Here's the genesis of my
of reflected fame
. I flew home from Spain via
the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport imitation last night.
When I plopped
my backpack down and bemoaned the lack of
in-seat power on the plane, the woman next
to me noticed the collection of bendable
hockey figures that adorn the zipper pulls
on my bag.
"You like hockey?" she asked.
"Yes, very much."
"You must like the Devils," she correctly concluded
upon discovering that home was in New Jersey.
I avoided making Rangers commentary or derisive
comments about the Flyers; you never
know where allegiances lie, especially when
you run into a fellow (observant) hockey
fan in the (non-Minnesota) wild. And when
your team is in the cellar, you don't have
much cred in picking an anyone else.
"I married a hockey player." You know, my wife
says that same thing, except it comes out "I married
a nerd who plays hockey" (and those are all words
Our conversation passed friendly on the way to intriguing.
"He used to play in New York, but now he's in Phoenix."
A more culturally aware person than me, someone who
reads Sports Illustrated perhaps, would have
immediately recognized my seatmate, but I live in
a travel haze induced by two month old issues of Business 2.0
and Information Week. However, following NHL
transactions through the summer left the answer
to this puzzle somewhat near the top of the brain
"Petr Nedved?" I half-stated, half-questioned.
He shoots, he scores, +1 for the
left wing from NJ for identifying the
superstar now playing for former Ranger teammate
turned coach Wayne Gretzky.
While identifying current homes
of various Czech hockey heads, we touched on the
the downsides to being traded and free agency. My
thoughts raced back to a half-written Devils fan bulliten
board entry I've been toying with, chastising those of
us who call on Devils management to trade or waive various
Imagine this scenario: you drive over to the house of
one of your middle-ranking late 20-something employees.
You ring the bell, and are greeted by two or three cute
kids who want to know if you're the mean man from work.
You tell your employee "We've traded you to (insert
far-away city now)" and then you wonder how he's going
to tell his kids and wife that they're selling the house,
moving the kids to new schools, and changing time zones.
Like in the next 24 hours. If you have trouble
imagining yourself as the organizational ogre, you should
have equal trouble calling on someone else to be the same.
Trades and free agency are more than a tax on the hockey
family; they're life-changing.
Varekova continues to live in the tri-state
area while her husband works on a sheet of ice
in the desert (how's that for contrast). She flies to Phoenix
when she can, or meets her husband on the road. Her
modeling career takes her on long hauls as well (including
the flight next to yours truly). Move to Phoenix? What
if Phoenix isn't the final destination on this hockey
tour? What if another Rangers run is back in the cards?
New rules have introduced divisional parity, more goals,
faster play, success for quick defensemen, and
a major dose of familial stress for those who find
themselves in new neighborhoods of old friends.
We all, at some time, perform unusual acts under the
banner of "work." The most difficult to perform
always involve family balance, forcing us to place
doing what we love on the scale with who we love.
As I've written here before, hockey players are among
the most human and approachable of all professional
athletes; they have same travails du travail
as the rest of us.
But you know I can't resist a chance to recruit:
If Nedved ever wants to return to the tri-state area,
team on the left side of the Hudson featuring
Patrik Elias could use another Czech mate.