by Mike Chen on 07/02/09 at 04:21 PM ET
One thing hockey fans appreciate more than anything else is the down-to-earth hard working mentality of most hockey players. Sure, they’re millionaires but they work their tail off on the ice, are respectful off the ice, and appreciate the special chance they’ve earned. They live in a different world than us but most of the time, they’ve come from our world, and they respect that.
Hard work, honesty, and accountability. It’s all we ask for as fans and it’s traits like that that have made someone like Mike Ricci probably the most beloved player in San Jose Sharks history despite having guys who’ve put up way more points and shown much more skill. They work hard, they remain humble, and they keep things in context.
Now I understand that players can demand to be traded. It happens, and sometimes it’s best for both parties to move on. Just like I have the freedom to quit a job or not renew a client, players have the freedom to ask to be traded—but it comes with a price. In this economy, no one’s going to quit a job—just like in today’s recession-hit salary cap world, players have to understand that when they ask to be traded, their options will be limited.
There’s a process and there are logistics to trade requests. Respect the two, and things will be work themselves out. Lash out against it and expect a backlash, from the media, the fans, and from other teams. Which brings us to the case of one Dany Heatley.
I know Heatley’s friends and family will speak out for the guy, but the world’s tiniest violin couldn’t play a sob song for Heatley right now. This came out a few days ago, but here’s the infamous blurb from his parents via family friend Tom Molloy:
“Dany’s parents (Murray and Karin) dropped over to our place the other day,” Molloy said by telephone from Calgary. “They said, ‘Everyone is crucifying Dany.’ His mother is very upset. And the attacks are all personal stuff, about his character. Nobody mentions that this is a guy who gives up a month of his summer every year to play for Team Canada.”
Oh, a whole month? Well, that makes up for it all.
Gee, I wish I had a client that said, “We’re going to pay you an exorbitant amount of money—enough to sustain you for a lifetime—to write from September to May. And then the next few weeks, we’d like you to be overseas with some of the best writers in the country. And then after that, just go on vacation for a few months but keep your writing chops up by blogging and writing short stories from time to time until we start up again in the fall for even more ridiculous money.” Wow, what a sacrifice I’d be making. What a testament to the nose-to-the-grindstone life I have.
I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t make $10 million last year. Far from it. I don’t know about you guys, but I have to get up and work five days a week, sometimes six or seven as demands come. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t get my summers off to stay fit at the beautiful vista of my choosing. I don’t get that time off to take trips with my family or hang out on a boat with my friends. Unfortunately, I have bills to pay, and I have to work 12 months a year.
Dany and friends, if you want sympathy, this isn’t the best first step.
And this today from teammate Brendan Bell.
Asked the real reasons Heatley wanted out of Ottawa, Bell insisted there will be no skeletons emerging from the closest when all this is over and done with.
“For all the reasons listed,” Bell said, referring to Heatley’s unhappiness with coach Cory Clouston, his reduced ice time and delegation, however temporary, to the second power play unit. “There is nothing underlying that people don’t know.
“I think he understands the criticism he’s getting, he just doesn’t like it ... He would just like this to all go away.”
I don’t know about you guys, but when I get criticism from clients, partners, or a boss, I have to deal with it responsibly. I can’t pout and just hope it goes away, and I can’t put up a front and say that I’m not dealing with it, move me elsewhere. I have to be a professional because professionals get paid to act like responsible adults.
And ultimately, if I screw up with my work and I get firebombed with criticism, I can’t just wish it would go away. Why? Because I have bills to pay, a family to support, and things to do. Cowering in the corner until it all blows over doesn’t work in the professional world, it only makes things worse.
So if Heatley truly understood the criticism coming at him, both from Clouston and from the media regarding his trade request, well, there’s the sensible and professional way to deal with this (both the on-ice and off-ice issues) and the non-professional way to avoid it and hope it disappears.
Just like in the real world, the non-professional way has consequences. If I stomped and pouted my way out of a project with a client rather than respectfully working out an amiable solution, well, the world’s a pretty small place these day and there’s a good chance it would bite me in the ass regarding future work. Similarly, Heatley (and his agent) shouldn’t be surprised that there are almost no takers for him, and every day it’s going to get worse.
Here’s your final real-world analogy of the day. If I’m at a job where I just butt heads with the boss, then I know it’s time to go. Ok, fine, but my job hunt is limited to the market dictated by today’s economy. I get an offer from people that really want me but the commute is awful. Well, if my original situation is that unbearable, then beggers can’t be choosers; I’ll make it work and maybe something good will come out of it because no one else is hiring in this economy.
Heatley’s contract is your first hindrance, but if his attitude and approach were respected around the league, GMs would find a way to work. He’s limited his market by saying he only wants to go to a few teams, and he’s creating a bigger gap from the whole way this has panned out. There are ways to repair those gaps but he’s apparently not doing anything to get so. His friends and family certainly aren’t helping.
Millionaire pro athletes won’t get any sympathy from a hard-working public that pays top dollar for a few hours of entertainment a night in the worst recession the world’s seen in decades, and beggers can’t be choosers—so if you’re going to create this monster, you better learn to deal with it. There’s no taking your ball (or puck) and going home at this point.
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