When the National Hockey League lockout was in its early stages, many NHL players sought employment overseas, signing deals with teams belonging to the elite leagues of Europe – the KHL, the SEL, SM-liiga. However, since these leagues couldn’t simply tell their existing players to take a hike in order that some unemployed tourists might steal their jobs, they established restrictions limiting the number of transfer players a team could sign – with every new signing, one more job vanishes from the already scanty European hockey market. Those NHL players who, anticipating a speedy resolution to the lockout, refrained from signing overseas earlier are discovering that their patience was not necessarily a virtue.
And so, like the rest of the working world, these top-tier athletes are feeling increasingly compelled to accept opportunities that would normally be far beneath their abilities. Hockey federations that, in any other year, would be considered mediocre, laughable even, are themselves now filling up to the point of saturation:
For instance, responding to complaints that too many native players have been put out of work through the immigration of NHLers, Chechen Bantam League commissar, Gulag Hockeypuckq, has announced that all visiting players have been reassigned to the Caucasus Mountains’ zinc mining and forced labour team.
Similarly, The Hungarian Skatey Group, a recreational hockey league for that country’s paprika grinders, also famous for icing the world’s fattest ice hockey player, Gergő Blop, a wealthy livestock impersonator, has announced that it will accept no further transfer players.
Kyle Wellwood and Dustin Bufyglien, who joined the Italian Pastry League (the league in which players’ uniforms are bakers’ aprons and the icing rule is the rule where you put icing on a cake), enjoyed several minutes of great hockey before devouring their teammates, the arenas, the league, 10,547 cannoli, Naples, themselves, and each other.
What options remain for the numerous players who have waited till now to consider where they will play hockey if not in the NHL this year? After a thorough survey of every such player and several league and union representatives, conducted entirely in the author’s mind after drinking two bottles of Thunderbird and eating soup found pooling in a garbage dump, we are pleased to present you with the results. Here follows a list of the non-traditional opportunities that remain open to locked-out and currently unemployed NHL players.
- THE SUBTERRANEAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Deep below the earth’s crust, in dank, dimly-lit caverns long lost to human memory, hockey enjoys tremendous popularity among the tribes of mole-people and prehistorical savages who make their miserable dwellings there. These disgusting creatures exist in a state of perpetual warfare, waged entirely to appease the mountain of excrescence they worship as a god. Each night, though, they put down the femora with which they spend their days clubbing each other, and pick up instead the tibiae and metatarsi with which they’ll slap in their cave-goals; they smear their festering hides with mud in shapes that must signify some kind of archaic numeral system – coincidentally, players are asked not to smear the number 99, out of respect to legendary mole player, Filthy Muck, who once ate 987 worms in a single shift. Subterranean Hockey League matches are played on a sheet of frozen mole snot, and the coaches are gross bugs. Star caveman, Ugga Bugga, is currently injured, having wanged his knee on a gnarly stalagmite.
- THE OSSIFEROUS HOCKEY FOUNDATION: The OHF is the first all-skeletal league, with teams located in the world’s great cemeteries, mausolea, and ossuaries – in the dead of night, with the sky black as ink, the ancient and sombre arenas of the OHF become drenched in a thick, gloomy fog, which impedes transgressive footsteps as though it were a cobweb woven from smoke; above, the awful crack of thunder, like the violent splintering of a stout treebranch, like the sound of human limbs being snapped in two; with a mysterious and unsettling indistinctness, Chopin’s “Marche funèbre” can be heard – it is vague and muffled, the arena organist hidden somewhere elusive, and just when you begin to pursue the source of the Hellish melody, it shifts – now, it’s behind you! – turn, and it too has turned – the song and this maddening pursuit fill your mind with frenzied terror – you want with all your being to smash in your own head, long to exile this accursed racket from your mind, to have silence, silence! Oh, the albatross! Oh, the damn’d spot! Out! Out!…. And the level of competition is really great too, for the league employs the reanimated bones of the greatest deceased hockey players, such as Larry Bones and Aloysius Skeleton.
- THE GREEK AUSTERITY LEAGUE: This unconventional league has no games, no teams, no players, no arenas, no pay, and no equipment. Only protesters.
- FUTURE LEAGUE X (ZORLOK LEAGUE): The most progressive of the organized hockey federations, Zorlok – as it will become known during the imminent reign of Zarduk the Zurlorkian – has been groundbreaking for its incorporation of hover helmets, downloadable offsides, and automatic jockstraps (such changes have generally been embraced by both the Zurlorkians and the humans whom they allow to watch the games and whom they have yet to devour, beginning first with the hands and feet, before consuming the head, for the Zurlorkians are capable of perceiving the succulent taste of human agony; less popular has been the move from three periods to a single Zamtron.) NHLers signing with this league have had a hard time keeping up with the post-human players who dominate it, and have in fact to a man been harvested for parts, processed into fuel, or uploaded to The Singularity (where all (trans-)human consciousness interfaces to amass a perfected understanding of everything that is knowable in the universe, to debate and resolve theoretical abstractions, and to develop penalty-kill strategies.)
- ANYWHERE BUT PHOENIX: Maybe a sewer? Or a tar pit?