Less than a week after scoring the winning goal to give the Chicago Blackhawks the Stanley Cup, Dave Bolland was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for three draft picks. There was no hue and cry over Chicago’s lack of loyalty to their players. "It’s part of the game," Bolland said.
Now Ilya Kovalchuk has retired from the NHL and is rumored to be going to the KHL. He wants to return to Russia to finish his career there and be with family. Interesting is the reaction here. JR filled the ‘twitterverse’ with vitriol over Kovy’s decision, accusing him of being selfish and disloyal to the fans and the team. However, it looks like this will be more of a benefit to the Devils in the long run by freeing up needed money for obtaining more players.
Sergei Bobrovsky had a similar decision to make.
In 2010 he came over from Russia on an entry-level contract. He came because the Flyers were "serious" in signing him. He didn’t know the country, the language or culture. He didn't know it but he was about to enter goalie hell in Philly. After a stellar start, which ended with a burnout and goalie carousel, he watched as rumors floated about the Flyers going after an "elite" goalie.
Bryzgalov was given the royal treatment – ride in Snider’s private jet-a tour of historic Philadelphia and a $51 million dollar albatross of a contract. "A contract is not playing, a person is", said Bob.
One shining moment eluded Sergei when he got the call at the Winter Classic. But it was not to be. "Too bad I made a mistake." So no surprise when on Bryzgalov’s birthday, Bob was traded to Columbus.
During the lockout he played for SKA Petersburg along with Kovalchuk and with his five shutouts and a .932 average, the team was in first place in their division. The lockout ended and Bob found himself in Columbus fighting for the starting goalie position. He emerged the front-runner in March and never looked back. The team nearly made the playoffs and everyone agreed it was Bob who had made it possible.
After winning the Vezina, Sergei’s agent and Columbus were in negotiations for a new contract. At the same time, he was being offered big bucks to play for SKA Petersburg along with a guaranteed position on the Russian Olympic team. He probably knew of the pending deal for Kovy. If he did not return to SKA or negotiations stalled with CBJ, he could wait for offer sheets from other NHL teams.
But he wanted to improve his game and felt more time with the NHL was the better way. So he decided to remain in Columbus for two more years and a nice salary.
By the way the circus may be over in Philly with the buyout of Ilya Bryzgalov. Ilya thanked Mr. Snider for providing security for his family. "As my family and I move forward to meet the new challenges ahead, I could not leave Philadelphia without publicly thanking Mr. Snider for the faith he showed in me when he committed to the long term contract that has secured my family's financial future and acknowledging his passion for the game of hockey." Now Ilya waits for a phone call. From any team.
Who’s to say what loyalty in hockey or any sport is these days? Does it make one selfish to think about security for one's family? And after the hoopla of winning a trophy dies down, what's left? Just ask Dave Bolland.
As Sergei says, "Everyone chooses his own path in life."