The NHL trade deadline is quickly approaching. Some trades have already been consumed and more will come. Many discussions are ongoing between General Managers. Everyone talks about “buyers and sellers”, making moves to make the playoffs, strengthening and improving teams to win the Stanley Cup. The media is pro-active, speculating on possible trades and creating great anticipations from the fans.
I was involved in one transaction near the trade deadline on February 24th, 1981. Two events took place in my life that day. My emotions went from euphoria to anguish as I went from one to the other. One was personal, the other was professional.
Yes, 30 years ago, my wife, Nicole, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes. It was a very special moment for us. We were overwhelmed with happiness that Natalie was a healthy baby who would join her older sister Stephanie, then 4 1/2 years old.
I was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers then. While we celebrated this exciting event, I received a message at the hospital, to call the Flyers General Manager Keith Allen. I didn’t tell my wife about the message because I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be good news. The trade deadline was around the corner and the Flyers were carrying three goalies. (Pete Peters and Rick St-Croix were the other two) I was the oldest goalie and more expandable. I took the message and looked for a payphone to call Keith. (There were no cell phones then) When I reached him, he asked me to stop by the Spectrum for a meeting.
My meeting with Keith Allen was short. He informed me that I had been traded to the Colorado Rockies. I spoke to Bill MacMillan, the Rockies’ General Manager. They were fighting for a playoff position and were very anxious to have me play for them as soon as possible. I pleaded with him to give me a few days to take care of things but he insisted that he wanted me to play the next game which meant that I would have to leave the next morning for Denver.
Going back to the hospital and telling my wife that I had been traded and that I had to leave the next day was very difficult. She had the baby through a caesarian operation and the recovery was much longer and more difficult. To tell you that my emotions went from euphoria to anguish is an understatement. Nicole took the news like a “trooper” like she always does (at least in front of me).
Thanks to the support of some of the wives on the team, we were able to get help for Nicole until her mother was able to come. I took a flight the next day and I was gone for 6 weeks. The team managed to stay in the race but we missed the playoff in the last week. I was asked to go to Sweden to play for Canada in the World Championships and left for another 3 weeks following the season. (That’s another story in itself)
We managed to live through this difficult period but not without some scars. Life in Pro Hockey was not as understanding when I played then as it is now. Teams today are more lenient towards their player’s personal life and problems. Players are left home or fly back from a road trip to attend personal problems like the birth of a child. I can recall many occasions when we toasted to a newborn on the road with the new father. The team came first and only extreme emergencies allowed players to miss games or road trips.
In the next few days, when you hear about all the transactions that will take place around the National Hockey League, take a moment and think about the intangibles and the collateral damage that may occur to families. Thing are different today, of course. Players make a lot more money and can enjoy more benefits when they get traded but it still comes with some personal loss and emotional challenges. As professionals, they must play through it.
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY! (Read my blogs every Tuesdays and Fridays)