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Cornered Coach: Trade Deadline Day in House League Hockey


It's never easy getting traded. 

In 1975, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, two ferocious rivals, pulled off a trade that shocked the hockey world, as all-star defenceman Brad Park was shipped to the Bruins as part of a massive deal that saw Hall of Fame goal scorer Phil Esposito head to the Rangers. When Espo was called to the hotel room of Boston coach Don Cherry during a Bruins road trip, he had an inkling something was up.

"Grapes, just tell me I haven't been traded to New York," pleaded Espositio. 

Legendary Bruins defenceman Bobby Orr was in Cherry's room to help break the bad news to Esposito, and Cherry had one thought as he contemplated Phil's potential reaction

"Bobby, get away from that window," said Cherry, as he was worried Esposito would take his "franchise guy" with him when he jumped after learning he was now, indeed, a Ranger. 

In the end, it all worked out as Esposito proved to be a big hit on Broadway. Esposito fell in love with New York, helping the Rangers advance to the 1979 Stanley Cup final before coaching and managing the Rangers in the 1980's.

Hopefully, last week's "Trade Deadline Day" in our Atom house league will have the same kind of happy ending. The team I help coach, the Avalanche, got off to a 5-0 start this season, outscoring the opposition 35-7. It was obviously a tad one-sided, so the league convenor and all the coaches got together to rearrange the talent pool. Unfortunately, we ended up parting with four very solid players (and four really good kids) in an eight-player deal that had my assistant coaches referring to me as "Riser"; a reference to Doug Risebrough, the former Calgary Flames general manager who was  famously fleeced in the 1992 Doug Gilmour-to-Toronto trade that completely turned around the Maple Leafs. 

The upside? 

While we lost four good kids, we also received four gems in return. A couple are in their very first year of hockey, but it's our job to "coach them up" and make sure they have a wonderful experience. It's obviously nice to win, however house league hockey isn't about one team totally dominating the schedule. To be honest, my goal is the same no matter which house league sport I happen to be coaching; finishing with a .500 record. In life, you win some and lose some and a child's sports experience shouldn't be any different, as they need to learn how to be both a good winner and a good loser. 

It was definitely tough to say goodbye to four key members of the Avalanche, but the players and parents completely understood the trades were for the good of the league. 

And the good news? 

Despite losing the "Fab Four", our brand new quartet contributed in their Avalanche debut, as we improved to 6-0, pulling off an exciting 4-2 victory that was salted away with an empty net goal. So while the wins will definitely be a lot tougher to come by, the hockey will be much more exciting and, like Phil Esposito, the kids in our league are sure to learn a valuable lesson.

It's not "who" you play for, it's "how hard" you play when you find yourself in a brand new uni. 


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