Ummmm yes mr ass Brendan Shanahan was to big for harford
By Michael Arace
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Thoughts that have remained dormant for years have worked to the front of my brain this week. Wisps of memory have emerged, unbidden, and they're telling me that we've all been played by Adam Foote, that he is not the leader of men that he purported to be, and not just because he quit the Blue Jackets.
I worked the Hartford Whalers beat for two seasons, 1995 to '97. The owner was bent on moving the franchise, but he made it sound like he wanted to stay. It was a two-bit carnival performance. Anyway, before the relocation plans became official, a story broke about defenseman Gerald Diduck putting his house up for sale. Diduck said this was pure coincidence, which, of course, was a crock. I don't blame Diduck. As a player, he was caught in the middle of a bad situation.
The year before, Brendan Shanahan, the best player on the Whalers roster, a Rick Nash type in his prime, begged his way out of Hartford. Shanahan fancied himself too big for the city. He said he wanted to play for a winner and hinted at a desire to be with a more stable franchise. He sat at a news conference, flanked by management, and announced he wanted a trade.
There was an editorial cartoon in the Hartford Courant that showed a little kid weeping as he took his Shanahan jersey out to the curb and put it in the trash can. Many fans identified with this sense of betrayal. Others at least appreciated Shanahan's candor and figured if he didn't want to play for the team, at least he was man enough to admit it. So, ship him. Shanahan took abuse as penance until he was traded to Detroit.
Lesson No. 1: Foote said he put his Dublin house on the market last summer because he wanted to "downsize." What he didn't say was he was hunting for a smaller house in the greater Denver area.
Lesson No. 2: Foote professed shock that he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche -- yet he rigged the game for just this outcome.
Here's what we know:
Jackets management wanted to continue negotiating with Foote. It wanted him here for the final stretch of the season. It was willing to lose him without compensation this summer, if it came to that -- which is a testament to its soaring regard for the captain. But Foote wanted $4 million a year for two years, an exorbitant price -- and if he didn't get it, his demand was to be moved to Colorado. And make no mistake, it was a demand.
A private jet, possibly leased by Foote's agent, took off from Pittsburgh on Monday night -- some 16 hours before the trade deadline -- and parked itself at Port Columbus overnight. This is the jet that whisked Foote to Calgary in time for him to suit up for the Avalanche on Tuesday night. Foote prearranged to have a pile of tickets ready for his friends and family.
Here's is some educated guesswork:
Foote regretted the day he signed a free-agent contract with the Blue Jackets in 2005. He always planned on retiring in Colorado, something he revealed this week during contract negotiations. No doubt, he will sign for less money than
the Jackets were offering ($3.5 million a year) when he gets his final contract with the Avalanche this summer. Maybe a part of him wanted to finish the job here, but more of him wanted to get back to the high desert plain.
Fine. But at least be a man about it. When you're the captain and you dump your teammates and slight a city and its fans, be honest about your actions -- especially after you've cashed $12 million worth of checks. Don't hide behind a contract demand that was never going to be met. Don't profess to be shocked at a trade when you know there's a private jet waiting at the airport. And don't talk about "downsizing."
The Blue Jackets were five points out the playoffs when Foote fled. He obviously felt he didn't owe the fans anything, didn't owe his teammates anything, didn't owe the organization anything -- not even the truth. His exit strategy was to play us like dupes.
Michael Arace is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.