I’ll never understand the concept of free agency in sports. Or drafting, for that matter. Sure, it makes the odds even, so that a hockey team from southern California can compete against another from Montreal even though one city has ice and the other doesn’t. But it just makes the whole system seem so fake. Much as I hate to agree with some of the xenophobic francophones who want to cleanse their country of impure races, I feel for them in the thought that a team based in Montreal should have Montrealers on it. Otherwise, what’s the difference between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs other than the city in which they play their home games. Why should fans here blindly follow the Canadiens, as if location alone gives their team an advantage?
Maybe it’s supposed to be like that. Maybe sports rivalries are supposed to be meaningless to preserve their fun. But it’s hard to think of the idea of a team when people can just come and go as contracts dictate, even sometimes when they don’t want to.
And so, just like that, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The writing was on the wall for at least a week now (though most thought he’d be going to Minnesota to join his brother Mikko), but those crazy logic-defying fans held out hope that he’d still be here next season (at least the ones that don’t irrationally blame him for everything. We’ve now lost our C and both As (Alex Kovalev to the Ottawa Senators and Mike Komisarek to the Toronto Maple Leafs, both pouring salt into the wounds). Next year will see the biggest turnover we’ve seen in a while.
So, like Red Fisher, I will miss our captain, and thank him for his service. He spent his entire NHL career in Montreal, went through a lot (with us living it vicariously through him) and did a lot for our team and our city. He doesn’t speak French, isn’t from here (neither are Kovalev, Komisarek, Andrei Markov, Carey Price, the Kostitsyns, Tomas Plekanec, etc.), but he was an integral part of Montreal and loved by its citizens. He certainly won’t be booed by me next time he comes to town.
We’ll get a new captain, as parents explain to their young children what “salary cap” and “unrestricted free agent” mean, and why those things led to them losing their hero. But our fans will soon go back to irrationally predicting that the Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup next year (with lots of Quebec-born francophone players), because … well, just because.
Life will go on. Because hey, it’s only a game, right?