The NHL stabbed a composite defenseman's stick through the hearts of fans everywhere with the announcement of this latest work stoppage/strike/ransoming. Clutching his Montreal jersey closer to his pathetic frame, Mr. Night can only lie on the sofa and watch VHS tapes of Don Cherry's Rock 'em Sock 'em Hockey; in the absence of his beloved game, he lacks the will even to get up to use the bathroom.
Brace up, Mr. Night (and change your pants while you're at it, Puddles): At 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, October 23, hockey returns to the Show-Me State in the form of the Missouri River Otters' home opener against the Quad City Mallards (at the St. Charles Family Arena, 2002 Arena Parkway; 314-534-1111 for tickets). That's right, puckface! The United Hockey League takes the ice even as the big boys pout, providing all the slam-bang action of Canada's greatest export at a fraction of the cost. Tickets are $7 to $20; that's a rink-side, hands-on-the-glass seat for an Andrew Jackson. Sure, the Otters finished at the bottom of the UHL standings last year, but they've added gritty forward Quinten Van Horlick to the roster (182 PIMs in 58 games with Rockford last season) and Canadian giant Rodney Sundquist to the blue line (he's 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds' worth of defense), so the team should at least have a fighting chance. But what matters most is that they're playing the game at all. The Otters take the ice again at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday, October 24, against the brand-new Motor City Mechanics. It is with the utmost joy that we shout, "Game on!" -- Paul Friswold
Reliving your past is good. It shows you who you were and just what you've become, for better or worse. High school reunions work this way -- and so does Mizzou's Homecoming. Start the weekend off right by arriving in Columbia, Missouri, before 10 p.m. on Friday night (October 22) to enjoy the bizarre wonders that are House Decs (basically, many pieces of plywood covered with tiny pieces of colored tissue paper fashioned in some sort of design). This is weird enough that even your non-Greek, non-alumnus significant other should be intrigued. Don't gawk for too long, though: You need to get some rest for your soul-searching (and drinking) at the 2:30 p.m. Oklahoma State game Saturday, October 23. Call 800-228-7297 or visit www.missouri.edu for your bleacher-seat tickets ($40). -- Alison Sieloff
Pork steaks are considered a uniquely St. Louisan delicacy, and aficionados are always on the lookout for the perfect pig (one expert claims it was barbecued on Independence Day, 2003, in the Collinsville, Illinois, backyard of Lee Wallace). Those still on the hunt for that elusive hunk of heaven are strongly advised to attend the World Pork Steak Championship in the Harrah's Casino parking lot (770 Casino Center Drive; 314-770-8100) on Friday, October 22. For $15 guests sample the best efforts of six pro teams (that fee includes two side dishes and a beverage) between 5 and 8 p.m. The amateurs get their shot on Saturday, October 23, between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.; admission is free, and you can purchase samples. Everyone's a winner when pork is involved! -- Paul Friswold
Into the Woods
It's Halloween time again: The holiday where glutting oneself on candy corn (or worse) is pretty much a rite of passage, and bloating ensues. But before you rush out to buy those clown pants, consider the Fort Belle Fontaine Haunted Hike (13300 Bellefontaine Road; 314-544-5714; $8). It's a great time to take a Halloween constitutional and digest sugar. At 6, 7 and 8 p.m., a guide leads you around the grounds of the first American fort west of the Mississippi River -- and introduces you to some creepy characters along the way. It's a rugged kind of place and a rugged kind of hike. The B. F. Historical Society warns that this hike is not for the faint of heart -- resilient footwear and a good Halloween spirit are recommended. -- Christine Whitney