As a fan, I am not proud of what Mark Bell did. As a player, and a person, he isn't either.
But it doesn't take a Leafs fan to read today's article on Sportsnet to realize that hey, maybe this kid did change. It doesn't even take a fan of hockey.
Any sports fan can take a look at this article and say "hey, he shouldn't be in trouble anyway, but you got to respect the way he handled it." Like a man. A regretful man who wanted to pay his debt to society.
And he did. The hard way.
After some speculation on what Bell had been doing with his sentence over this summer, it was all cleared up this morning as he talked about it in depth for the first time.
I won't glorify what Bell did to get into the predicament. But all athletes should heed the call, and take notice of what Bell did this past summer.
As they say, he "towed the line." Bell spent all summer under the hot, scorching sun of California, working on the chain gang.
In amongst all the other common convicts was a National Hockey League player. Earning his freedom the hard way. Sweating, grinding his body. Performing a service to society, like everyone else would have to.
440 hours total, eight hours a day, five days a week. Just like a regular Joe.
Mark Bell performed what he called "professional landscaping." In the time of deep reflection and introspective, Bell gained things, and left other things behind. His sense of humour and smile were not one of them.
Earlier today Bell was told his sentence had been served. He still has some probationary measures to follow, but for all intensive purposes, it's a done deal. All in the past.
Bell shared his story of humility because he says he thinks he can be a role model to people who may be dealing with similar scenarios.
He said he thought a lot about his family, his job, and the luxuries it provided. He also kept the upcoming hockey season at the forefront of his thoughts.
Again, I don't condone what Bell did to get in trouble. And I know he did get to go home at night, a luxury not afforded to most other criminals. But everyone can respect the fact that Mark Bell did his time, the hard way.
Unlike so many athletes before him, he didn't attempt to weasel his way out of things. He stood there and took his sentence, and he feels he is a better man for it.
Leafs fans, me included, are hoping Bell can put this all behind him for good and return to being an effective player for the team. Bring physicality, grit, and hard work on every shift, along with the occasional secondary scoring.
And besides, a summer of reflection, along with the rigors of ditch digging? This guy must be ripped!