My rear end is frozen. I do not care. I am sitting alone at center ice in Joe Louis Arena, arms folded, legs crossed.

“WHATCHA DOIN’ OUT THERE?” a maintenance man yells.

“W-w-waiting,” I say.

I will wait a long time. I figure sooner or later, someone is going to emerge and tell us this is all a joke. We can come back now, ha-ha, very funny. You really thought hockey season was over?

“HOW LONG YOU GONNA SIT THERE?” the maintenance man yells.

“L-l-long as it t-t-takes,” I say.

Long as it takes. I read the calendar. It is May 3. We cannot be done on May 3. Not Detroit. Not the Red Wings. Did someone forget? This is the team that was supposed to go to the Stanley Cup final. This is the team that even Don Cherry said was going to the Stanley Cup final. Did someone forget that? I think someone forgot that. I am waiting for that someone. I will give him a piece of my mind.

Soon as it defrosts.

“YA CAN’T SIT THERE FOREVER!” the maintenance man yells.

“It won’t t-t-take forever,” I say.

It won’t. It can’t. There are games to be played. Never mind that the halls are empty. Never mind that the locker room is freshly vacuumed, the stools are turned upside down, and there are no uniforms anywhere. Never mind all that.

“Bryan Murray must be r-r-resting the boys,” I say. “You k- k-know. Giving them a b-b-break before the next series.”

“WHAT SERIES?” yells the maintenance man.

What a clod!

A good seat for playoffs

Funny. I had a similar experience last week at the Palace. I heard this ridiculous rumor that the Pistons would not participate in the NBA playoffs, even though it is May, and they are always in the playoffs in May — any fool can tell you that — and so I drove out to tell those people that they’ve got to stop spreading these rumors. It’s bad for business.

And coach Ron Rothstein obviously had given the players a day off to rest because the locker room was, well, locked. And the lights were dimmed in the tunnel. And the baskets were taken down and there were, like, rock concert amplifiers on the floor.

“WHATCHA DOIN’ OUT THERE?” a maintenance man yelled, as I sat cross-legged at mid-court. At least I think it was mid- court.

“I’m waiting,” I said. “And you better get these amplifiers outta here. Rothstein’s gonna be ticked.”

“ROTHSTEIN? GOOD ONE! HAHAHAHA!”

What a clod!

Anyhow, I would have stayed at the Palace until someone showed up, but I heard these janitors Sunday morning, they were shaking their heads saying, “I can’t believe it. Wings lost? Overtime to Toronto?” They were almost crying. And I figured, whoever’s playing this joke, it’s gone far enough.

So I came down here. Center ice.

And here I sit.

Here I sit.

Waiting.

I can’t feel my butt anymore.

“YOU SURE YOU DON’T WANT TO COME OFF?” the maintenance man yells.

“They’ll be here s-s-soon,” I say.

Won’t they?

Too soon for baseball

Sure they will. It is May 3, for crying out loud! May 3. As in “May 3? Where do I go tonight, the second round of the NHL playoffs or the first round of the NBA?” As in “May 3? Which story do we put atop the sports page, boss, basketball or hockey?”

May 3, when we talk about Yzerman one night, Dumars the next. May 3, when we flip from George Blaha to Bruce Martyn, from “O Canada” to “The Star Spangled Banner,” from octopus to mink coats. May 3. One sport to the other. May 3.

Busy, busy, busy.

And suddenly, there is no busy.

Suddenly, there is only silence. As if aliens came during the night and kidnapped our sports teams. All these empty locker rooms and closed ticket windows and seats with no popcorn underneath. No horns. No whistles. No music.

“THERE’S A BASEBALL GAME DOWN THE STREET, PAL!” the maintenance man says.

“B-b-baseball?” I say.

I know all about baseball. I know there are five more months to watch baseball, and we will get to it, as always, as soon as hockey and basketball are over. You can’t just do baseball in early May. It’s too soon. It’s not enough. Baseball. What a clod!

“H-h-helllooooooo!” I yell softy, my voice echoing through the cavernous arena. “H-h-helllooo . . . “

Where are these guys?

Isn’t anyone coming to practice?

I rub my arms. I shiver. I see them slide the “Red Wings” sign out of the scoreboard, a blank space now, ready for the next team to rent the facility. They only do that at the end of the season, right?

The end of the season?

Wait a minute.

“HEY! MISTER! YOU FEELIN’ OK?”

I want to tell him no. I want to tell him I can’t be. I want to tell him I feel lousy and depressed, like I just lost two friends in a single week.

I can’t.

My jaw is frozen.

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