ESCANABA - Saturday afternoon, I visited my good friend, the NHL. He's had a rough couple decades since he was put into a treatment center, the Gary Bettman home for rehabilitation.
There are a lot of things I don't like about the way the center is being run. They keep trying to make NHL something he's not, pumping him full of this or that to get him to fall in line with his colleagues, namely the NBA.
It was always "Why can't you be more like NBA?" and "NBA has teams in Florida and Arizona and you don't see him complaining."
The Bettman center tried to improve NHL's image by changing his name. They name things like Eastern and Western in place of his birth names, Clarence Campbell and Prince of Wales, in order to "rehabilitate" NHL so he would be accepted by society.
Somehow, it finally clicked and NHL was living the glitzy life. But it soon got out of hand. He developed a gambling problem, shelling out cash at the blackjack table like it was going out of style. People told him "slow down, you're going too fast," but once NHL got a taste, there was no going back.
At any rate, all of this "tweaking" of NHL's lifestyle didn't go over very well. The Bettman center monitored his progress and didn't like what he saw.
Now he's back here.
It's a shame too.
NHL was making such great progress. People didn't think he was going to last much longer after the last time he was here, but NHL was a fighter and he proved them wrong. NHL came back stronger than perhaps ever before. We thought he had reached a breakthrough and his troubles were behind him. Then, just as everything seemed to be going well, he suffered a setback.
This is indeed a blow to everyone who has followed NHL's progress. We were all there, cheering NHL on through every step, making remarks to each other on how he exceeded even our highest expectations.
Now we are back to square one and our worst fears may be coming to light - that the past six years of progress may be undone.
Some of us, who put in our time and energy to support NHL through these trying times, may throw our hands up in the air and say "we're done."
Some will call out the rehabilitation center. "the Gary Bettman center is clearly not working out. It's time to move NHL to the Brendan Shanahan center," you may say. Others may say, "No, the Gary Bettman center is not the problem, it is the doctors that work there. I don't think some of them even have a degree."
And we may argue for someone's head over what has happened to our dear NHL.
You may be angry, and with good reason. You gave NHL a helping hand for all of those years, and he didn't learn anything?
You may be disappointed. You gave NHL the support he needed and he let you down again. You may not be mad, but you don't exactly care anymore either.
Then there are some of us who stick by NHL, though we aren't exactly sure where his life is headed. We watch from a distance, hoping something will come along that turns his life around.
Me? I just want the old NHL back. The NHL I knew as a kid. We used to have some good times.
But I fear that NHL isn't coming back. I fear the Gary Bettman home has ruined him. So, I'm looking for a new cause.
I was introduced the other day to another intriguing individual. His potential, I am told is even higher than NHL's. He has everything in the world going for him, he just keeps doing stupid things that get him into trouble. He's young though, I think all he needs is a helping hand.
His name is NCAA.