If the National Hockey League's player lockout has you depressed and discouraged, take heart - there are still ample opportunities to get your hockey fix.
While a poll released this week shows more than half of Canadians don't care one way or the other about the NHL dispute, a substantial minority of our citizens are trying to come to terms with the grim and near-certain possibility that the hockey season will not start on Oct. 11 as scheduled.
But there's more to hockey than the NHL. The Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League are looking good as they finished their pre-season with a 4-2 record that included four straight wins. Hockey well worth watching.
You can get another hockey fix by taking in Victoria Grizzlies games, as the Junior A players take on other teams in the B.C. Hockey League.
If that's not enough, sample some bantam, midget or peewee games of the Victoria Minor Hockey League. The action might not be fast as with the older teams, but you'll see young athletes playing their hearts out (although you might want to avoid that certain species of parent prone to settling disputes physically).
And, although this might sound terribly un-Canadian, you could look for ways to break the hockey habit. The September sunshine is an especially fine vintage this year, and you'll find its effects intoxicating, especially if filtered through the colourful leaves along the Galloping Goose trail, or taken with generous servings of ocean air along Dallas Road.
Stroll among the ancient cedars of Goldstream Provincial Park or under the Douglas firs along the winding Ridgetop Trail that traverses the length of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, and you will find you won't miss the shrill of referees' whistles and the roar of wrought-up hockey fans.
A soft breeze whispering through conifers can be habitforming, but it's a habit with no adverse side-effects.
Spend time with family. Renew old friendships. Help out at a food bank. The possibilities are endless.
And if the miracle happens, a contract is signed and the NHL players return to the ice, you can go back to your hockey addiction, but this time with the confidence that you can quit any time you want.
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