Even in the chaos of Super Bowl week, Martin Brodeur has not been able to walk the streets of Jacksonville without being recognized. Some fans want his autograph. Others are just happy to meet such a top-level athlete.
What they haven't done is ask him when the NHL will return.
They just don't care.
"I've been stopped a fair bit, but we've had absolutely no conversations or questions about the labour dispute from people here," Brodeur said last night from northeast Florida, where he and New Jersey Devils teammate Grant Marshall will attend tomorrow's Super Bowl game.
"Even back in New Jersey, where I spent a lot of time at the rink at my kids' games, such talk is minimal. It's much different than it is in Canada."
Indeed, the lack of NHL hockey has been greeted with similar indifference throughout most of the U.S. The credo south of the border seems to be "Out of sight, out of mind."
Consider the results of a fan poll run by ESPN.com this week. Asked if they cared that the NHL was expected to cancel the 2004-05 season, a whopping 73% of the 146,514 respondents replied "No."
"The league should really be concerned about its image down here," Brodeur said. "If the league wants to promote the game, then how suddenly does this whole (lockout) become the players' fault?"
MISSED IN MICHIGAN, MAYBE
Percentage of voters who said "Yes" to an ESPN.com survey which asked the question: "Do you care that the NHL is expected to cancel the 2004-05 season?" Location determined by address of the voter's internet service provider.
New Jersey 33%
New York 32%
N. Hampshire 29%
Rhode Island 28%
North Dakota 27%
New Mexico 22%
North Carolina 21%
South Dakota 21%
South Carolina 20%
West Virginia 20%
Outside U.S. 32%