So, Mike Komisarek is a leaf now. The guy who was drafted by the Habs, developed by them, taken care of by them during one of the worst times of his life and protected on the ice by being paired with Andrei Markov, has grabbed a few extra hundred Gs to scarper off to Toronto the first chance he got. He says the leafs are "the best fit." And it's "unfortunate" that "things didn't work out with Montreal." The reporters who cover the Habs say we shouldn't be angry with him because he was a good guy who was always available to the media and was a dutiful Hab while he was there.
Well, you know what? I AM mad at him. I'm really angry and, as a fan, betrayed by his lack of loyalty. Now, don't get me wrong, I know how ridiculous that sounds. We all...players, owners, GMs and fans...know and accept that pro hockey is a business. It's no different than a bank or an IT company. The team provides a service and the fans pay for that service. The people who work for the teams are employees who get evaluated, promoted and demoted based on their performance in providing the service customers want. And hockey teams, like banks or IT companies...and restaurants, plumbing companies, supermarkets and every other business...rely on the bottom line. Turn a profit, or you close.
I have to say though, as a business hockey is pretty much a scam. The service hockey teams sell is entertainment and the currency in which they trade is emotion. Pro hockey depends on thousands of us investing our time, love and money in supporting a particular team and its players. These guys don't feed us or fix our pipes or solve our computer problems. They entertain us. They rely on our attachment to a sweater or a player to keep our interest and keep us watching and paying for the privilege. That's why we get angry when a player walks away from us the way Komisarek has done. It's a shock to realize that he wasn't as invested in the team as we are. And it stings when reality intrudes into the fantasy world that is pro sport. The players make us hope and dream, then they get to decide when the dream is over with a curt, "it's a business" as their excuse. We feel betrayed because it's not fair for them to have it both ways...a player can't make us love him and then tell us he's done with us because another team's fans will pay more to love him. They tell us it's a business, but they don't want us to really believe it. If we did, cynicism would bring down the pro sport house of cards.
So, when a player like Komisarek leaves us in the dust, we have a choice to make. We can blithely say, "Oh well, it's a business and he's got to make as much money as he can now because his career will be so short." Or we can get angry and feel betrayed. Pro hockey had better hope it's the latter, because the day fans really, truly, in their hearts, believe hockey is a business, that's the day they stop paying for the fantasy.
That's why today I say, have a good time in Toronto, you traitor. I hope playing without Andrei Markov to cover up your mistakes doesn't hurt too much. And may you never score a point against the Habs, and when you block Yannick Weber's point shot, I hope it hurts. A lot.