As a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, I recall Bobby Holik as an unsmiling man/machine of a player, a hard-nosed grinder with a square head. I recall remarking on more than one occasion that he somewhat reminded me of Frankenstein, but underneath all the snide comments and the vitriol was a begrudging respect for the man who wore a New Jersey Devils sweater. I may have hated Holik as a Devils’ player, but I would have loved to have him throw on the orange and black of the Flyers.
Holik had a long career in the NHL, racking up 747 points in 1,314 games. He won’t go into the Hall of Fame, but he was the kind of player that every successful team needed to have, and his two Stanley Cup rings can attest to his value.
Recently, it came to my attention that Holik had a blog, Holik on Hockey, with the tagline of “Hockey Opinion: Unfiltered.” The reason that Holik’s blog caught my eye was his take on the fact that he had heard that the Flyers organization was happy that the Los Angeles Kings had won the Stanley Cup. Holik, seemingly found this fact absurd, and said as much:
I read reports about the Flyers organization being happy the Kings won, and even rooting for them after their second round loss to the Devils. I can’t see how the Flyers are happy. How could a team who decided Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne couldn’t win in orange and black, feel great about guys who won the second they left Philadelphia?
I just cannot believe it for a second. I played in the NHL for almost two decades and never came across such a “friendly” attitude. NHL hockey is a tough and very competitive business.
As a Flyers fan myself, I’m torn by Holik’s comments, but in the end, I have to come to the conclusion that he is right. The Flyers, as an organization, cannot and should not be happy that players they cast aside became winners almost immediately upon leaving the team.
Notice that I said the organization and not the fans—there is a difference. The Flyers’ fans became attached to these players. Richards and Carter were marketed to them as the two players that would be with the team until they retired. They were the second coming of Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke. These were to be “their guys,” and the long-term contracts that both players signed spoke to that.
It’s not a surprise that some fans would be happy to see old members of the Flyers organization raising the Cup. From Ron Hextall to Justin Williams, these were guys that bled orange and black and the fans still love them—that’s easy to understand.
What’s not so easy to comprehend is that the Flyers gave up on Richards and Carter, basically labeled them as losers and shipped them off.
If you think that’s harsh, you would be wrong; you don’t trade players you think are winners, players you think can lead you to the promised land of a Stanley Cup. You don’t trade Carter and Richards, two proven players, for basically what, at the time, were looked at as assets and potential. To think that the Flyers had not given up on the duo is to be blinded by loyalty to team. The Flyers gave up on them and washed their hands of them, and that is where the business of hockey comes in.
The Flyers lost out on a huge business deal. The Los Angeles Kings were the short-term winners of that deal. It’s hard to say if they will be the long-term winners, but if this is the only Cup that either team wins in the next five to seven years, then they will be the long-term winners as well.
This is hockey, and the successes and failures are judged in Stanley Cups. Not in wins. Not in awards and accolades handed to individual players. But by Cups, and one Cup trumps zero any way you look at it.
To put this in a more business-like manner (and don’t be fooled it is nothing but business for the organizations involved), do you think that someone like Donald Trump would be happy if he sold an asset to someone and they turned that asset around and made a huge profit? There’s no way that Trump or anyone associated with him would be singing the praises of the person or organization that got the best of them in the deal.
It should be no different for the Flyers. This is business, and if someone gets the best of you, there’s no way that you should applaud their success. For that success is ultimately your failure.