Back to the Lockout II
Back to the Future meets the NHL lockout meets boredom meets what do you mean there hasn't been an NHL game in over six months.
In honor of the lockout continuing into the new year, I have written this parody as a way to get my mind off of all the bargaining and meetings and podiums that, quite frankly, aren't leading to anything. This is a sequel to nothing because I like Back to the Future II better (yeah, I said it).
You should probably watch Back to the Future II before you read this. And Back to the Future I before II, because otherwise you'll be confused. And you might as well watch Back to the Future III to see what happens.
* * * * *
Logan Couture was having a pretty good day. His team was solidly in first place in the Pacific division, coach had promised a short practice, and he was planning on watching the Winter Classic afterwards with a few teammates. The only thing that could make it better, he reasoned, was if it was his team in the Winter Classic.
He walked towards the San Jose Sharks practice rink in a good mood when all of a sudden, there was a huge flash that halted him in his tracks.
A Delorean had appeared in front of him, and a slightly frantic Ilya Bryzgalov stumbled out of the car, looking around for Couture.
"Logan! Logan! You've got to go back with me!"
Couture automatically took a step away. "Back where?"
"Back to the future!"
He looked at Bryzgalov like he was crazy. "The future? Wait a minute, is that, is that a time machine?"
Bryzgalov looked over at the Delorean. "Oh, right. Yes, this is a time machine. Flux capacitor makes it possible, 1.21 gigawatts, 142 kilometers per hour, all that stuff. Anyways, you have to come with me!"
"Why do I have to go to the future? Is something wrong? Is this some weird Russian joke? Did Jumbo put you up to this?"
"It's the Bills, Logan! Something has got to be done about the Buffalo Bills!"
On one hand, Bryzgalov was acting crazy, even more so than usual. On the other, he did just appear out of thin air in a Delorean. And something was wrong with the Bills. So he decided to go along with it, and got in the vintage 80s car.
"So where are we going? I mean, I guess, when are we going?" Couture asked, looking around the car and wondering what all the wires and switches did.
"October 21, 2015!" Bryzgalov looked at Couture. "You better buckle up, because you're about to see some serious shit."
Couture did as he was told as Bryzgalov flicked a few switches and started driving the car, increasing in speed down the streets of San Jose. The speedometer kept climbing closer and closer to the 142 kilometers that was marked on the dashboard. As the car reached that speed, blue sparks shot around around the car, obscuring the windshield momentarily, then revealing completely different scenery.
"SHIT!" Couture screamed as Bryzgalov put on the brakes, narrowly avoiding a strip mall. "Where are we? Is this 2015?"
"Da! This is October 21, 2015! And we are in Buffalo, New York!" Bryzgalov unbuckled himself and pulled a newspaper out of the backseat.
"Buffalo? Why that's awfully convenient."
"Well, yeah, nothing happens in San Jose."
Couture had to agree with that. "So what's going on? What's wrong with the Bills? And why did you bring me?"
Bryzgalov unfolded the newspaper and pointed to the top story. "The entire Bills team was caught taking PEDs! Roger Goodell suspended the entire team and put replacement players in their place! I traveled further into the future, and this team makes out-of-conference SEC opponents look competitive! And it's all from one single incident that happened today, October 21, 2015."
Couture's eyes widened as he skimmed the paper. "An SEC opponent? You can't be serious."
"Their quarterback is Mark Sanchez."
He paused, processing the news. "Are there...?"
"Yes, there are butt fumbles."
Couture looked at Bryzgalov. Sure, the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls, and they were from Buffalo, but they were never so bad that they'd do something as embarrassing as a butt fumble. "So what do you want me to do, Bryz?"
"One of the guys from the team is going to pick up the supplements from this sports outlet. You need to pretend to be him and get the supplements. Don't talk to anyone else, don't touch anything else, don't do anything else or you might destroy the universe!"
"Okay, okay!" Couture looked over to the store. "So how exactly do I do this?"
Bryzgalov looked at him like he was crazy. "I don't know, just make something up! The guy behind the counter is half-blind and will believe anything."
"Then why don't you do it?"
