Thursday, October 15, 2015

From the Slot: On Johan Franzen

Look, we all have those things that we are passionate about doing, whether it's good for us or not.

I have a friend who's running through an injury because she has a goal to run a 15K this year.

I've been guilty of it myself, running through knee injuries, playing softball through arm issues, but there is one place everyone should draw the line, and that's head injuries.

Second Impact Syndrome is a real, and very serious condition that could at worst, end your life, and at best, turn you into a vegetable.

Franzen had been out since January of 2015 with a serious concussion. Not his first, and actually the latest in a long line of concussions for him. He gave an interview where he said that he spent two months being unable to pick up his kids.

But somehow, a week after he tells Brad Galli he sometimes still has to sleep for 4 hours after a hard workout, he's approved to come back and play?

Fans seem a hell of a lot more worried about this than the team, especially given that he was cleared and has played in the first few games of the 2015-16 season.

We know there are a lot of things to take into consideration, but shouldn't your health be number one? Being able to play with your kids? Spend time with your wife?

In my personal opinion, it is irresponsible, and probably reckless endangerment or neglect, for the Wings Organization and/or the League to let him continue to play.

If the Wings want to be known as an organization who takes care of their players, then step up to the plate. Eat the cap hit, or put him on LTIR, just make sure he stays alive.  Like many fans, we don't want another Jiri Fischer situation that turns out so much worse, because this is most definitely going to end that way if Franzen keeps playing.

Be happy with the career you had, it's not worth your life to keep trying to come back.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

From the Slot: The Day Dino Ciccarelli Broke My Heart

When I was six or seven, my younger brother started to play hockey. It's the first time I remember being aware that the Red Wings existed. It's '93, '94, and Dino Ciccarelli had been with the Wings for a year or two. He was my favorite player. Being that age, and not really knowing hockey, I don't really know why he was my favorite. But he was. When my Mom ironed on numbers onto my t-ball jersey, I chose 22. Can you guess why?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Kocur Foundation Softball Tournament, and Ciccarelli was on the guest list. I was very excited, and, being oblivious (plus my age when he was playing), I didn't know that he had a reputation for being a dick, and other parts of his off ice dealings.

So, I went to the tournament hoping to get many players' autographs, and among them, I wanted Ciccarelli's because he was my first favorite player. Before I learned better and Yzerman reigned supreme until his retirement.

A majority of the day, I spent with friends, the boyfriend, and their kids. We gathered around the fence of the celebrity dug out, and waiting behind the bleachers for the players going back and forth from the VIP area, and the dugout.

It felt... weird.

I was under the impression that in addition to supporting a great cause that part of the day was fan interaction, and it just felt like that wasn't what the players felt like that's what they signed up for. When most of the players and other celebrities were interacting with the fans, they were smiling and nice. But, for most of the games, they all stayed on the field because they didn't want to have to listen to people saying their names over and over again. And really, I can't blame them for wanting to just hang out, but if part of the event is touted as fan/player/celebrity interaction, then they hopefully understand the crowd of people around the dugout. Or maybe have designated signing times like McCarty and Ted Lindsey did.

One person, although he did sign things, and I eventually got an autograph, seemed like he didn't want to be there. I don't think I need to tell you who it was.

You see, even though he was there to play softball for a good cause, and (supposedly) for the fan interaction - I was there to meet someone I had idolized as a kid. That's a big expectation for me to carry in when meeting a fellow human.

Not that there is ever a reason to be a jerk to someone, but I feel like we place an unrealistic burden on athletes. Look at all the times that the athletes we idolize have let us down in just the last year or two. Currently, the hockey world is being rocked by rape allegations against Patrick Kane. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Sam Ukwuachu, Slava Voynov, Semyon Varlamov, Michael Vick, Aaron Hernandez, all of these athletes have been convicted or accused of doing horrible things. And that's just hockey and gridiron football.

When these humans screw up, or aren't what we idealize even in small ways, we get upset. Which is why I left the tournament yesterday feeling uneasy and unsettled by my interactions with Mr. Ciccarelli. I (subconsciously) expected this hockey player from my youth to be the man I saw on TV, not to be a human that has faults, thoughts, and feelings of his own.  To an extent, I'm responsible for my own disappointment yesterday.

To that same extent, we are responsible for some of our disappointment in these athletes when they don't live up to our expectations.  Not that that excuses the behavior of the humans we place on pedestals when they assault someone, or murder them, but we need to remember that the teams we watch, the people we look to, cheer for, are humans. They make mistakes like we do, and we need to remember that.

I think we'd all be a little less shocked when athletes and celebrities aren't what we expect or do bad things if we just manage to remember that they are human and maybe put a little less of our expectations on their shoulders.

Monday, January 19, 2015

From the Slot: Undrafted Players and the Hockey Hall of Fame

A question has been nagging at me: who is the first un-drafted National Hockey League player in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Well, the fast answer is the entire 1945 class of inductees.

But let's pretend we want to delve a little deeper and set a few parameters.

In 1963, the The National Hockey League Amateur Draft was the first entry draft to the NHL. Previous to that, players were found and signed by teams on their own.  Only North American players were drafted in the original conception of the draft, and even when European players began to defect to North America, they were ineligible for the draft and usually initially played for the team that helped them leave their home countries.

Peter Stastny. Photo Credit here.
The draft continued in the original fashion until 1979, when the NHL absorbed the World Hockey Association, and the rules changed so that any North American player from 18-20 years old and any European player of any age can be drafted in the newly termed NHL Entry Draft.

With players of all nationalities eligible for the draft, Tomas Jonsson (Sweden) became the first drafted European player as the 4th pick in the second round (29th overall).

The following year, Peter Stastny defected from Czechoslovakia with his brother Anton after winning the European Cup in Innsbruck, Austria. Having never been drafted, but played in the NHL with the now (sadly) defunct Quebec Nordiques,  the New Jersey Devils, and the St. Louis Blues, he becomes eligible to become the first un-drafted player to be inducted to the HHOF, and indeed, he did so. In 1998, three years after retiring in a Blues kit, Peter the Great was inducted into the HOF with Roy Conacher, Michel Goulet, and Athol Murray becoming the first un-drafted player in the HHOF by this definition.

Some of you might cry foul and say that Bj√∂re Salming was the first un-drafted player inducted. But, given that he wasn't eligible to be drafted before his rookie year in the NHL (six years before the draft rules changed), he was disqualified to be the first un-drafted inductee in the context of my question.  It's only fair that the first be after everyone is eligible for the draft, and given that European players weren't eligible in 1973 to be drafted, well, you get my point.

Regardless of whom you feel is the rightful first un-drafted NHL Hockey Hall of Famer, there is quite the illustrious list of un-drafted NHL players in the HHOF.  Eddie Belfour, Dino Ciccarelli, Joe Mullen, Adam Oates, the list goes on.

Only goes to show you that not being drafted isn't the end of the world.

Sources here, here, and here