In case you aren't aware, the NHL is still locking out its players and the cancellation of the entire 2012-2013 season is now a real possibility.  While the league tries its best to finish off the sport in America as part of some grander evil scheme (I smell a Cold Waresque espionage conspiracy), hockey continues to fade from the national consciousness.  This doesn't change ESPN's plans too much, ya know, because they don't really cover the NHL to begin with.  However, there is one person at ESPN that is actually paid to talk about hockey.  That one person finally made it on to SportsCenter this morning in a segment that is sadder than the NHL Lockout.

Lone NHL Ranger Barry Melrose has been left to wander through the Bristol wilderness without a league to talk about.  I can envision Melrose aimlessly walking through the ESPN hallways, his trademark mullet disheveled, randomly bumping into people and mascots with nobody recognizing him.  At lunch he has to sit with the unpaid research interns and Norman Chad in the ESPN cafeteria while all the football and basketball guys hang out together.  A regretful existence, for sure.

You're not likely to see a detailed breakdown of CBA negotiations and posturing between Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr anywhere on ESPN airwaves, so Melrose has largely been absent without his sporadic appearances doing highlights.  

Well, ESPN finally found a use for Barry Melrose this morning – dressing him up in a Santa costume, calling him "Barry Claus", and having him ramble on about gifts for different people in sports in front of adults seated on the floor encircled around him.  Barry even wishes the best for Mark Sanchez and his hope that he "resurfaces with the Jets or another team."  Umm… ok?

It's as confusing and depressing and awkwardly edited as it seems.  

And there's Kurt Rambis' head on a stick.

Sweet Jesus.  Just look at the faces of the poor ESPN interns and staffers made to watch this thing.  If this face doesn't radiate the joy of Christmas, I don't know what does.

Please NHL, come back now.  If not for yourselves, then for the health and sanity of Barry Melrose.  

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