Here it is. It's done. It's over. Simon Gagne has been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you know me, at least a little, you probably came to an easy conclusion - that this trade must make me extremely happy. My all time favorite player was sent to my all time favorite team. But never believe the first impression. Nothing is just black or white. Nothing is simple. Everything has flaws and drawbacks. And the drawbacks of this brought me in tears at the end of the night. Once the hype vanished, once the veil of excitement dissolved, I was forced to face the inevitable and painful fact. Simon Gagne is not a Flyer anymore.
Being well-known for loving the Lightning more than any team and loving Simon more than any player, I received many messages and comments, even phone calls from all different kinds of people, asking me how I feel about the trade, most of them assuming I'm probably excited about it. Frankly, I couldn't find the right words to answer their questions. I didn't know whether I should cry tears of joy or sorrow. I was very confused with myself and that's why I have decided to put it all 'on paper'. Yes, this post will be a meaningless chatter so feel free to ignore it. Though, if there are still some people wondering "how does Katchis feel about this trade?", I hope you'll find the answer here.
My life used to be all about the Lightning. I used to follow only them, I used to have favorite players only among the Bolts. But then Simon came in the picture. I can't tell you when exactly it was. It's been probably too long ago to remember? With a rough guess I would say it was sometime around 2003. As stupid as it sounds I wasn't attracted by his skills as a hockey player and no, not even his looks. First thing that draw my attention was his name (yes you can start laughing now). 'see-MOHN GAH-nyay', I truly fell in love with it the second I found out how to pronounce it. It made me giggle. And then it happened. I started to follow him, look for information about him, pictures, hockey cards and as I grew older and with internet giving me new opportunities, I finally managed to get my jerseys, tshirt, hoodie, poster... you name it, I bought it (or am planning on to buy it). As the years went by I eventually gave in and jumped on the Flyers bandwagon. A friend of mine (Flyers fan) had hands in it as well. And I think you know, or can guess the rest.
Now, when I shared my 'How I became a Gagne fan' story with you, which was totally pointless, we can finally move to the essence of this post. As I mentioned earlier, everything has drawbacks. Even having your favorite player on your favorite team. The first one is, that this all could have been avoided. If you really think that the Gagne trade was inevitable from the beginning and that Mr. Holmgren had it all planned, then I honestly feel sorry for you. I strongly disagree with the necessity of it. And no matter what you say or do, you won't make me think otherwise. There were other ways since July 1 and I believe that, sorry for the raw way of saying it, I believe that Holmgren f-d up. Pretty bad.
No need to remind anyone that Gagne was with the Flyers organization for 12 years (how appropriate) since being drafted in 1998, playing in 10 NHL seasons for them. I'm not here to recap all the good years, the bad seasons, the injuries, the OT winners. I let others to do that, I'm sure many people will come up with some great articles about Simon. I am one of those who blindly believed that hockey was different from all other sports. I thought that in hockey, the players were treated in slightly different way. At least those who proved not only their skills, but also their character qualities - such as loyalty, devotion, heart, persistence. Both on and off the ice. Hockey is a sport of proud men. And if a player is proud of the team (city) he's playing for, he should have the right to stay there. If you have a player like Simon Gagne you should think twice before you put yourself in a situation when you 'need to' move him. I was naive enough to think that hockey really is not completely ruled by money. But sadly, it is. Hockey became a sport where fans and the players come last.
Some people might think that when Simon waived his NTC, he must be satisfied with the way things went. He after all agreed with a trade. Waiving a NTC isn't a proof of anything though. Rumors and whispers about Gagne being put on the waivers were floating in the air lately, no one could miss them. Simon included. That was indeed a scary thought. Nobody wants to be put on waivers and hang there like a piece of garbage that nobody wants. "But as time went on, I pretty much had no choice." was one of Simon's comments. It should give you the clue that the last thing he wanted was to leave the Flyers. But he had no choice... How sad is that? After all the things he has done for the Flyers, the very same team now pushes him out of the door, kicks him out, nudges him over the bridge, burning it after him. Simon is a nice guy and most of all, he's a professional. He won't complain. He'll do what's needed from him. But I must think that there will be a bitter taste in his mouth, for a long time, because this is one tough to swallow.
Everyone knows that Gagne is not only an amazing personality, fan-favorite. He's most of all a great hockey player. I can hear what you all are probably thinking now - a biased Gagne fan will now talk about his awesomeness, disregarding his age and a past full of injuries. No, I will spare you that. I just want to say that the return Flyers got for Gagne only shows that he was dealt only to ease Holmgren's salary cap pain. We all know that. We knew it before it happened. And this fact makes me really sad. Simon Gagne, dumped by his beloved team because of money. Ha, sentiment? Maybe, but this only proves that the sport of hockey has been degraded. Degraded by money. What an irony.
As Simon will be missed by the Flyers fans, he will miss them. I've never been to the St. Pete Times Forum nor the Wachovia Center. But I highly doubt the atmosphere in Tampa is anywhere near to the electrifying Orange Crush in Philadelphia. Yes, there were times when people actually went to hockey games in Tampa, the place was stacked, but I don't think it's the case nowadays. We can only guess how the rebuilt Lightning team will affect the interest in hockey in Florida. For Simon’s sake, I hope people start coming to games again.
Last but not least, when you compare the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers, who do you think has the bigger shot at the Cup? The Bolts? As much as I love them, as much as I trust Yzerman and the people he brought in, I don’t see them as a Cup contender. They might make the playoffs, yes, but that’s probably all we can ask from a team that is in its rebuilding mode. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I might be completely wrong. I honestly hope I am wrong.
Others would consider it a blast to bring their favorite player to their favorite team, but because of the reasons I listed above, I can not fully enjoy it. If I look at some of the perks for me, of course I see some. There's no need for me to follow a new team. From the 29 (theoretical) teams, Simon landed in my #1. If I am lucky enough and everything works out, I might get to finally see him with my own two eyes. If everything works out, I should be in Tampa next March. Well, fingers crossed...?
I put Simon above all and everyone. I care for him more than you can imagine (seriously, it's not healthy anymore). I want, what he wants. And he wanted to stay in Philly. He wanted it more than anything. I bet most of you could only imagine him as a Flyer. Representing the Orange & Black. And so did I. If he ever was supposed to win the Cup, it should be in Philadelphia. And he should have his number retire there. But this dream is slowly fading away. It's gone. And when the Flyers raise the 2010 Eastern Conference Champions banner in Wach at the start of the next season, Simon Gagne won't be there...