"I'm Russian, why would I be playing American football?"
Couture had to agree with that, so walked with Bryzgalov into the sports outlet. It was small, and looked like someone tried to pack a Sports Authority into a tiny space, but didn't do a very good job of it. A slightly hunched over man was standing in the back, looking at hockey section while sneaking glances over at the basketball books.
"Hey Gary, if I told you once, I've told you a thousand times - if you're not buying anything, you gotta leave!" The guy at the counter yelled at the man.
Gary started to inch out the store, glancing at Couture and Bryzgalov. "That guy looks familiar," Bryzgalov muttered, but Couture couldn't place him.
"We're here to pick up the, uh, stuff," Couture proclaimed to the guy at the counter in a stage whisper.
The guy squinted at the pair. "Oh, so you're from-"
"Just a second," the man ducked into the back room as Couture and Bryzgalov looked around.
"Wow, look at this!" Couture walked over, picked up a book on display near the front, and read the title while walking back towards the counter. "Lockouts for Dummies. Imagine if whats-his-face had this back in 2004 when the last CBA was up!"
Bryzgalov smirked at the book. "Bettman. Yeah, we could have had games cancelled. Good thing he was fired that September and the season started on time. Imagine what could have been!"
"Seriously." Couture stuffed the book into a nearby rack. "So after we get the, er, stuff, what do we do with it?"
"We'll take it back to 2013 in the Delorean, and dump it out then," Bryzgalov explained.
Gary, who had been half-listening to the conversation, grabbed a copy of Lockouts for Dummies, stuffed it into his coat, and ran to the Delorean, with Couture and Bryzgalov none the wiser.
"Cool, cool." Couture looked around until a headline from a newspaper on the counter caught his eye. "The Cubs are in the World Series? After beating Miami? Geez, the future is strange."
Bryzgalov shook his head, the only response to Cubs playoff success.
Couture's eyes drifted to the paper again. "Man, that guy is taking a long time."
"I wonder what's going on..." Bryzgalov leaned over the counter to peek into the back room.
"I'm here, I'm here!" The man scurried out of the back room, holding a jug of what looked like protein powder in his arms. "Now, I don't really condone this, but you guys gotta win. You just gotta. I've got a lot of money riding on you guys to win this weekend, and it wouldn't be too great for me if you lose. And it probably wouldn't be too great for you, either. Got it?"
Couture and Bryzgalov looked at each other. "Uhh, sure," Couture said, while Bryzgalov nodded.
"Good." Suddenly, there was a loud bang outside the store. "Now get outta here before anyone notices!"
Couture grabbed the jug and both he and Bryzgalov hurried out of the store. As they exited, they noticed Gary walking quickly out of the parking lot, away from the Delorean, but they didn't think much of it.
Bryzgalov opened the door to the Delorean as Couture put the jug in the backseat. "That should do it! Good work, Logan."
Both hockey players climbed into the car. Bryzgalov input January 1, 2013 and San Jose, CA into the car and started driving, picking up speed. Blue flashes surrounded the car as they approached 142 kilometers per hour, blinding them until they started slowing, back in San Jose and back in 2013.
Couture got out of the car, taking the jug of supplements with him. "I'll dump it out in these bushes!" he yelled back to Bryzgalov, who nodded. He unscrewed the lid and dumped the brownish powder in the bushes. He looked around and spotted a dumpster, so jogged over there and tossed the now-empty jug into it with a clatter. Looking back to Bryzgalov, he gave a thumbs up.
Bryzgalov shouted, "Good! See you on the tenth!"
Couture waved as Bryzgalov sped away, the Delorean disappearing as he went back to Phoenix.
Couture walked into Sharks Ice, but something felt... different. Wrong, somehow. He shook the feeling off and tried to open the door to the locker room. Locked.
Looking around, he spotted someone who worked there. "Excuse me, but can you open the door to the locker room for me? Someone must have accidentally locked it."
The worker looked at him, confused. "Um, you're not allowed in there. It's the rules, remember?"
Now it was Couture's turn to be confused. "Wait, what rules? What are you talking about?"
