Interesing article I read in Hamilton Spectator
The game's about winning, not the players
By Scott Radley
Once upon a time, professional hockey players came up through an organization's system and became intrinsically tied to that team.
They became identified as Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs. We cheered for them because we considered them one of us. They were what our team was all about. We watched them develop and grew attached to them.
Not anymore. This is an age of rapid-fire trades, salary dumps and big-market-versus-small-market considerations that lead many athletes to play for several teams in their careers.
We now just support the right-coloured shirt, no matter who is in it.
And the expected onslaught of deals by today's 3 p.m. National Hockey League trade deadline will just add to those numbers.
It means that fans have essentially been reduced to cheering for laundry.
It's the reason Colorado fans were able to root for Ray Bourque, who was the embodiment of the Boston Bruins. Or how Leaf fans are now ga-ga over Brian Leetch, who will always be a New York Ranger.
Where fans were once a little discriminating about who played on their teams, now it's simply all about the colours. Doesn't matter how much you hate a player. The instant he pulls on the shirt of your favourite team, all past sins are forgiven and he's transformed from vile villain to wonderful human being.
Consider Bryan Marchment. Once considered by most Leaf fans to be the dirtiest player in hockey and a brutal knee hunter, opinions dramatically changed when he pulled a Maple Leaf jersey over his well-beaten face. In an instant he morphed from a cruel jerk, who deserves a good beating, to a great character guy, who takes no guff in front of his own net.
Gritty replaced dirty. A guy with no soul turned into a guy with a big heart. A cheap-shot artist became a man willing to do whatever was necessary to win. A guy whose style of play has no place in hockey became the kind of player every team needs to win a cup.
All because of the shirt he was now wearing. In Colorado's purple and silver, he was an idiot. In the Leafs' blue and white, he's a hero.
Same thing with Ed Belfour, a guy Leaf fans used to love to hate in Chicago red and Dallas green, but now revere in Toronto blue.
This isn't restricted to hockey. Just this weekend, Alex Rodriguez was vigorously booed when he played on the road against the Red Sox. Among Boston fans, who once thought he'd be playing for them this season and were ready to make him king of Beantown, he's about as popular as a bottle of Ex-Lax at a Mexican water tasting convention. But the cheers would have been deafening if he'd landed with Boston this off-season.
It wasn't all that long ago that the despised Rickey Henderson became a Toronto fan favourite when he became a Blue Jay. And that Mike O'Shea received a hero's welcome during his brief return to Hamilton.
No longer do you have Ted Lindsay being traded to the Blackhawks and not talking to his new teammates for several days because his spite for them from past experiences was so strong. Or Phil Esposito threatening
to throw himself out his hotel window when he was traded to the despised Rangers.
No longer do you have fans demanding excellence from players they previously hated before absolving them of past behaviours. We're way too superficial and eager for immediate gratification for that now.
It's why if you're a Leafs fan, you probably wouldn't object to seeing the biggest enemy of your team get acquired at the deadline. You'd suddenly forget about his hit from behind on Darcy Tucker in the playoffs if Daniel Alfredsson was pried loose from the Senators. Same thing if noted Leaf-baiters Donald Brashear or Sandy McCarthy were suddenly to call the Air Canada Centre home. Or even if the much-hated Bobby Clarke, who's turned dissing Toronto into an art form, took over from Pat Quinn.
Is this really a good thing? Surely sports should be about more than that. Teams should be identifiable by the players on them, not just by their uniforms.
Frankly, fashion just shouldn't be that important on the ice.