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Iced Coffey

Prayers for MacLean and free-agency thoughts

There is so much to talk about after the start of another frenzied free-agency signing period. But first things first.

As in talking about the imporant stuff first.

Send some prayers, best wishes and positive karma Brett MacLean’s way. His was the most shocking hockey story of the past week or so. You would never imagine a 23-year-old pro athlete experiencing a “cardiac emergency” as MacLean did last Monday night while playing hockey. But these things do occur to young athletes with often tragic results.

As someone who is one-year-plus recovery from a heart attack, let me tell you it is no fun and a scary, scary time. But unlike MacLean, I’m an old guy, so it is more expected in my demographic neighborhood. But a 23-year-old athlete? Makes me shudder.

But there is good news. MacLean is said to be improving.

“He’s conscious and he’s speaking,” MacLean’s agent, Anton Thun, told reporters Wednesday. “They anticipate taking him out of intensive care (Wednesday night) and running tests to determine why he collapsed.”

MacLean was skating in Owen Sound, Ontario when he suffered the cardiac emergency and was eventually airlifted to Knights University Hospital in London, where he was in the intensive care unit.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Brett and his family,” Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney said in a statement. “We request that everyone please respect their privacy at this time. We will provide an update on Brett’s status when information is available.”

Here’s hoping the next update contains even more positive news. MacLean is far too young to have to go through this kind of ordeal.

Now from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I admit to being rather surprised and amused when reading a lot of reports that were critical of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter for not making a snap decision once free agency began. Really? Why? Because reporters in the U.S. didn’t want to work on July 4th? A “slow” decision would get in the way of a vacation?

Here is the reality. If any of us were ever offered that type of coveted job, scholarship, internship ... from multiple sources ... would you just close your eyes and grab one? No, of course not. You would do your due diligence to make the correct choice. Pierre LeBrun reported on ESPN.com that Parise received inquiries from 20 teams, so no, Parise was not going to make a fast decision, and nor should he.

It may seem like you grab the top dollar amount and move on, but life doesn’t happen in a vaccuum. For both Parise and Suter there was the desire to play on the same team, but also the lure of returning closer to their families’ roots, Parise in Minnesota and Suter in Wisconsin. There were the friends and teammates they would be required to leave. Don’t think that doesn’t matter. For Parise, there was the captaincy of the Devils that he would relinquish. That isn’t something he took lightly.

Hell, for the bean counters among us there is the whole notion of which state’s income tax is lower, not that I have ever been in a position to worry about such a thing.

So, obviously, a lot has to go into the decision and it is the job of the player’s agent and advisors to make sure they are fully informed about what’s good and what’s maybe not so good about a 13-year, $98 million deal, not that overcoming the bad would be too onerous.

Taking the time to look at everything in detail is the smart way to go. For players in their prime, like Parise and Suter, this opportunity isn’t going to come around again, so taking the time to make the right choice is the only way to go and they have nothing to apologize for.

Here’s another pet peever from reading many of the critical comments from fans about Parise leaving New Jersey, Suter leaving Nashville and PLayer X leaving Team Y.

Here is the hard fact. They don’t owe you anything! They played under the terms of their contract and earned the right to become an unrestricted free agent and explore the option open to them. Both Parise and Suter played hard and earned reputations that made them coveted free agents. If they hadn’t been that type of player then these offers never would have happened.

And for Devils fans who have been on the web planning a boo-a-thon for Parise when he returns as a member of the Wild on Nov. 11, keep in mind these facts.

* Parise rejected signing with the Rangers out of hand. That showed loyalty to the Devils. Remember, a parade of former popular Devils finished their careers across the Hudson, opting for the ready cash available there. Parise didn’t.

* Imagine Parise wearing a Flyers jersey. Horrible though for Devils fans. But he didn’t, even though the Flyers made a very generous offer according to many reports.

* Imagine further Parise playing on the wing with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. That had to be an attractive idea too, but I think the whole Parise-Crosby best buds story was more wishful thinking than fact. Still, it would have had to be tempting for Parise. But he didn’t go to Pittsburgh.

He said he wanted the opportunity to go home and play nearer his family and friends. That’s what he did. And chances are, if offered the same opportunity, you’d do the same thing.

One last though before signing off. After seeing all the dollars tossed around in free agency, do you think Donald Fehr and the NHLPA will be able to keep a straight face when the NHL owners complain about the cost of player salaries?

Filed in: | Iced Coffey | Permalink


Ducksworth's avatar

Glad to hear his condition is improving, thoughts and prayers for him and his family.

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 07/05/12 at 05:02 PM ET

SYF's avatar

He should have a talk with Jiri Fischer real soon.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 07/05/12 at 07:56 PM ET

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About Iced Coffey

Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.