Let’s face it: the trade deadline is a huge deal in any sport. It’s the opportunity for any team to ultimately change their fate for the season. A pauper can become a prince overnight and, if not playing smart, a great team can make a bad bet, ending any momentum. Now, three weeks away from the NHL trade deadline, it’s about to get real. Not much has happened yet and all we’re hearing is rumors of what teams might do. Huge power forwards like Rick Nash of the Rangers, Evander Kane of the Buffalo Sabres (AKA their only major scoring entity), and the Canadiens Captain Max Pacioretty are the major players right now. With playoff hopefuls like the Nashville Predators having their leading scorers in the defensive core, it is shaping up to be a major trade season as infrastructure is drastically reworked by multiple teams. Trades are gonna rip teams to shreds, pulling solid lines apart from each other and setting up more tearful reunions like we saw in Pittsburgh last week with the city of Pittsburgh and now Vegas Golden Knights goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.
BUT WHAT ABOUT US?!
Cause, in all of their wheeling and dealing, every team forgets one thing: the fans’s feelings. Yes, we want wins but like children of separated parents or kindergarteners with their favorite art teacher about to go on to a mythical place called “maternity leave”, we also want things to stop changing so damn fast. “Why are we talking about trading Rick Nash?? We love Rick Nash! NO!!!!” some may be saying right now. Fear not though, young fan. Below is a guide to how to cope with the inevitable heartbreak coming in the next three weeks. This step-by-step guide will give you the medicine you need at each phase of anguish and give you the permission to purge your emotional strife. A little hockey fan specific self-love and self-care to get you through the cold, sad moments of watching the entire league change in three short weeks.
STEP ONE: CRYING AGGRESSIVELY
Look, Tom Hanks claimed there was no crying in baseball but first of all, he isn’t an athlete, and second, this isn’t baseball. When you’re great third line center that you’ve been screaming at from your couch goes across the country to an archenemy because your GM negotiated some hot, unproven prospects and a draft pick, you’re entitled to at least several tears. So cry it out. Let loose. Sit in a dark room under a pile of blankets listening to Enya and just sob until you release the sheer devastation from the depths of your wayward soul. Let the sadness leak out of your eyes and stain your clothes as you forlornly mourn your big, aggressive, but ultimately hotheaded and unseasoned defenseman from the days of yore(n). Forgive the “n”: we here at the Turf love a pun and love a rhyme. It’s a stretch but it’s who we are. Anyway, he wasn’t going to win you a cup alone but the lost opportunity of watching him fight constantly will be missed. Don’t worry, he’ll live to fight another day, but he may be pummeling you instead. It’ll be a good fight either way. You’re depression is temporary but the cathartic cry will carry you on.
STEP TWO: UNRELENTING ANGER
Or just take a page out of the angered player book and go bananas with your rage. Yell at your cat. Tell him how terrible your GM is at basic bodily functions like thinking intelligently and wiping his own butt. Vent it all out to your bartender while deep into a pint of Molson. Hell, even argue with the guy down the bar whose team had the nerve to steal your aging goalie with a salary that was killing your team’s cap. He’s liable to either be dancing on air or in a rage at whatever they gave up to get your slow, old man. It’ll be a spirited, heated exchange of opinions and possibly just a little taunting. You’ll feel like you were sitting in the home stands just the moment you heard the news. Like the two players just traded jerseys in the middle of the first period. Adrenaline pumping, get into it with the closest thing representing your angst and have an all-out, battle-royale of hockey nerdism in your fury. Hockey fans are not known for their demure opinions or sheepish way of expressing them. With this prescribed venting though, make sure to temper your anger to just short of violent impulses being carried out. Hockey is a full contact sport but fandom is low contact at the very least. We here at the Turf do not condone or promote violence. Especially in bars. Or upon strangers. Who may support a rival. Even for hockey. Sports are fun, don’t fight other fans.
STEP THREE: TREAT YOURSELF
This is your “player break up”. As if you woke up one morning and your partner left you a sticky note notifying you that it was over (idea stolen from Sex In the City) and you were left alone to pick up the pieces. So many unanswerable questions. So many torrid emotions. So many issues with abandonment. How could they dare dismantle the scoring core AND dump your tactical defense? How could they be so blind? So just like we learn in every rom-com, grab that tub of Ben and Jerry’s and have at it. Draw a luxurious bath full of bubbles and candles, block the NHL updates on your phone, and watch old sitcoms while you soak. Relax the negativity away. You don’t need that player. They don’t need you. Sure, you’ll miss them but they are gone and there are plenty of other skaters on the ice. You’ll find those 60+ goals with someone else. Take that day or week or month of mourning filled with pizza and painted toenails and emerge ready for the last race towards the playoffs. This coping mechanism will add the most to your waistline, but with proper exercise afterwards, the reminders of your indulgences should hopefully melt away as quickly as any reservations you had about your trade.
STEP FOUR: LOGIC
Just sit down and try to figure out the puzzle. Why would your GM make this choice? What did they see as the opportunity? Crunch your +/- and points versus salary cap and PIM. Try to cross reference the past three seasons and see where your beloved skater was falling behind in scoring. If you’re going to be a hurricane of varied emotional responses, direct that energy into the mental calculus that must have gone into the decision. After all, pro hockey is a business and a bad trade can cost a GM a job. I know I wouldn’t want to be Steve Yzerman or David Poile in this season, so close to a Cup run with make or break changes needing to occur for that to happen. They are losing nights of sleep trying to build a left leg without taking the right leg off at the knee. These decisions aren’t made lightly and the cost is sometimes millions of dollars at a time. So put yourself into the trading hotseat and save “your own job”. Role play the man at the command center and see if you would make the same call. 4 out of 5 times, you’ll probably agree and harnessing that brainpower into figuring out why you agree can provide closure that you were unknowingly craving.
STEP FIVE: ACCEPTANCE (OR JUST GETTING OVER IT)
Ultimately, only time heals all wounds and time will be what you need to get over your separation anxiety. You’ll accept the change, whether begrudgingly or with great enthusiasm. I hope the above has given you the coping mechanisms you need to break through your wall of desperation upon hearing a trade announcement. Thankfully, the hockey schedule is unrelenting and there is only a moment to breathe before the next game. You can’t avoid seeing James Neal back in Nashville if the rumors come true, Vegas fans. If Mike Green goes to Tampa, you’ll be ok, Detroit. I promise, it will be ok. And Nashville and Tampa fans, as your teams look to make big moves and push for the Cup, remember that with great acquisitions will come great losses. Be prepared for anything. But know, that no matter what happens, there will always be hockey itself, the best friend who loved you all along, waiting on the doorstep with flowers and video replays of your new player, getting you excited at the prospect. Open your heart back up and be ready to fall in love all over again when that moment arrives. Hockey needs the passionate fans like you, gentle reader.