There's a dilemma that surfaces in workplaces across the country every year at this time.
No, not who gets dibs on the boss's parking spot when he goes on vacation.
This is the type of thing that can tear co-workers apart, leading to fisticuffs at the water cooler.
The dilemma is this: what do you say to someone whose NHL team has just been eliminated from the playoffs?
Or, more importantly, what should you not say?
If your workplace is anything like The Sun sports department (heaven help your company), you've already faced this issue a few times this spring.
You see, all winter long the hockey fan is a hopelessly optimistic type, convinced his or her team actually has a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Even in Toronto.
When that hope is snatched away, they're liable to sink into a deep depression normally seen only after watching hours of reality television or listening to a Celine Dion album.
But the typical office crowd has no mercy.
For instance, our lone Detroit Red Wings fan showed up for work well into the day yesterday -- perhaps hoping we'd got it all out of our systems by then -- and was greeted with "I can't believe you didn't phone in dead. Just like your (censored) team."
Soon the poor guy was being bombarded from all directions, while being force-fed a day-long diet of Martin Gelinas replays.
Adding injury to insult, we received a package in the mail promoting legendary Wings coach Scotty Bowman as the newest spokesperson for erectile dysfunction.
"So much for the theory Bowman's absence was the reason the Wings couldn't score," someone said, and on it went.
When our Wings fan asked everybody what was so funny, we had an answer for that, too.
"What's so funny is Brett Hull shot a 93 today."
Needless to say, our employee's production dropped off significantly -- he was reduced to regurgitating press releases and working on "long-term features," the newspaper equivalent of the seventh defenceman.
So in the interests of productivity, we bring you ...
The Do's and Don'ts of Office Razzing -- A Guide to Playoff Hockey Etiquette:
Do feel free to say something like, "At least my team lasted longer than yours," if your team is still alive.
If your team didn't make the playoffs, it's probably best to keep your mouth shut. Ditto if you don't even have a favourite team.
Do feel free to razz after your team is sent packing.
But don't start the very next day. A good rule of thumb is to wait three days before unloading your fury on a co-worker.
Do express mock sympathy. Sending a sympathy card is not going over the top, particularly to a Habs fan.
Don't say, "Well, there's always next year." That's like telling someone who's had a death in the family they still have plenty of other nice relatives.
Calling a fan at home to rub it in is acceptable, as long as you wait until the game is over.
Never call during the action, no matter what the score. You'd be better to interrupt during sex.
Jumping on a team's bandwagon simply to stick it to someone else -- even though you've never thought twice about that team before -- is acceptable.
Switching from bandwagon to bandwagon as the playoffs go on is not. Just one jump per person, please.
Hopefully, these guidelines help keep things civil at the plant.
And remember, be prepared to get as much as you give.
After all, the guy who led the charge in our office yesterday was a Leafs fan.
No mercy at the office
PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
, Last Updated: 2:29 PM ET