Addicted to Hockey? Round IV

With all of the pressures associated with holidays (heading to the, ugh, mall, wrapping unevenly shaped presents, stringing up outdoor lights and dealing with family you'd rather not see), it's no wonder that anxiety levels run high.

Couple that with the fact the holidays run dab smack in the middle of the NHL season and conditions exist for a 10-minute misconduct penalty in life. I'm not surprised, then, that certain symptoms of hockey addiction manifest themselves at this time of the year.

Please, take my advice, and seek professional help, namely within the premium club seats, if you recognize yourself in any of the following:

~ Your Christmas wish list contains at least three hockey-related items. Mine are a new Buffalo Sabres jersey, a $100 gift certificate from my puck supplier and a better return from the Tampa Bay Lightning on our hockey investment.

~ You make sure that tag affixed to the wrapping of one specific Christmas present to your highly impressionable 5-year-old son says the item inside (It's a Sidney Crosby jersey, but, please, don't tell Colin) comes from the game's best player. Even better, is that he just might get it signed by that player before a game Jan. 9, 2007, in Tampa.

~ Your idea of exchanging pleasantries with neighbors includes pulling their shirts, or jerseys, over their heads and giving them a couple of haymakers. Just kidding. Violence seldom solves anything. Unless, of course, it takes place on a rink.

~ You leave out a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of ice-cold milk just in case one of these Santa's helpers stops by for a quick visit in the days ahead. Ho! Ho! Ho!

~ You can assign NHL identities to Santa's reindeer: Dasher = Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby; Dancer = Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk; Prancer = Washington's Alexander Ovechkin; Vixen = New Jersey's Martin Brodeur; Comet = Minnesota's Brian Rolston; Cupid = Dallas' Mike Modano; Donder = Calgary's Dion Phaneuf; and Blitzen = Los Angeles' Sean Avery. We'll also throw in ex-NHL coach Pat Quinn, and his big red nose, as Rudolph.

~ You keep telling the good people at the Lightning's souvenir stands that they should push team brass to come up with, at the least, a third jersey. Or, even better, would be a new jersey. I doubt I'm alone in believing the Lightning's yawn-inducing logo and jerseys are among the league's worst. I also wouldn't mind more of a selection of items, rather than overpriced $5 pucks, from the 29 other NHL teams.

~ You book a quick trip back to New England, under the guise of wanting to watch a certain NHL game involving the Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden, so you can really pay a holiday visit to some old "friends" back there. Sorry, boys, but I won't share the particulars. I would, however, keep the lights on, your eyes open and your heads up.

~ You know that wearing a Lightning hat and, once again, losing your voice urging the hometown team to shoot will far outweigh the wearing of a Lowell Lock Monsters jersey, autographed by the Hurricanes' Eric Staal and Cam Ward, to a game between Carolina and Tampa Bay. Too bad, though, the buck-a-hump Lightning still lost.

~ You arrange an unauthorized Get Scotty Bowman's Autograph Night (see next-to-last item) at an upcoming Montreal-Tampa Bay game because the dinosaur, albeit legendary, can't find 30 seconds to sign a game program. Am I whining? Sure. Do I care? No, not really. It makes good copy, though, and it's all in good fun. Now, if I could just get a few others on board . . .

~ Unlike some other hockey blogs, especially one in the Tampa Bay area, you take great care to adequately credit the source of your quotes, even providing a link to the article, rather than lifting and using the comments as if you spoke to the GM or player yourself.

~ You stay awake until 3 a.m. some nights arranging cards for the rest of your hounding season, cataloguing your autographs or stockpiling much more challenging photos for next year's What's This? contest.

~ Despite your own fears, which are primarily financial in nature, you buy your son a goalie stick that's way taller than he is.

For other questions to check on your condition, feel free to click here, here and here.

Whatever your faith, and wherever you're from, Hound Central 2.0 wishes you a safe and happy holidays. Unless, of course, I'll be stopping by your house, with one of my helpers, to pay a personal visit.

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