Where have you gone, Connor McDavid? Our nation of hockey fans turns its lonely eyes to you.
You, too, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and all those other star players toiling somewhere in Canada who might as well be playing in Novosibirsk for all we see of them these days.
Come to think of it, same goes for many U.S.-based hockey luminaries, from Patrick Kane to Nathan MacKinnon.
Instead, we get the Sabres. Lots and lots and lots of Sabres.
.Buffalo has played 23 games since returning from a two-week COVID-19 absence in early February, including 12 against the Islanders, Rangers or Devils. They have lost 21 of those 23, the past 17 in a row.
Our mission here is not to criticize the NHL. The league did an admirable job navigating last summer by using playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton en route to awarding the Stanley Cup to a team from Florida.
This year’s division-games-only, no-border-crossings schedule also is a means to an end — the end being getting through another season on the road to normalcy (we hope) come autumn.
The most important thing for fans is having the Islanders and Rangers playing at all, generally pretty well of late. And we do get lots of looks at Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the two best players of the 21st century.
But still . . . this is getting tedious.
Part of the fun of pro sports’ long regular-season grind is the variety of athletes and cities and colorful uniforms that parade across our television screens along the way.
Baseball lost a lot of that with its limited-travel schedule last summer and fall, while the NFL stuck to its usual travel plan and the NBA now is doing so as well.
Hence we get a juicy, potential NBA Finals preview matchup such as Nets at Jazz on Wednesday. Well, in theory, anyway, as one never knows which Nets will decide to play on a given night.
Meanwhile, in the NHL: The farthest the Islanders and Rangers will travel before the conference finals is Buffalo, which for those of you who are not geography buffs means not even leaving the state.
They might as well have ditched airplane rides altogether and just rented three Chevy Suburbans for the season. When driving through New Jersey for games against the Devils or Flyers, they wouldn’t even have to pump their own gas.
The current situation makes it all the more remarkable that the NHL existed with six franchises for 25 seasons from 1942-67, a state of affairs difficult to imagine for any hockey fan under age 60.
By the time I started following the league in 1969-70, at least there were 12 teams, some of them new ones with colorful uniforms a young fan could embrace. The Blues! The Seals! The Kings! (I picked the Blues.)
Anyway, here we are. For hardcore fans, there of course are ways to see teams outside the East on national TV and/or through digital subscriptions. But for the many of us who mostly watch the locals on MSG Networks . . . lots of Sabres. And for the first two rounds of the playoffs, the league will round up the usual suspects for more of the same.
As of Tuesday morning, that would mean the Islanders joining the Capitals, Penguins and Bruins in a four-team mini-tournament with no shortage of star power.
Nothing wrong with that, usually. But by then, Alex Ovechkin might qualify as a resident of New York State. (Do not explain the state and local taxes to him, please. Making him angry is unhelpful.)
First things first: Let’s get this regular season over with.