Playing hockey for money is pretty awesome. You see, what happens is, you play hockey, and then they give you money. So that’s pretty much why I think it’s cool.
But it does change things – for one, how you play starts to matter. And not “matter” in the youth hockey sense, where playing better might mean you get more ice time, and that’s good because playing hockey is great. It starts to matter matter, where not playing well costs you real dollars and the chance to earn your way up the ladder where even more money awaits.
It’s mentally draining when you find yourself in a bad situation – your coach won’t play you, or you’re organizationally buried, or you keep getting traded. The sand is running through the hourglass on every young player’s career, so you become acutely aware of every day good things don’t happen, and even more aware of the bad things.
I don’t know the man personally, but I do know that Lane MacDermid of the Calgary Flames handed in his retirement papers this week at 24-years-old after 21 NHL games and hundreds of AHL contests, which is something you almost never see at or near the top level.
The Lane MacDermid situation got a little clearer. He’s officially filed his retirement papers, according to Craig Conroy. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) February 26, 2014
If you weren’t up on his “weird situation” before, here’s some quick background:
MacDermid, 24, was acquired by the Flames in November of 2013 from the Stars in exchange for a 2014 6th round draft pick. Since being acquired, Lane has played one NHL game with Calgary and 25 AHL games with the Heat.
Given that acting GM Brian Burke’s desire to be a bigger and stronger team to play against, MacDermid was brought in for depth in that department, but seemed to have lost his spot on the roster when the Flames also acquired Kevin Westgarth from the Caroline Hurricanes in December of 2013. Westgarth has played 18 games with the Flames since being acquired, and it would only stand to reason that MacDermid no longer felt that he had a place within the organization, beyond playing limited minutes for the Heat.
See if you can spot where in MacDermid’s career things started to get frustrating:
I’m gonna go ahead and guess the point where the games played numbers per team start to get small, the amount of teams in the same year starts to get big, and he starts to sniff the NHL before finding himself buried.
Harder still for MacDermid, was that he was doing it in the role of enforcer, which is apparently a mental grind like no other. Here, sit on the bench for 55 minutes, and be a punching bag that occasionally gets treated like a punchline. Some guys in that position just want the opportunity to be given real minutes so they can demonstrate they can handle them, but it’s a bit like a porn star trying to break into mainstream movies – you’re still typecast as that other person from that other walk of life in the eyes of many others.
I don’t know the exact circumstances that led to MacDermid’s decision, so this is all speculation, but I have respect for anyone who chooses to move on from the game to try his hand at something else before the hockey world forces them out the door. You almost never see players leave on their own terms. I don’t consider it “quitting” if you’re a guy with a shot to make it who was like “to hell with this, it wouldn’t be worth it even if I did.”
And his situation would be way, way harder to walk away from than the guys I know who’ve done it because of that, which makes it even more impressive. It’d be real easy to stay around the game with your heart not in it for years. I don’t see having the common sense to say “this isn’t my passion, let me pursue whatever that is” as anything but a smart move.
I really hope he made this decision purely because he wanted to, not because something we don’t know forced him to. If he did, a big tip of the hat from me. Plenty of other players are trapped by the game – it’s all you know at some point, the money is tempting, and starting from the bottom in another field can be scary.