Grist for the mill
Each season hockey fans, writers, sportscasters -- even NHL general managers -- go up and down every team's roster and make a wish list of players they would love to see trading spaces. Once the trade winds start blowing and the "wanted" players actually become available, the NHL world spins out of control faster than a Carolina Hurricane until the deal is sealed.
The fans go out and buy every newspaper and hockey publication imaginable, watch SportsCenter every night and scour the internet 24/7, looking for the latest news and/or rumors on their favorite players or team. The beat writers and sportscasters, on the other hand, prowl around the locker room hoping to get the scoop on the possible trade, while the GMs go about their business burning up the NHL hotlines.
While this may sound like it's all fun and games, the players who are on the block beg to differ. Just ask Colorado Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake or the newest New York Ranger, Alexei Kovalev. These two star players have been on "hot seat" at least once in their careers -- twice in Kovalev's case -- until their transactions were finalized.
Along with all the trade rumors during their careers, the two elite players even had to withstand the barrage of questions from the media during All-Star weekend. In separate years at the event, Blake and Kovalev were under the hot lights of the press, being interrogated on Media Availability Day. The two All-Stars were constantly being asked about what city they would be traded to instead of how it felt to be taking part in a star-studded contest with the game's best players.
At the 2001 All-Star Game, Blake, who was still a member of the Los Angeles Kings, was bombarded with the 'so where are you going?' questions, while Kovalev was peppered at this season's All-Star Game in South Florida, where he was representing the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"At something like this when all the media is around rumors are going to be flying," Blake explained. "I feel for a player when that happens."
Kovalev made like Patrick Roy and deflected all the trade-talk questions into the corner of the availability room.
"It keeps the media busy," Kovalev joked. "Sometimes you help them out and sometimes they help you out. We all have a job to do. They ask the same questions and we give them the same answers.
"I went through all the trade rumors once four years ago in New York, so I'm a little used to it. You have no control over it or what is said. As long as it doesn't bother my teammates, it's OK with me. I can handle it. Whatever happens, I will still have my job."
Blake remembers the rocky trade road he traveled as a member of the Kings. He recalls that a day didn't go by in the 2000-01 season that he wasn't hounded about being moved out of Los Angeles.
The Kings were under the impression they would lose the All-Star defenseman the following year to free agency, so they decided to test the waters and see what they could get for the stellar defender before they lost him for nothing as a free agent.
"It was evident to us from very early on Rob was intent on free agency," Kings General Manager Dave Taylor said.
The team and player came to an agreement during that season's training camp that when the right deal came along, Blake would be shipped out.
"It was tough, but I knew from training camp on that it was going to happen, so the adjustment wasn't as bad," Blake said. "I think the hardest part was dealing with different rumors or different teams every week. As far as personally, I knew between the Kings and I that it was going to happen and that it was just a matter of time."
But the matter of time for Blake to be traded didn't come until the season was almost two-thirds completed, which turned out to be a hard thing to deal with.
Blake was traded, along with Steven Reinprecht, from Los Angeles to Colorado on Feb. 21, 2001 for Aaron Miller, Adam Deadmarsh, a player to be named later (Jared Aulin), the Avs' first-round pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and future considerations.
Even when he was informed of the deal, Blake was still shocked that his career in Los Angeles had come to an end after wearing the Kings' crest for more than a decade.