Corey Hirsch wrote an interesting article for Sportsnet, in the lead up to this years’ NHL trade deadline, about how being traded can have a significant impact on an athlete’s professional and personal life. Hirsch described the emotional toll that being traded took on him, and his marriage, as well as the challenges that traded players face in these situations. The sudden requirement to move to a new city, often on a moments notice and leave one’s family and friends (not to mention teammates) behind to deal with the aftermath, can be a cold but necessary reality of professional sports. This constant uncertainty regarding one’s future can weigh heavily on both the mind and relationships of hockey players today, and is an challenge fairly unique to professional sports. While the turmoil that is incurred, when a player is traded, is well documented, in many cases being traded can be a positive for both a player’s on-ice performance, as well as their personal life. While the challenge of having to live, and work, all the while knowing that you could be suddenly traded at any moment is something that most players have seemingly come to terms with, and is a part of their profession as hockey players. Being traded can certainly present daunting challenges to players today, however, it can also be an incredible opportunity for a player to both improve their on-ice production, as well as the quality of their personal lives.
sudden shock and aftermath of a trade can place a significant strain on a player’s personal life, especially to those traded as ‘rental’ players at the trade deadline, yet it also provides players with the unique opportunity to experience living in a new city. A change in scenery has the potential to get out of a rut, all the while exposing a player to a new lifestyle in a new city, which could very well become his new home. An example of a trade ending well for a player is the trade that sent Jeff Petry to the Montreal Canadiens last season at the trade deadline. This mid-season trade meant that both he and his wife would suddenly have to move from Edmonton, across the country, to Montreal. The icing on the cake of which was that, as a pending free-agent, Petry was also likely preparing for another eventual move at the end of the season. While playing for the Canadiens, both Jeff, and especially his wife Julie, warmed up to the charms of Montreal, leading Petry to sign a long-term contract in Montreal at the end of the post-season. Both Mr. and Mrs. Petry have come out publicly and stated that they enjoy their new life living and playing hockey in Montreal, an opportunity they might have been missed if not for a trade last season. While not all players sign contracts where they have been traded, the experience of being traded can be turned into an immensely valuable learning experience. Many players, at one time or another, will become an unrestricted free-agent, and having the opportunity to experience playing on different teams and living in different cities can help a player make a more informed decision on where they will be the happiest, and most productive during the prime years of their hockey career.
An additional benefit of being traded is that it can provide a player with an opportunity to improve their on-ice production, and demonstrate their skill in a potentially more accommodating environment. Whether it’s because a player is being utilized more effectively, or that they receive more opportunities with their new team, a fresh-start with a new coach and teammates can provide a huge boost in a player’s career. Recent examples of how players can benefit from a change in scenery is the trade that sent David Perron from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Anaheim Ducks, in exchange for Carl Hagelin. Perron began his career in St. Louis, where he averaged .58 points per game over his first 340 games NHL games. After departing St. Louis for the Oilers, where he played for parts of two seasons, Perron scored at an elevated .67 points per game. After a trade to Pittsburgh last season Perron has struggled to regain his form with his new team, posting a reduced .44 points per game. Perron’s struggles to produce with the Penguins followed him into this season, and he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in January. Since moving to sunny California Perron has recaptured his form, scoring at a rate of .85 points per game, significantly above his career average of .59 while admittedly in only 20 games. This is incredibly important for a player, like Perron, who is an unrestricted free-agent this summer and will be able to use his increase in offensive production to negotiate a higher salary this offseason. Hagelin, the other established NHL player in the trade, also experienced an increase in his offensive production in the wake of the trade. Since January, Hagelin has scored .6 points per game, and when compared to his production in Anaheim earlier this season, .28 points per game, the change in scenery has clearly benefited Hagelin’s career. Both of these players clearly benefited from the change in scenery, and demonstrate that while being traded is a daunting personal and professional adjustment, it can be an excellent opportunity for a player who needs to jumpstart their career.
While there is often very little time to react to the news that you’ve been traded, it can and should be viewed by players as a positive career opportunity, and less of a hurdle to overcome. Trades are feared because they destabilize the highly structured day-to-day life of hockey players, and introduce unforeseen and unfamiliar challenges into their professional and personal lives. However, while player’s lives are often turned upside-down, being traded gives players another opportunity to make a new first impression with their coach and teammates, as well as take on new responsibilities and roles on their new team. Being traded is not wholly a bad thing, and often players go on to both enjoy playing in a new city, as well as see increases in their production on-the-ice. Added bonuses of moving to a winning team and experiencing a positive environment certainly does not hurt either. When a player is traded it’s easy to think of them as assets, and salary cap hits being shuffled across the league and lose sight of the human toll that trades can have. While this emotional toll can impact a player well beyond their playing career, as Hirsch points out, they are also opportunities that can be seized by players to enrich both their personal and professional lives.
Note: Corey Hirsch's Sportnet article, "What it's like to get traded on NHL deadline day", can be found here at www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/what-its-like-to-get-traded-on-nhl-deadline-day/
Note: Stats are accurate as of March 7, 2016 per www.nhl.com