” will randomly enter one of the goals and this appears to have something to do with which 28 of the 30 teams will qualify for the playoffs.
The labor dispute goes back over a year and forced the cancellation of an entire season. This caused a great deal of economic hardship that stretched far beyond the empty hockey arenas themselves and reached as far as a block-and-a-half down the street.
Hockey still has some details to iron out, including securing a cable TV contract. League officials note that they have some promising prospects including several community access channels although fierce competition is expected from local school boards and junior high theater classes.
For hockey fans it has been a difficult year. Not wanting to give in to the “big three” of professional team sports, baseball, football and basketball, many turned to watching such unconventional spectator sports as Jarts, arena croquet and Canadian-rules trampoline.
Aside from the fans, no one is happier to see hockey return than the players themselves. It was after all their determined and steadfast resistance to the owners’ demand for salary caps and pay reductions that in the end yielded an agreement that includes salary caps and pay reductions.
“That kind of makes it all worth it,” commented one veteran player.
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