As the NHL trade deadline approaches, hockey fans from every corner of the globe anxiously await the “breaking news” that “X ” Superstar is headed to their team for the playoff run, or that “Y” Locker-Room Cancer has been banished to rot away on a team that is 20 games under .500. For some fans, this time of year means nothing; your GM is confident that he has the right pieces for a contender and is content to stand pat. But no matter what you feel or who you root for, the trade deadline is always guaranteed to be filled with drama and excitement, even if the “blockbuster deal” never happens.
Here’s the thing: How many of us have actually sat back and thought “I wonder what it’s like for the player involved?” Think about it, folks. It’s like working 3/4 of a fiscal year with Sony, and then abruptly being forced out and winding up at Toshiba. Or having a great job at Tavern on the Green in NYC, but you dropped one too many cups of coffee, so you’re being shipped out to peddle McLatte’s at the Golden Arches. It’s a big change. And it’s a change that gets even more complicated if you find yourself heading to that one organization you can’t stand and thought you would never play for.
I asked this question on Twitter last week, and got some great responses.
- Tampa: “Organization is a complete mess.”
- Phoenix: “Worried about the health of the organization.”
- Toronto: “Because it’s Toronto.” (immediately followed by…)
- Ottawa: “Because it’s Ottawa.” (HOORAY REGIONAL RIVALRIES!)
- Pittsburgh: “Superstar, not coaching, issues.”
- New York Rangers: “Coaching/GM problems.” (Are they fixed now via the Torts hire?)
- Colorado: “Just say no!”
- St. Louis: “Bad Location. Bad Uniforms.”
As you can see, the reasons are endless as to why to avoid certain teams and markets, based on personal preference. As for me? Well, since you asked…
Wait, wait, wait. Some insight into this process. I want all of you to understand my reasoning, so you can better debunk my arguments. First, the teams NOT under consideration and why.
- Hometown squad
- Detroit, you’re always safe in my heart. Plus you’ve won 4 cups in 11 years. Who wouldn’t want to go to Motown?
- Canadian Teams
- Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton are all in. Sure, one of these teams has a penchant for pissing away and under-developing talent (rhymes with Moronto…which also includes Moron) and the other is lurking in last place in the Northeast, but you can’t beat the crowds and passion of the fans in the home of hockey, eh!
- Major Markets
- Philadelphia, New York Rangers, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh and Minnesota make the cut. Hey, even if your team sucks, you exist in a major sports market. Enjoy your penthouse apartment overlooking lake/river/cityscape, dry your tears with your piles of money and enjoy looking at yourself in the paper and on TV every night after you go partying with a group of girls who have NO idea who you are or what you do, just that you have money that you dry your tears with and can take them shopping.
- Perennial Competitors
- New Jersey, Buffalo, San Jose, Dallas and Anaheim get the nod because they are regularly in the playoff mix and they put butts in seats. Enough said.
- “It wouldn’t seem right without you”
- St. Louis, Colorado and Los Angeles get the “It would feel wrong to not invite you” vote. Colorado because of the Cups and rivalries with Detroit. LA because of Gretzky. St. Louis…I don’t know why. A cool goal horn, perhaps? How about because of Yzerman’s slapshot winner in Game 7? Has nothing to do with why I would be ok playing there, but I like it. Plus I get to put up a picture.
- Just out of sympathy
- New York Islanders and Nashville make the cut for no reason other than I feel bad and feel like I could make a difference because of that. The Islanders instill a sense of nostalgia in me that makes me want to channel my inner Trottier and go nuts, while Nashville’s fan support and energy would keep me going. You two are lucky because…
…the following teams would make me wince if I heard I was going there.
- First of all, it’s in Ohio. Secondly, it’s a tiny market existing in a state that doesn’t care about hockey existing in a division that is controlled by a juggernaut (Detroit) and an upstart (Chicago). Thirdly, it’s in Ohio. No thanks.
- Honestly, I don’t mind the Hurricanes. Nice area. Team competes on a regular basis. Good talent. But those uniforms are gross and I’m a primadonna wants to look good while I play. Not happening with the toilet bowl on the front of my sweater. And you hijacked your franchise from Hartford. Not that I would look any better in those ridiculous uniforms the Whalers used to wear, but that’s besides the point. Plus, your attendance is down from last year and NASCAR would compete with our Sunday playoff games. Just not feeling it.
- Tell me the last great thing you remember about the Panthers. Seriously. It’s OK, I’ll wait. Need a hint?
Exactly. Ten minute delays while the ice was showered with rats, followed up by getting swept in the Cup Finals. Since then? No playoff appearances since 2000, the successful shipment of Roberto Luongo out of town for peanuts and a close to league worst attendance ranking. In fact, they have tried to GIVE AWAY tickets to “first time” fans this year. It’s time to face facts: one hockey team in Florida is probably too many. Two is overkill. Miami/Sunrise is not and will never be a hockey town, so why the hell would I want to play there. Pack this team up and ship it to a city who wants a team (say, Seattle?) and then I will reconsider.
- Where should I begin?
- One playoff appearance in seven seasons, complete with a first round sweep.
- Lowest attendance percentage in the league this season.
- Ownership locked in a bitter struggle…with themselves.
- Previous franchise flopped with fans and high operating costs. Lesson NOT learned.
- Worst alternate jersey in the league…that eventually became the permanent home jersey.
- Where should I begin?
I have friends in the Atlanta area. I went to college just south of Atlanta. I think I know ONE person in Georgia that is a Thrashers fan. I’m steering clear as a player.
- Ask Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City/Seattle ThunderSonics why I wouldn’t want to play in Phoenix. Quite simply, who knows how long this team sticks around in the desert. The organization is a financial MESS, with something to the tune of $80 million in debt. It’s so bad that the NHL has had to come in and promise advance revenues to the team, while it tries to work out a deal with the city of Glendale. While the organization does have quite a bit of talent in the tank, I don’t think I want to move to Arizona just to potentially have to turn around and move again because attendance sucks and ownership is in way over their heads.
But when it comes down to it, there is just ONE place I would have the most reservations about playing in and would do everything possible to avoid…
- Tampa Bay (Caveat: I have friends in Tampa. My Mom lives just north of Tampa. This is not a slam on the city or the fans, who are actually very into their hockey.)
- The prospect of playing for this organization scares the crap out of me. It’s ironic that owner Oren Koules is a producer for the “Saw” series of movies. He’s turned this organization into a horror show, and co-owner Len Barrie and General Manager Brian Lawton are doing nothing to instill confidence in the media, fans or players. This season started with Danny Boyle getting shipped out of town, Barry Melrose being named head coach, Melrose subsequently being fired 16 games into the season, and the Pete Rose of hockey, Rick Tocchet being named interim coach. Now Lawton is busy playing games with Vinny Lecavalier, the playoffs are all but gone and this team looks like it will be no better next season than it is right now. They need at least two defenseman to shore up the blue line, and adding another scoring threat wouldn’t hurt either. But the idea that trading for talent is the ultimate answer is foolish and near sighted. Yes, they drafted Steve Stamkos this past year, but what plan do they have in place to develop him as a player? What supporting cast do they have to pick up the slack as he develops? And what promise can they make to any player coming into this organization that they will stick around long enough to see a difference, when ownership is shipping players in and out of Tampa like pieces of mail at the post office.
Tampa Bay? No Way.