|Despite going from the playoff-bound Sabres to the last-place Flyers last season, Martin Biron has made the best of the situation this season. Biron highlights
Players in the NHL now realize that being traded is a way of life in modern sports and turning in the old jersey for a fresh start has become just another part of being a pro athlete.
Some, in fact, view a change of scenery as an opportunity to reinvigorate a career -- even if it does appear to be the case right away.
Take, for instance, former Buffalo Sabres goalie Martin Biron, who received word that he had been dealt to Philadelphia just prior to a pre-game skate in Toronto at last year’s trading deadline, which meant he went from the playoff-bound Sabres to the last-place Flyers.
Other times, it is apparent from the start that the move will be beneficial.
Take, for instance, Jim Dowd, who was presented an opportunity to go from a team that hadn’t made the playoffs seven straight seasons in Chicago to a perennial contender in Colorado at the 2006 trade deadline.
"I was at the morning skate with my teammates in Chicago and we had a game with Colorado that night,’’ Dowd told NHL.com. “After the skate, I remember talking with (Colorado forward) Andrew Brunette and we both felt something was going to happen, but had no idea what.
“I went to lunch with the guys in Chicago and then headed home. The trading deadline was 3 p.m. that day and I was just about to shut my cell phone off and head back to the rink when (Chicago GM) Dale Tallon called to tell me I’d been traded to Colorado. To be honest, I was really fired up to be headed to a Stanley Cup contender.’’
In a span of 24 hours on March 9, 2006, Dowd practiced and had lunch with his Chicago teammates before donning a Colorado jersey to face his former employer that evening. The New Jersey native, in fact, would assist Antti Laaksonen’s goal midway through the second period to give the Avalanche a 2-1 triumph.
"My whole family was psyched about the trade, and Colorado was great about getting me a place to stay and a car right away,’’ Dowd said. “The transition was very smooth and my wife (Lisa) was very grateful for that.’’
Today, Dowd is playing for Philadelphia, his 10th NHL team in 16 seasons.
Biron was to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2007 and had prepared himself and his family for the inevitable.
"My family knew something was coming because we had talked about it for a long time and, to be honest, my wife (Anne Marie) was excited; even though she is from the Buffalo area,’’ Biron said. "I knew I would have to go somewhere else to get the playing time I wanted since Ryan (Miller) was playing well in Buffalo. It was sad in a way because I had been in Buffalo for seven-plus years and grew up in their farm system for two years. My son (Jacob) was 2 years old and was really starting to get into hockey in Buffalo, so I had to tell him we were changing teams. I guess he was too young to really understand, but it’s still a change.’’
Biron -- who now resides in South Jersey and whose wife will soon give birth to their third child -- admits family support is crucial during any trade.
"You’re a hockey player, so things like this will happen,’’ Biron said. “Sometimes you get happy news and sometimes unexpected news, but you just have to try and juggle it all and deal with it, but having that support system is really important.
“As a player, you have to know that something is happening and you have to let your family and friends know. My family realized this was the best move for my career. If I’m going to pursue my dreams and goals, they knew this was something that had to happen and I’m glad for that.’’
Biron can recall the night he was dealt to the Flyers as if it happened yesterday.
“When I got word of the trade, we were in Toronto for a game and I was getting ready to go on the ice but got called back to the coach’s office,’’ he said. “(Coach) Lindy (Ruff) told me to just hang out because something was happening, so I waited a little bit before I was informed I’d been traded. I didn’t know where or what was going on, but I went back to my hotel to grab my stuff and was then told it was the Flyers.
I got in touch with the people in Philly. They got me a car back to Buffalo so that I could pack some of my stuff and then I hopped on a flight that night to Boston, where the team would be playing the following day. It all happened very fast.’’
Biron would stop 34 shots to record a 4-3 overtime victory in his first game as a Flyer just three days after the deadline.
Neil Smith, the mastermind behind the Rangers’ deadline deals just prior to their Stanley Cup run in 1994, feels players are interested in three things when involved in a trade.
“They want to know how much money they are going to make, if they’ll have a chance to win and how they’ll be treated by the coach,’’ Smith told NHL.com.
Smith added those questions were already answered for Craig MacTavish, Glenn Anderson, Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan, the players he acquired at the `94 deadline.
“We were first overall and although the players were entering a situation that might not be familiar to them, they were certainly familiar with the people,’’ Smith said. "Anderson had Mark Messier (teammate in Edmonton), Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau had coach Mike Keenan (coach in Chicago) and MacTavish had his best friend, Kevin Lowe (teammate in Edmonton).’’
Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski, a five-time NHL All-Star, has played for three clubs in his 12 seasons in the League.
“Teams playing well will always look to make that push at the deadline,’’ Jovanovski said. “It’s always a tough time though, especially for guys with families. I don’t think people really understand that side of it. It’s always tough moving and being away from your family, but it’s part of the business and something you can’t control unless you have a no-trade clause in your contract. But trading at the deadline will remain a part of the game.’’
Anaheim Ducks wing Todd Bertuzzi viewed his deadline trade from Florida to Detroit last February as an opportunity to win a championship.
Now, I’m with Anaheim so, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat’em, join’em. - Todd Bertuzzi
"It was a chance to go win a Cup, so my whole family was excited,’’ said Bertuzzi, who advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time in his career with the Red Wings. "Unfortunately though, it didn’t work out. But, now, I’m with Anaheim so, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat’em, join’em.’’
The Red Wings were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Ducks in six games last winter.
Bertuzzi, who has played for five clubs in 13 NHL seasons, felt the transition for he and his family from one team to another was professionally done.
"Players primarily deal with public relations personnel on the staff, who take care of a lot of the off-ice issues,’’ Bertuzzi, the father of two children, said. "Everywhere I’ve been, we’ve had exceptional people, so making the transition has never been an issue and your mind is put at ease, so you don’t have to worry about anything other than playing hockey.’’
In March 2001, current Los Angeles Kings center Michael Handzus was involved in a deadline deal that had him shipped from St. Louis to Phoenix. The 30-year-old Slovakian, who has played for five clubs in his 10 seasons in the League, has learned to ignore the business side of the game.
“It’s totally out of your control,’’ Handzus told NHL.com. “Whether you’re playing good or bad, it doesn’t really matter because there’s always a chance you’ll be traded. You just have to play hockey and not worry about it.’’
Atlanta Thrashers right wing Marian Hossa, an unrestricted free agent this summer, could offer immediate assistance to a contending team before the Feb. 26 deadline. He knows he could be on the move if his agent, Rich Winters, and Atlanta GM Don Waddell don’t come to a resolution in the next two weeks.
“I’m looking forward to a resolution and, hopefully, it’ll happen soon,’’ said Hossa, a 1997 first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators that was traded, along with Greg deVries, to Atlanta for Dany Heatley on Aug. 23, 2005. “My agent and GM are trying to work on something. I really hope it works out because I really like this city. If I do sign a long-term deal, I want to make sure the organization is taking the steps to win in the future. That’s why I’m taking a little longer with my decision.’’
Contact Mike G. Morreale at email@example.com.