The Human Element of the Trade Deadline
When the clock strikes 3 p.m. EST on Monday, the frenzy will finally come to an end. But right up until that moment, the feeding will go on, the appetite for trade talk will continue to build in an insatiable manner.
Both TSN and Sportsnet will devote their entire day to coverage of the NHL trade deadline. It’s a veritable undeclared national holiday in Canada. But amidst the rabid pursuit of more trade rumors, often forgotten is the human element of the trading of hockey flesh from team to team, and the stress and toll it can take on a player in the days leading up to the Feb. 26 deadline can prove overwhelming.
“It wears on guys in different ways,” Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think everybody is different. Some guys have been around a little bit. My job is to communicate and make sure they’re doing OK.
“There’s a human side of it that can affect people for sure, that I think sometimes it’s easy to forget about. We kind of think of these guys as pawns. They’re not pawns, they’re humans.”
Every player at some point will hear their name mentioned in trade talks, no matter how much they try to avoid it.
“Obviously, everyone knows that you can get traded at any time,” Detroit right-winger Anthony Mantha said.
Part of being a pro is learning how to deal with this disruption and not allow it to impact their lives and their performance on the ice.
“It’s out of our control, obviously,” Wings left-winger Justin Abdelkader said. “We’ve just got to go out and continue to play hard. We’ve got to try to cancel out all the noise and just focus.
“We’re paid to come out and work hard and give our best effort each game. It is a business. That’s the unfortunate side. You’ll see guys moved all over the league. That’s just part of what happens.”
When the deal is done, the players have the easiest part in the equation. They pack up, move on and are embraced by a new group of teammates at the other end. For the families of the players, the change is not as readily adaptable. They are leaving behind their friends, their home, the community they’ve grown to know.
“I’ve moved my family, I don’t know, eight times or something,” Blashill said. “It’s hard. I don’t care whether you’re moving away from your family - you wouldn’t move them in-season - but it’s just a hard thing. So that’s the part that gets missed a little bit.”
As the talk ramps up, Blashill makes a point to monitor those players who find themselves in the crosshairs of the trade targets.
“I’ll have conversations with guys that are in that spot or in that rumor mill or in that position where they could potentially be a guy that might get traded, just make sure they’re doing all right,” Blashill said. “Last year, (Thomas) Vanek was definitely one, Smitty (Brendan Smith), where you just have conversations to make sure they’re doing OK at that point, especially if I see a guy struggling a little bit mentally.
“The one part I think gets forgotten about because they’re professional athletes is the human side of it, and it’s hard.”
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