Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Simon Gagne, a Reverse LeBron

The Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League have successfully jettisoned Simon Gagne. As a Flyer the left shooting star has been productive, 664 games played, 259 goals, 265 assists and 524 points. The fans of the Tampa Bay Lightening will be elated, especially since they got the talented forward for a song.

Mr. Gagne has been with the Flyers for ten years. He has always been a well liked player. And anyone, who knows Philadelphia fans, recognizes that a player has to be the real deal to win their loyalty and devotion. Paul Holmgren, the Flyers general manager, was determined to rid the team of Mr. Gagne and his big salary.

The GM has a few younger players (Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, to name two) with great potential. With their lower salaries, the Flyer's salary cap mandates can be met more easily. Besides, the former NHL’er believes they can fill Mr. Gagne’s skates. Perhaps…. Mr. Giroux displayed verve but JVR didn’t look ready in this year’s recently completed Stanley Cup finals. Experience will only come for them by playing.

The saga of Akron native and former Cleveland Cavalier, LeBron James, stands in contrast to that of the Flyers. It was a pity and a sad spectacle to watch the Cleveland Cavalier fans and front office suffer, when local son and hero, LeBron James dumped them for the Miami Heat. Mr. James, with his ridiculous one hour ESPN special, came off as a disloyal person and an opportunist. No matter how many championships he wins, he can never be more than a self absorbed egoist.

Mr. James broke the hearts of his fans. Likewise he broke the team itself, inasmuch he was their best player. Even more classless was his failure to tell the team owner, Dan Gilbert, he was leaving. He, like the rest of us, had to wait for the cable special. The nickname “King James” is no joke.

Mr. Gagne, like the Cleveland faithful, is disappointed and hurt. Professional teams, like bratty star players, can be ruthless and uncaring too. Good and loyal service is often unrewarded. The politic Mr. Gagne is able to rise above the chaotic din of the business of professional sports and see the essence of the game, to wit,

“(The people of Philadelphia) are what I am going to miss the most,” Gagne said. “I’ve been there for 10 years. Philadelphia was like my second home. When you stay there more than a decade you start to get familiar with the area. You build friendships with the players, the training staff and all the people working for the Flyers. The organization becomes like your family a little bit…

“I think the thing I will miss the most are the Flyers’ fans. All the support I got there for the 10 years that I played, even during the tough times when I had some injuries, the fans were really fair with me the whole time. There were a lot of #12 jerseys in the stands even when I started with the team in 1999. To them, I would just like to say a huge thank you. Those are the people I am going to miss the most.”

The pain and heartbreak of sports’ divorces can go many ways, but in any event there is a patent injustice when players or fans or owners are on the short end of the diss. Neither the Philadelphia Flyers nor LeBron James exhibited the kind of tact that deserves respect. Oh well.

For Simon Gagne, the Cleveland fans and the Cavalier’s organization, there’s always therapy or alcohol or a stiff upper lip. Time heals all, says the wise man. Good luck Simon, bonne chance. And good luck to the Cavs and fans as well. So it goes. Can’t wait for October. When does Simon come back to Philly to play AGAINST the orange and black? And Cleveland will be rocking when Miami visits for the first time.

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