TORONTO, CANADA - As the lockout of National Hockey League (NHL) players reached its 117th day (January 10), the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) blamed out-of-work hockey players for a disturbing spike in cabin fever-related incidents. According to CMHA database manager Gordon McKenzie, "we see, on average, a dozen spousal-abuse cases, fifteen to twenty reports of public urination, another fifteen to twenty reports of people with their tongues frozen to flagpoles, a dozen or so serious bar fights, and several ice-fishing-limit violations a week during cabin fever season. This year we've seen 20 to 30 percent increases across the board. It's got to be the unemployed hockey players going mental, eh?"
Cabin fever season runs from November 1 through March 1 in Canada. Classic symptoms of the disease include depression, lethargy, weight gain, irritability, methane gas fires, and claustrophobia. Most Canadians cope with these symptoms by crafting elaborate Anne Murray ice sculptures, building model Zambonis, coloring their beards, training for fruitcake-tossing contests, sleeping with a large Wayne Gretzky nite light, and playing tournament matchbook hockey on the kitchen table. Hockey players, because they are usually away from home during cabin fever season, have never developed these survival skills.
"During cabin fever season the average hockey player is sleeping in luxury hotels, eating in fancy restaurants, and blowing off steam in topless bars" said Gordon McKey, Canada's minister of mental health. "And if he wants to mug somebody, he can do it legally on the ice."
Unfamiliar with fever-reducing techniques, NHL players are making trouble for themselves in unprecedented numbers. Three members of the Toronto Maple Leafs were arrested earlier this month for high-sticking shoppers in the city's Gordon Lightfoot mall. In December no fewer than five members of the Edmonton Oilers were arrested for getting into fights with officials at kinder-school games in which the players' sons were participating.
Some NHL players fled the ravages of cabin fever by joining hockey clubs in Russia and Sweden, but those players have had to cope with their own problems, particularly the language barrier. The Tampa Bay Lightning's Brad Richards, now skating for Ak Bars Kazan in the Republic of Tartarstan, learned-after a waitress had knocked him out with one punch-that "I'll have the Chicken Kiev" and "you have nice breasts" are easily confused in Russian.
The debilitating effects of cabin fever are compounded by recent polls indicating that hockey fans don't give a flying puck about the lockout. In a recent Gallup poll, hockey finished tenth in a field of eleven in a most-popular-sports survey, behind such crowd pleasers as figure skating and curling, and ahead of only pro wrestling. Indeed, Canadians were more worried about the economic impact of American liberals migrating to Canada than they were about the impact of the NHL lockout.
In related news, police officials in cities across Canada report a drop in public disturbances and unauthorized urination among the general public on nights when NHL games would have been played.