14 December 2009
Let's assume, for a moment, that the drama is true, and inside the Flyers locker room more closely resembles an episode of Jersey Shore than a unified team of 20 men. Let's assume that Chris Pronger came in and could not believe how close John Stevens was to his players, and was an instrumental force in blowing things up. Let's say that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are secret lovers. What does any of this have to do with how the Flyers play on the ice?
Your cube at work or your truck at the site or your car in the parking lot or stall number 4 is your one person locker room. You are an adult (or else you're a college kid, in which place you should crack a beer right now and start drinking it - forget about class and finals - you'll understand when you're in your late 20's). We all face adversity every single day at the workplace, but we present ourselves in an adult like fashion - meaning be bottle it up, work hard and take many shots to the chin, and then blow of steam when our job is done. Our league minimum is not $525k. That is 10 years of our lives.
I would never think to challenge all the hard work that these guys talk about putting in. There's no doubt they work their bodies into incredible shape. But when does a player that is highly touted from the time he is 12 years old ever find the time to put in the mental work that turns you into an adult? When do they ever face adversity? On Saturday night the Flyers dressed 12 players that were drafted in the first 2 rounds of the NHL Draft. Meaning that year, and in fact all of their formative years, they were one of the best 50 hockey players in the world. The WORLD. They've always been the best. When faced with problems they don't know how to handle they skate harder, ride the bike longer, and study the opposition closer.
At the same time there's no denying that attitude, confidence, and emotions in general can effect every aspect of your life. This might be most easily seen in a tale from on of hockey's all-time greats.
As Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, approached his impending retirement, during two seasons where he felt like he was being treated unfairly by the Red Wings front office, he put up 71 points and then 53 points before he hung up his skates for a job in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena. Two years later the owner of the WHA's Houston Aeros came to Howe's summer home and asked him what he thought of playing with his two sons the coming season. It had been a lifelong dream of Howe's and he had had enough of Detroit. Truth be told the Aeros owner was more interested in Mark and Marty Howe, Gordie's boys, but he thought bringing in the old man couldn't hurt the box office draw. That season, at the age of 45 Gordie Howe recorded 100 points in 70 games in the WHA. The next year he notched 99 and the year after that he had 102. He played on a line with his youngest, future Flyer Mark, while big Marty defended the back end. At some point during this amazing run a reporter asked him what had changed that had resulted in this resurgence. And Gordie simply answered "It's amazing what you can do when you're happy."
So maybe I'm underestimating the importance of a unified, proud, and strong locker room - if this rift is even real. But if that is the case, I would think Paul Holmgren would be aware of it, and I would think he'd figure out a move that could possibly alleviate some of this cloud of unhappiness.