Thursday, July 2, 2009

Enjoy TO, You Traitor

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.


Anonymous said...

This was pure gold. You've soberly described the result of the free-agent signing of Komisarek. Any attempt to refute the reality that you described will only indicate how entrenched your opponent is in the fantasy world of hockey.

The only fun left is in speculating why Komisarek left the team that raised him from prospect to professional. My best guess is as follows.

After being eliminated in four straight playoff games, Bob Gainey was at a crossroads. He knew that asking the same crew to simply work harder was nonsense; they had to work differently. Since most experienced players will object to changing the way they play, Gainey decided to let a bunch of the staff and players leave. The other main factor was that the team was not locked in contracts to the players that formed the disappointing core of perennial losers.

So, imagine you're Gainey. Ready? Look at Mike Komisarek. He's handsome, charismatic, big, but inarticulate. He had a reputation for shot blocking and loud bodychecks. He only scores by accident. When he's not playing with Markov, he's a liability. Can he improve? When? What's he worth?

If I'm Gainey, I let Komisarek leave.

Now, imagine you're Komisarek. Ready? Montreal's a tough place to play, you know? And you know, in Toronto, you know, everyone sucks and you know, the fans put up with it. I can go play there, you know, and just blend in. You know?

Anonymous said...

Apparently Gainey offered him a similar deal, but never received a counteroffer. That, if nothing else, makes me angry.

Eternal Pessimist said...

You pretty much said exactly how I'm feeling right now....

Jay in PA said...

I'm with ronniech. If the leafs would have given him $6M a year, we could have sat back and said, "He's not worth it, you can have him, and we don't blame him for taking the money." But for only half a million difference, it's odd and insulting that he jumped so easily and quickly.

I liked the guy and I wish him well enough, but I remember J.T. noting some time ago that his physical style of play will wear him down faster than most (cf Larry Murphy, a soft defenseman whose career was rather long). If his physical issues this year are the beginning of something chronic, he won't be worth $4.5M. Hell, he won't be worth $1M. As Ed said, he's just not that talented without the physical play.

DB said...

The top ten reasons Komi signed with the Leafs:

10) He likes missing the playoffs.
9) The 2 AM bar closing time means he'll get to bed earlier.
8) He actually likes loudmoth jerks like Burke.
7) He wanted to return to the scene of the highlight of his career - the OT breakaway goal courtesy of McCabe.
6) He likes being surrounded by other slow, big-footed defencemen.
5) He wants to be on TSN more.
4) Too many pucks to the head.
3) He doesn't like Molson's beer.
2) Insanity.
1) He wants to spend a lot more time with his good buddy Grabs.

JoshSS said...


Wonderful writeup.
Much better than Boone's which was personalized and lacking hockey fire.

Chris said...

Hey J.T.,

I can understand the is very disappointing to see him in the blue and white, to say the least.

One thing I wanted to add...when the Montreal crowd was jeering Price (as well as the rest of the crowd) in that infamous playoff game during the game and as he was leaving the ice, the three players who looked the most distressed about the crowd reaction were Chris Higgins, Mike Komisarek and Josh Gorges. Gorges was understandable, but I've never seen Komisarek look so frustrated and despondent...

I remember thinking that it was going to be much, much harder to sign him after that game. Its easy to see the fans' side of things...its our emotions. But I think that that night demonstrated a betrayal on the part of the fans for their players, and their anger and vitriol was directed at the wrong guy. Komisarek and Higgins, the leaders of the younger element of the team, were possibly the most stung by that betrayal other than Price himself.

I know that they are professional athletes and should have thick skins. But they are also human beings, and I think the dark side of the Montreal atmosphere got to them that night.

I doubt we'll ever hear the whole story, but I don't think Komisarek was coming back after that, regardless of the contract he was offered.

Chris (from Habs I/O)

Anonymous said...

I knew Mike when he was younger and I too am heartbroken that he's no longer a Canadien. But he's still a fundamentally good person and my hunch is that, as with most things, there are some things that Bob Gainey knows (and that Mike Komisarek knows) about the negotiations that we'll never know. Gainey plays everything so close to the vest that I'm guessing most of the time his right hand isn't fully aware of what his left hand is about to do.

NailaJ said...

I kinda agree but... I also saw on RDS that he was asking for 7 to 8 years... :(

J.T. said...

@Chris: I agree that night will have consequences for a while. Komisarek was always fairly protective of Price, and I thought the pain of losing in four straight, getting his ass kicked by Lucic and doing it all on home ice was just magnified by the wretched booing of the Bell Centre fans. While I understand how that kind of treatment would likely leave a lasting bad taste in a player's mouth, it doesn't make me, as a fan who did nothing but support him all through his career, feel any better.

I just hope those idiots in the Bell Centre who booed Price that night smarten up and make nice or we're going to go through this again in five years when Price is UFA.

This team needed a fresh start and a winning season. Gainey's given it a fresh start. It's up to them to do the winning.

J.T. said...

@Naila: So, he asked for 7-8 years, but he was willing to take just five to bolt to TO? Bah!

Shan said...

I'm somewhat concerned that aside from money, a factor in his decision may have been the idea that Toronto will become a contender again before Montreal. It's a disturbing thought.