Will Mats Sundin return to the NHL or ride into the sunset? (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
During a year in which Brett Favre retired then notoriously unretired, a handful of NHL stars are taking prolonged periods of time before making/announcing their decisions.
The Scott Niedermayer Should I Stay or Should I Go Show, like most sequels, had a mercifully shorter run than the original. The Teemu Selanne, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin dramas, conversely, are lingering like uranium.
It all begs the question: why the new trend of lengthy navel gazing?
I put the question to some of my colleagues and we came up with the following:
1. Some superstars don’t want to tarnish their legacies and would prefer to retire at the top of their games. The summer gives them time to determine if their bodies are up to the challenge.
2. They don’t want to rush to judgment, and live to regret it, a la Favre.
3. They’d really prefer not to play, but the dollars they’re leaving on the table are far too enticing.
4. Like most of us who’ve been badly hungover and vowed never to touch alcohol again, we eventually forget the bad and only remember the good. Mmmmm. Beer.
5. They only want to play half-a-season and will announce they’re coming back in December – see Selanne and Niedermayer from last season.
6. They soon realize hockey is the only thing at which they’re among the world’s elite at and the idea of becoming a mere mortal is mortifying.
7. After spending a few months with the wife and kids, they realize how easy they had it as pampered professional athletes. Or as Jimmy Kimmel put it recently, they realize how much they don’t like their families.
Whatever the case – and we understand the reasons vary from athlete to athlete – the impact in a salary cap world is undeniable: it messes with team budgets and personnel decision-making.
A club hoping to land, let’s say Sundin, earmarks X-million for him, then is forced to decide whether to save that cash and cap space on a “what if” or pursue another player. Those who hesitate could lose out on Plan B.
Moreover, the uncertainty messes with fans and their emotional investments in their local favorites (not to mention the stress it places on hockey magazine editors who have Yearbook deadlines fast approaching).
What to do about it? Not much. How do you make an unrestricted free agent declare his intentions for the following season by July 1 without a provision in the CBA? And that’s not happening anytime soon.
No, it’s the status quo for the foreseeable future, leaving teams to decide whether to spend elsewhere or wait; leaving fans to twist and pout; and leaving editors to increase their daily Gaviscon consumption.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend.
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