Another sad day here in New York. The cold winds only act as a microcosm for the bitter slaps in the face I have had to deal with over the past few weeks. I do not blame anyone because at the end of the day a hockey team is just like any other business, and the front office must do whatever is necessary to make the team better for the future. Even when you know trades are coming and friends that you have made over the years, teammates who are a part of your everyday life for 9 months and are willing to literally break their bones and pour their heart and soul out for you, are suddenly gone…it’s tough. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching.
As an 8 year-old-kid who dreamed of playing a sport like this, my narrow mind could not comprehend the kind of heartaches and failures that come, even with all the years of hard work put into the sport. As a Kindergartner who skated on a sand pit frozen over during the winter by my teachers, all I could think was how much fun I was having. I wish things were that simple now, but as you progress through every stage in life, something must be left behind as you evolve on to what you hope to be greater things.
When my twin brother decided to forcefully raise my arm after the coach asked who wanted to play the goalie that first day or organized hockey, I had to forcefully evolve. Yet, this feels different. Joel forcefully raised my hand that day because he knew I was too afraid to raise it for myself. Plus, I REALLY wanted to play goalie. Even now I am absolutely fascinated with the waffle pads and bad-ass mask. I mean I love the Godfather as much as the next guy, but that goalie equipment was a whole new level of bad-ass with that mysterious je ne sais quoi (I know I’m Swedish but I got some French terms in me too. It’s the benefit of playing hockey with all of these European cultures.). Sorry, I always get side-tracked by stories of the past. Anyways, my brother forcefully raised my hand because I know I wanted to raise my hand but didn’t have the courage or strength to do so. But what has happened over the past few days (and by force I might add) is not what is best for me and is certainly not what I ever wanted to happen.
One of my best friends in the entire world, Mats Zuccarello, was traded away a few days ago. He was undrafted, undersized, and no one believed in him at the start of his hockey career. I could relate. In the 2000 draft, seven rounds and 204 draft picks later, the New York Rangers finally decided to take a chance on me. Because of this, I felt so grateful that someone finally believed in me, and I swore allegiance to this team until my death. Thanks to my no-trade clause in my contract, this dream has become a reality and though this franchise has faced and will continue to face hard times in the future, I will stick around all because they decided to take a chance and believe in me that June 25th. Zuccarello was exactly that player in 2010, and as one of the leaders on the team, I decided to introduce myself to the lonely fellow. Little did I know that I was walking to one of my best friends who would constantly come over to my wife and I’s home, where he would always get my daughters riled up telling them that we were having candy for dinner. That bastard. Ha! I still love him for all those little antics. But what I love him most for was his effort and compete (sic) level whenever he was on the ice. That 5’7” elf always acted like he was the strongest one there, always willing to stick up and even get into fights for his teammates. I’ll miss that. I’ll miss that so much. Not only did no one believe in him, but he used it for motivation. Who knew two outcasts, nearly 10 years apart, would find a way to meet and become best friends?
I don’t know what else to say. I don’t want to give away too many specific details about what he meant to me as a person and as a friend. I like to keep those details private because that’s what makes those moments oh so special. And if Matsy, if you do end up reading this, you were an honorable teammate and an even better friend. I love you brotha!! Just because I am your biggest fan, I will be sure to chant “ZUUUUUUUUUUCCCC!!!!” as loud as I possibly can the next time you touch the puck in Dallas, even if you are 1,552.8 miles away.
P.S. Don’t use this video against me just because I love you!!!!