Check, Czech Mate
By stern on Nov 11, 2005
"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 of respect).
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 stack.
"Petr Nedved?" I half-stated, half-questioned. He shoots, he scores, +1 for the left wing from NJ for identifying the Czech 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 players.
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, a certain team on the left side of the Hudson featuring Patrik Elias could use another Czech mate.