All hockey diehards know that the trade deadline is one of the most exciting times of the entire season. If you’re a fan of a team that is contending for the playoffs (or even Stanley Cup), it’s a time that you watch your team get even better. If you’re a fan of a team that is absolutely awful, it’s a time that you want your team take a step back, acquire prospects and picks, and give you hope for the future. And if you’re a fan of chaos, then you can watch fans from all 30 teams freak out for about 48 hours over every single rumor from all corners of the internet and media.
Something that people don’t think about is how traumatic this time is for the NHL players. Can you imagine if you were at work and knew that you might be moving across the country to another company. At any moment, you and your family could be uprooted from the lives that you’ve made for yourself so your company could get back some younger/cheaper players? The team will say “It’s just business,” but that doesn’t mean that it’s not personal to the player.
On some levels, it’s worse than getting laid off. At least when you’re laid off, it’s because the company is doing poorly. In that sense, it would be easier to rationalize it in your head. But at the trade deadline, you have an organization that basically says, “You’re fine… but we want that more.” (And then they’ll point at other NHL players).
The tough part for a player to get their head around is that their employer thought you were more valuable as an asset than a member of the team. I don’t care who you are, you want to have a sense of importance. When you’re at work, you want to think that what you do is important. You’d like to think that if you left, things wouldn’t run as smoothly. When a GM trades a player, they’re saying, “Not only do we think we’ll be able to go on without you, but we think we’ll be better with someone else.” From a psychological perspective, that simply sucks.
Of course, we’re talking about extremely well compensated athletes and this is part of the trade-off for those multi-million dollar salaries. But when you’re pissed that someone won’t waive their no-trade clause or when you’re hoping that the long-standing veteran gets traded—just remember that there is a human element to these transactions.
It might just be business—but it doesn’t mean it’s not personal.