Through New Year's Eve, your friends at Puck Daddy fondly recall the Year in Hockey for 2012, such as it wasn't.
The NHL lockout may have taken NHL hockey from us, but it's hardly left us with nothing to talk about.
Truth is, as infuriating as this whole ordeal has been from day one, it's also been, at times, incredibly entertaining. Granted, NHL hockey tends to be more entertaining, but without the lockout, few among us would know the name of Guy Serota. That was fun.
Without the lockout, Project Orca doesn't die in the TD Garden. Kyle Turris doesn't offer his opinion on the travel in Finland. Steve Burton has nothing to wrongly predict is about to end. Dale Weise doesn't become the Mario Lemieux of the Netherlands. Evander Kane doesn't enrage the whole of Winnipeg with his money phone. I could go on.
This lockout is the worst, but light has shone out of the darkness. The stoppage has provided us some truly absurd moments that we here at Puck Daddy will forever cherish.
As the calendar year winds down, here are our 10 favourites of 2012.
10. Gary Bettman targeted by Vancouver gun range
It's no secret that most hockey fans are not Gary Bettman fans, and this lockout has exacerbated the Bettman hate. The NHL commissioner takes shots every day. But these shots weren't literal until we came across this target from the DVC Indoor Shooting Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"It seems to be one of our more popular targets," said Wes Yen, the gun range's manager. "It's actually been a pretty big hit for us."
No kidding. Note that the targets above Bettman's head remain relatively unscathed. But the man's head and heart? Riddled. Hockey fans are upset.
9. Ilya Bryzgalov, cosmonaut
Ilya Bryzgalov's fascination with the universe was first revealed to us on HBO's 24/7, and the NHL lockout gave him the opportunity to take it one step further. Earlier this month, while in Russia, Bryzgalov visited the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and trained like a Russian Cosmonaut.
Of course, Bryzgalov's interest in space goes beyond learning about the training it takes to go there. He wants to know how it all happened. But, clearly, the longer the lockout goes, the closer Bryzgalov gets to the answers he seeks.
8. Johnny Oduya plays hockey in Thailand
NHLers have gone to some unconventional places to keep playing in the midst of this lockout. But with Johnny Oduya's trip to Thailand, he takes the unconventional cake. Oduya visited Thailand for a vacation, but decided to play a little hockey while he was there. He dropped in on the Land of Smiles Ice Hockey Classic, joined the Bangkok team, and led them to their first ever championship.
7. Frank Luntz's hockey focus group
From the moment the lockout began, the NHL insisted winning the P.R. war with the players wasn't their concern. It was a whole lot harder to believe after the surreal details of a focus group run through divisive GOP strategist Frank Luntz leaked, courtesy Deadspin, and we were sudden privy to the NHL's strategies for massaging the message.
Suddenly, the uptick in facetime for Bill Daly made sense. The term "shared sacrifice" lost all meaning.
Shortly thereafter, the NHL released another proposal and even put it online in what sure seemed like an attempt to smooth over the embarrassment of the leak. It was a strange few days.
But the strangest part was when we discovered that Puck Daddy's "What We Lost When The NHL Lost Opening Night" column served as the basis for one of the exercises. You'd think, if we were in the room, we wouldn't have had to hear about it from Deadspin.
6. Jim Devellano calls players cattle
Speaking of controlling the message, mot long after the players were locked out, the NHL's owners were locked down. The league muzzled its teams and threatened them with heavy fines if they talked.
Oh, but what's the worst that could happen, we thought? And then Red Wings Vice President Jim Devellano chatted down with Scott Harrigan of Island Sports News and told him the NHLers were basically "cattle". Oh, we thought.
Devellano was fined a quarter of a million dollars, or roughly half the annual salary of an entry-level cattle.
5. Krys Barch's epic NHL Lockout Twitter rant
On Saturday, September 29th, Krys Barch sat down in front of the fire, 8 OV deep, and took to Twitter. He was starting a bottle of Porte, but instead, he wound up pouring out his heart. What followed was a 600-word rant that somehow spoke for everyone and no one, that was at turns truthful, troubling, bewildering, and bizarrely deep. Like this, for instance:
"I sit here with both my boys sleeping and my wife due with our 3rd. My thoughts racing on what I can conquer tomorrow to get our family ahead. Sometimes, wondering if I should have existed when a word and a gun solidified and solved all problems. I feel the Wild West would more simplified than the world we live in now when an employer who makes billions of dollars and a league with record revenues can tell me that I can't do the things that my heart tells my me to do!
"All what my heart tells me to do far surpasses what my body has endured. As I write this I dive deeper and deeper into my bottle of Porte giving wider views to the depths of my heart. As my pen warms from the fire, Neil Young and a fall Canadian night, I wonder how this work stoppage effects the owners?
I still only have a vague idea what this means. But it moves me, man. It moves me.
4. Sidney Crosby, secret goalie, & other ball hockey tales
With all the speculation over whether and where Sidney Crosby would play hockey during the lockout, who would have thought that his first taste of in-game action would come in a Pittsburgh ball hockey league, as a goalie, no less?
It wasn't the only time an established NHLer played a little ball hockey with the fans during this lockout. Brandon Prust, Ryan Kesler, and a few others have organized street games over Twitter to help pass the time. But Crosby just quietly came, pitched a shutout over the aptly named "Flyers Suck", and went along his merry way. Some people didn't even know it was him until he was gone. Absurd.
3. The Voicemail: a play in three acts
Anybody claiming the NHL lockout can't be wildly entertaining wasn't paying attention on December 10, when the Donald Fehr, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly staged a three-act play so compelling, you'd have thought it was written by Arthur Miller. The way the evening fit the three-act structure was impeccable.
In Act I, Donald Fehr took to the podium, did a little exposition, and gave a sunny outlook on negotiations. Finally, towards the end of the act, we got the catalyst: a disappointing voicemail that Fehr received offstage, leading us to act two.
In Act II, we got our rising action, as well as some character development, as Fehr's outlook soured and we learned that, in typical act two fashion, it became clear that the forces of antagonism that confronted him were, at this point, too much to overcome.
In Act III, we finally got to meet those forces, as Bettman and Daly stormed the microphone for a dazzling climax, where the evening reached its most intense points, dramatic questions were answered, and everyone left with a new sense of who they really are.
2. Guy Serota, champion of ass mode
We hardly knew you, Guy. On Monday, November 28, it was announced that the NHL and NHLPA would allow mediators into the room to help facilitate some progress in their talks. One such mediator was Guy Serota, whose name sounded like a Knack song, and whose Twitter timeline, as we soon discovered, was full of lunacy, from a strange tweet about Sarah Silverman to an affinity for "ass mode".
After the hockey Twitterverse piled on, Serota was removed from the case with a release claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. It probably hadn't.
1. The Podium
From Clint Eastwood's chair to Jon Quick on Stanley Cup Media Day to the NHL podium, 2012 was the year we discovered that inanimate objects can be downright enthralling. On Tuesday, December 5th, the NHL's black podium was brought to the stage, set up, and then simply abandoned. For two hours.
Soon, it wasn't just a podium. It was a poignant metaphor for the NHL itself. As long as the principal operators in CBA negotiations remained in their room, it served no purpose whatsoever. It was just a logo on a lectern with no action behind it. The longer it lingered, the funnier it became.
It was the height of absurdist comedy and far and away the most absurd moment of the 2012 NHL lockout.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney 673 days
Break Sports News. Join The Tribe. What Is BallTribe?