"The lockout rules, dude," the worker shook his head. "Man, I guess what they say about players from the CHL were right," he mumbled.
"What lockout? When did this happen? I was just here yesterday!"
"Yesterday? The league shut down back in September!"
Couture could do nothing but stare as the worker gave him a look and walked away. September? Shut down? What the hell is going on?
He pulled out his phone to check, to make sure that it wasn't Thornton or Demers pulling another prank. But when he opened Twitter, his heart sank. Instead of tweets about that afternoon's Winter Classic, they were all saying something about "this lockout" and "drop dead date" and "make whole," whatever that meant.
"Please don't be true, please don't be true, please don't be true..." he muttered to himself as he searched "NHL lockout," hoping that somehow this was an elaborate and over-the-top prank.
As he read the links, it became clearer and clearer that the lockout was real, the two sides were stubborn and unyielding, and he somehow went back to this horrible alternate dimension where the NHL was the one known for lockouts, rather than the NBA as it was normally. Not only did it look like the NHL was heading for a lost season, they already had a lockout that cancelled an entire season not ten years before.
Even worse, the Bills still sucked.
"No. No! It can't be true!" Couture screamed at his phone.
A bang and a flash appeared in the corner of his eye. Bryzgalov jumped out of the Delorean and yelled at Couture, "It's true! Now get in!"
There was no way he was going to stay in this horrible world. He hopped into the Delorean, ready to see what exactly was going on and what the hell happened to cause this near-post-apocalyptic world that had no hockey in it.
"Do you know what's happening?" Bryzgalov asked.
"All I know is that there's a lockout and everything is all wrong." Couture put on his seat belt.
"I did some research after I found out," Bryzgalov said as he pulled out some print-outs and newspapers.
Couture looked at Bryzgalov, questioning him.
"What's the point of having a time machine if you can't take advantage of being able to research something for a few hours and then going back to before you start? Anyways, it looks like this is the second lockout since 2004, and that one wiped out the entire season."
Couture nodded, knowing that much.
"Did you know that there's a salary cap now? And there's a team in Winnipeg! Which will never work, because there are no parks," Bryzgalov shook his head in disgust. "Worst of all, I play for Philadelphia! Badly! And they think I'm crazy! How am I crazy?"
Couture laughed uneasily. "Do you have any idea why this is different?"
"Look at this!" Bryzgalov held up a business card stating ‘Gary Bettman, CEO of National Car Detailing Association.' "I found this in the Delorean! He must have been the guy in the shop, and somehow overhead us talking and used the time machine to alter the past to create it into this alternate dystopian timeline!"
"Bettman!" Couture swore.
"It makes perfect sense - the point where the timeline diverges from normal is when Bettman wasn't fired in September 2004! And look at this photo!" Bryzgalov pointed to a print-out of Bettman standing at a podium with a distinctive yellow book stuffed in his pocket. "That's Lockouts for Dummies!"
"So we just need to find out when he got that book!" Couture exclaimed.
Couture looked out the car. "I'll ask him."
* * *
Bryzgalov and Couture arrived at the New York headquarters of the NHL and went up to the offices. There was a receptionist when they got off on the twelfth floor, but that wasn't a problem.
"Just act like you belong, and she won't question it," Bryzgalov whispered to Couture.
Couture nodded, and the two walked briskly past the receptionist into the maze of NHL offices.
That was easy, Couture thought to himself.
The NHL offices were near-empty, with almost no activity that was detectable from the hallways. There were doors lining the hall, with names both familiar and foreign to the two, listing the NHL executives. Finally, they came to the door marked "Gary Bettman."
"You stand guard, I'll confront Bettman by myself," Couture told Bryzgalov, his hand on the doorknob.
Bryzgalov nodded and made himself look busy outside the door.
Couture slowly turned the knob and opened the door, peering inside. There was Bettman, sitting behind his desk, smirking at his computer screen. On the desk, among the paper clutter, Couture could see a the corner of a well-worn yellow book. That's Lockouts for Dummies!
"Bettman!" The sound of Couture's voice made Bettman jump a bit.
