Kukla's Korner


The Costs and Rewards of an NHL Career

Somehow I wasn’t the first to beat a path to a story about Spezza in the community posted by Paul, not that such a distinction matters to many. What is important to consider is how much a part of the city you have to feel you are to live in a (relatively) average neighbourhood, let alone to answer the door to hand out signed hockey cards to fans, or to accept the occasional welcoming cake.

As a hockey player, at least in Canada, you are a celebrity. Better than other public figures, not only do you entertain us every time you hit the ice, but you make us proud when you bring us home the Cup, or do battle for Canada on the World stage. Yet for all your grandeur, you have to wonder where you should stand in the public sphere, and what the rewards and consequences of such a stance are.

There is an irony in the fact that whether you are a millionaire hockey player, a prolific actor, a successful politician, or even just a hardworking beat cop, the reality is that all your success, power, and fame comes courtesy of we, the people, the rabble that goes without name. Take away the spectators, the audience, the voters, or the public that feels safe, and all the glory you have can come crashing down. Such powers, far too seldom considered, might explain why most who have been raised to pedestals still find time and ways to connect with the people below.

To see the consequence of ingoring those who gave you your heights of glory, previous Ottawa Senators provide effective examples. Not that it was the main reason, but Emery’s avoidance of the media could easily be part of the reason that he now finds himself in the Motherland, not exactly where he wants to be or to stay. Another prime victim of his own disdain for the media was Corvo.

I know I’m not a fan of names that follow you, especially not one as ‘engratiating’ as “Uh-Oh Corvo” was, but his dislike for the media quickly made his success as a powerplay quarterback - proven in Carolina with 21 points in 23 games, ironic that a powerplay specialist is at the top of Murray’s wish list - not enough to keep him from being traded to a smaller market where he might find the peace and quiet he so desires.

The flip side of this power is that your flair for public appearances can help save you, and even free you at times. Despite the fact that many fans now might wish that we had kept Chara instead of Redden, when Muckler made the call, Redden’s hometown popularity, boosted by his support of the Ottawa Hospital, was very likely to have played a role. Alfie, our beloved captain, has never shied from the media, nor has he disappointed on the ice, and it has garnered him enough respect that he can live quietly outside the city with his wife and kids, without any second thoughts or misgivings.

No doubt that Spezza’s new contract carries with it additional expectations and responsibilities this season. Just as his newfound desire to play a more defensive game will help him to meet those expectations, killing penalties (and scoring a shorthanded goal in Saturday’s preseason matchup) and accepting greater responsibilities, so too will his move into a very public neighbourhood and his very neighbourly attitude contribute towards a longlasting career in Ottawa.

There is a very large responsibility that goes with your status in the hearts of hockey fans. Not only are you expected to perform on the ice, but you must accept the debt you owe to the fans, and that your behaviour on and off the ice will help or hurt your position in the public sphere. But with that responsibility should also come the knowledge that you can help to inspire others, as Jason did with his Spell with Spezza program, and as the whole team inspires not only the little kids lacing up their first pairs of skates, but the adults who once dreamed (or possibly still naively dream) that they could rise to such heights, and in turn seek to help and inspire others as well.

For all the responsibility that is demanded from you when you choose to put on that jersey, I can’t imagine that the power to do good that you gain isn’t worth it, and isn’t one of the ultimate payoffs for all the sacrifices you willingly choose to make.

Filed in: NHL General, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net