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Ad-Justin' to a Mid-Season Trade

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Two years ago, Justin WIlliams had his television turned to TSN's coverage of the NHL trade deadline when something on the screen caught Williams' attention: his name.

That's how Williams learned that he had been traded to the Kings from the Carolina Hurricanes, the media having found out about the move before either general manager could contact Williams. Williams stared at the screen for a moment, then grabbed his phone.

``I was obviously shocked a little bit,'' Williams said this week. ``They went to commercial and I called my wife and I said, `I think we might have gotten traded. I'll let you know.'''

Justin Williams battles around Roman Polak back in early 2009.  Months later he was traded to the Kings in the Patrick O'Sullivan deal.
Thus, Williams experienced the most jarring of events in the life of a professional athlete: the midseason trade. When the NHL's trade deadline passed Monday, hundreds of players breathed sighs of relief, knowing that they wouldn't have to relocate.

That included all of the players on the Kings' roster. The Kings added winger Dustin Penner from Edmonton, but gave up only minor-league defenseman Colten Teubert and two draft picks, so no players had to leave Los Angeles to make room for Penner.

A trade can be exciting for players in a way, a fresh start with a new team. Sometimes, in Penner's case, it means a chance to jump off a losing team and into a playoff race.

In almost every case, though, a trade creates drama in a player's life. Fans see a player in a different uniform and might presume that not much has changed except the color of the laundry and the faces of teammates in the locker room. That's not the case.

Off the ice, everything changes. Where will a player live? How quickly will he get settled? If he's married, will his wife come along, or stay behind and wait for the summer? If he has kids, will they stay in school in the old city, or come along with their dad?

``When you have family, it changes the whole perspective of things,'' Kings winger Ryan Smyth said. ``I think that's why you're seeing a lot more of the no-moves, no-trade clauses coming into effect, so that there's some security from the player's perspective, on the family front too.''

Smyth joined the Kings in the summer of 2009, in a trade from Colorado, but that was entirely by choice. Smyth had a no-trade clause in his contract and chose to waive it, after ample discussion with his family about what the move would entail.

Ryan Smyth celebrates a win with goalie Rick DiPietro in 2007 during Smyth's short-lived tenure on Long Island.  Smyth was acquired in a shocking trade deadline deal from Edmonton.
Smyth's first trade was more dramatic. Apparently convinced they would be able to re-sign him in the summer, the Edmonton Oilers traded Smyth to the New York Islanders just before the trade deadline in 2007.

For Smyth, an Alberta native and beloved player in Edmonton, the move was dramatic, and included an emotional press conference with the Edmonton media.

``From the hockey side of things, it was devastating to find out midway through the year,'' Smyth said. ``Especially in my occasion, because I grew up loving to watch the Oilers play, and to be a part of them was very special. It was hard to take.

``I was embedded for 11 years there. It's just different. A new way of driving to the rink, to `How are my wife and kids going to take it at this time?' Your world gets turned upside down for that short period of time, for sure.''

For some players, the move is less traumatic.

Alexei Ponikarovsky celebrates a goal against Atlanta in 2010.  He played nearly a decade with the Maple Leafs before being traded to Pittsburgh at last year's deadline.
Alexei Ponikarovsky spent nearly a decade playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins, on trade-deadline day last season, it hardly came as a shock, as Toronto had openly been shopping Ponikarovsky.

``I would describe it as an experience,'' Ponikarovsky said this week.``When you get traded for the first time, you go through some emotional stuff and you have to change some things and you go away from the family.

``But I think you just learn from that, and you accept it as a part of your job and just go with it and go to the other team. Life goes on. You play with a different group of guys and, for sure, it's a little bit different.''

A couple days before the deadline, Kings coach Terry Murray acknowledged that players can be impacted by trade rumors and get distracted about possible moves, and said there’s little, as a coach, that he can do to calm nerves.

Some players fret more than others.

``At this point, it doesn't really impact me,’’ Williams said. ``Some guys say, `Oh, you can't think about it,' and some guys do think about it. Whatever happens, happens. I used to think about it. In Carolina, I thought there was a chance, and then it did happen.

``For the most part, my wife and I understand. We have a family now, so it's a little tougher now, but at the same time, we know what business we're in, for the amount of time that we play in the NHL. If you're lucky enough to get a no-trade clause, you've got a little bit going on, but for the most part, whatever happens happens, and you just worry about what you can control.’’

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