"You're not allowed in here! It's in violation of the lockout!" Bettman narrowed his eyes as he recognized Couture. "You're supposed to be in Switzerland, you little son of a bitch!"
"I just wanted to see the man who ruined hockey. And I want to find out how he did it."
"I'm a good businessman. I work for my clients, whose interests just happen to conflict with yours. I'm not ruining hockey, I'm just increasing revenue and establishing cost certainty for my clients," Bettman stated as he leaned back in his chair, tenting his fingers.
"Yeah, sure, whatever you tell yourself. I just want to know about one thing," Couture paused, and then drew out the next three words. "Lockouts. For. Dummies."
Bettman leaned forward, analyzing Couture. He stood up, picking up Lockouts for Dummies as he did so. He weighed it in his hand, looking back and forth between it and Couture. "What about it?"
"Tell me how you got it. How. Where. When..." Couture trailed off.
"All right. I'll tell you. September 1, 2004. That's when I got this book. I was sitting in this exact office when some guy who claimed to be a distant relative of mine showed up. He asked me if I wanted to keep my job. I asked him what he was talking about, and he said that he had insider information that I was going to be fired in a couple of weeks. So I said sure, why not, and he lays this book on me," Bettman looks down at the now dog-eared book.
"He says this book will almost guarantee satisfaction from the owners, that it will ensure cost certainty. I thought why the hell not, negotiations weren't going to well for the NHL anyways. So I took it. And I never saw that guy again."
Bettman turned back to his desk and put the book down on it, covering it again with some stray papers. "He did tell me one more thing. He said that someday, either a Canadian kid or a crazy Russian would ask about it. And if that ever happens..." Bettman walked over to his phone and pressed a button. "Shanahan, get in here. Bring your camera."
Couture looked around. Shanahan? What does he have to do with anything?
Brendan Shanahan walked in, carrying a camera and tripod. "Yeah, boss?"
"Give Logan Couture and Ilya Bryzgalov lifetime suspensions for something, I don't know, make it up," Bettman directed Shanahan before turning back to Couture. "You know, I completely expected Bryzgalov. But you? Never saw it coming."
Couture's eyes widened. He looked around, his eyes falling on the camera. He ran over, grabbed the camera, and threw it on the ground, destroying it. He then bolted out of the room, desperate to escape to the Delorean.
"My camera!" Shanahan shouted, distraught. "I can't suspend anyone without making a video!"
"Forget the camera! After him!" Bettman shouted, pointing after Couture and Bryzgalov.
Couture ran out the door, grabbing onto the doorframe so he could turn quickly. "Back to the car!" he shouted at Bryzgalov, who was still standing slightly bewildered outside of Bettman's office.
They both ran to the elevators, only to see the door shut before they could get on. They looked around wildly.
"The stairs!" Bryzgalov pointed and ran to the door marked as such.
Bryzgalov and Couture ran down the stairs, hearing the shouts of Bettman and Shanahan grow fainter as they distanced themselves. There were many times that being a professional athlete came in handy, and "running away from evil executives" was one of them.
Finally at ground level, they sprinted out the lobby and down the street to the parking garage with the Delorean. They only stopped running when they got into the car and didn't hear anyone coming.
"So when do we have to go?" Bryzgalov said between deep breaths of air.
"September 1, 2004," Couture answered.
Bryzgalov paused. "Well, that date has no real significance, does it?"
Couture shrugged. "It was probably the easiest thing to put in."
Bryzgalov input the date into the Delorean. "I hope this works."
* * *
As the duo walked out into 2004, things seemed different from 2013. Not only were there the differences in technology - there were flip phones as far as the eye could see - but the energy was more positive.
"No lockout yet," Couture breathed in relief.
"Well, yeah, it started on September 15," Bryzgalov responded. "Or will start, if we don't fix this now."
"So what's the plan?" Couture asked. "How are we going to get the book from Bettman?"
"We need to wait for future Bettman to give the book to past Bettman to make sure the time machine will go back to the future, otherwise we could cause a paradox that will destroy the universe!"
"Yeah, that doesn't sound good," Couture said.
