Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Russian Factor vs. Canadian Factor.

A tangential point on Éric Bélanger, who is now working at RDS as a talking head, but used to play in the NHL in Edmonton for a long time among other locales.

Last season, faced with the end of his career and no NHL offers coming in, he went to the KHL to keep playing pro hockey.  He only played seven games, then decided to retire, saying he didn't want to be away from his family, that hockey had become a weight rather than a pleasure, etc...

Now I'm not picking on the guy, I respect his decision, I'm just going to use his case as an example.

It bugged me at the time that not more attention was paid to this announcement.  When an Alex Radulov acts unpredictably, we tag all Russian hockey players as flakes and unreliable.  When Nikolai Zherdev says he's had it with Columbus and wants to go home, he's a malingerer and untrustworthy, he broke his contract, his word.

Yet we made no such judgments on Canadian hockey players when Eric Bélanger signed on the dotted line, took a KHL job from a good son of Mother Russia, only to welch, to renege on the deal, and leave his team high and dry at the start of the season.

Instead, we ascribed a positive spin to the story, of an old warrior laying down his shield, calling it a career, no longer satisfied with the rewards of professional hockey, eager to 'spend more time with his family'.

And I cottoned on to Éric Bélanger, but I know it's happened before, with players coming back complaining of the food, the rinks, the language, the airplanes, the coaches, ...

So yeah, we batted around the term 'Russian Factor' over the weekend, and I wonder if in Russia they talk of the 'Canadian Factor', to describe fat, unmotivated, undedicated mercenaries coming over from the NHL who turn their nose up at everything, won't play the system, take stupid penalties, whine about conditions in the KHL to newspapers back home, and then through an interpreter explain that they were "misquoted", then quit and fly home, leaving their team-supplied apartment a pig sty.

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