"It isn't. After ensuring the avoidance of a paradox, we need to somehow trick Bettman into giving the book up."
"We could just run into his office, take it, and run out," Couture suggested.
"No, because he might see us and recognize us in the future, which would defeat the entire purpose of this mission!"
"Right, right... We could distract him and secretly steal the book, so he doesn't see us." Couture was thinking out loud, looking at fixtures in the ground floor lobby.
"Da, da! But how?"
A red box caught his eye. "The fire alarm! We can cause and evacuation, steal the book during that, and leave!"
"That sounds much easier than trying to take it from him at an almost paradoxical high school dance that leads to a car chase that leaves me stuck in 1885!"
They went up to the now-familiar twelfth story. There was still a receptionist; the same one from before. The two walked past her again without being stopped.
Yup, still easy, Couture thought. Man, she needs to work on that.
Both walked down the hall until they came to Bettman's office, in the same place it was in 2013. The door was cracked slightly open, and they could hear voices from inside.
"...Are you sure I'm about to be fired?" they heard one Bettman ask.
"Positive. Got an inside source that cannot be wrong," future Bettman replied.
There was a pause. "So this book is supposed to fix that?"
"I can't guarantee anything, but I believe if you follow this book, you will be able to hold onto your job."
Couture and Bryzgalov heard the shuffling of pages. "So this lockout looks pretty good for the owners. How do I sell it to the fans?"
Future Bettman replied, "Well, just tell them that it will give the league cost certainty. Tell them, tell them that it will lower ticket prices."
"Lower ticket prices?" past Bettman said in disbelief, before both men started laughing uncontrollably.
"Yeah, fans are gullible like that. Oh, and one last thing. A crazy Russian and a Canadian kid might ask you about it sometime in the future. When that happens, you need to ban both of them from the league. Got it?"
"Got it. Thanks." Suddenly, the door opened and future Bettman walked out, causing Bryzgalov and Couture to duck into the nearest office. The room's occupant, Bill Daly, looked at the pair in confusion.
"Err, sorry. Wrong room," Couture explained, as the pair exited after the coast was clear.
Bryzgalov crept to Bettman's office and peered inside. "He's in there, reading the book!"
Couture looked around and spotted a fire alarm. He pulled it, immediately setting off an ear-splitting alarm and strobe lights all throughout the offices. Crowds of people started streaming out of the offices, grumbling about false alarms and drills. Among them was Bettman, who had an odd combination of joy and disgruntlement on his face.
"He doesn't have the book!" Couture said in a shouted whisper to Bryzgalov.
Bryzgalov nodded and slipped into Bettman's office. He grabbed the book on the desk and slipped out, with nobody paying attention as nobody was looking forward to climbing down twelve flights of stairs.
"Got it!" he said as he got to Couture. "Now let's make like a tree, and get out of here."
"It's make like a tree and leave. You know, like leaves," Couture said as they joined the crowds in the long, slow climb down the stairs.
"That makes so much more sense!" said Bryzgalov.
Finally, they escaped the massive crowd and got to the Delorean. Bryzgalov punched in January 1, 2013, and they made their way back to the future with the book in hand.
In the blink of an eye, they arrived in San Jose, the Delorean skidding on the parking lot pavement.
"Man, I hope this worked," Couture said as he got out of the car, looking around at Sharks Ice. It didn't seem different from when he was there last, but then again, he didn't think it seemed different from the time before that either.
He checked his phone. There was no mention of "lockout" or "make whole" or "#theplayers# in sight.
"WOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" he let out a primal scream, happy and relieved that it was back to normal.
Couture looked back over at Bryzgalov, who had a goofy grin on his face that matched Couture's.
"We did it, man. We stopped the lockout!"
"Oh man, imagine if we had to live with the lockout. That would have been torture."
Bryzgalov got back into the Delorean. "Good luck with the rest of the year. Just not too good of luck."
"Same to you, Bryz!" Couture waved to the Russian as the Delorean sped up and disappeared in a flash of blue sparks.
After what seemed like a whole week's worth of events, Logan Couture walked into Sharks Ice and into the locker room, finally getting to go to practice.