Wednesday, 20 August 2008

He's Just A Kid

I'm sure you've read and heard all about 19 year-old Stefan Legein deciding to hang up his skates and walk away from the game of hockey. The picture to the left is somewhat appropriate given that people have said that he's "turned his back on his future", he's "walking away from the biggest opportunity of his life", and so on. While all of these opinions have some validity here, we shouldn't be speculating on why a gifted young man decided to walk away from the game. Instead, we should be helping him through, and allowing him some time.

Let me explain this. From the time that Mr. Legein was a young boy, he's been under the brightest of lights as his hockey career has unfolded. He played in the OHL with the Mississauga Ice Dogs, garnering attention from scouts and Hockey Canada. He played in the World Junior Championships, winning gold most recently. He was drafted to the NHL by the Columbus Blue Jackets, opening his path even wider in terms of how far he wanted to follow his dreams. But somewhere along the way, the fire that burned within him for the game of hockey began to die. The spark that had kept him as one of the top players in his age group began to disappear. And now, Mr. Legein has decided to step away from the game.

We've all been there. I was a 19 year-old kid once, and I had no idea where my life was leading me. My minimum wage job allowed me to have some fun in the summer while barely paying for university in the fall and winter. But it was all I knew.

Today, my chosen field of work has nothing to do with what I attended university to learn. The career path I thought I wanted never panned out, and I decided to make several changes that got me to where I am today. However, I can tell you that I lost the passion for the subject I was studying in university once that path I had worked for closed quickly. Could this be the case with Mr. Legein?

Stefan Legein has always been a talented agitator and jokester. He was the guy that the coaches relied heavily on for some relief of all the tension that Team Canada was feeling in their quest for World Junior Championship gold. The 37th overall pick in the 2007 draft was thought to be one of the energy guys that GM Scott Howson was looking for to add another dimension to the Columbus roster.

While he was generously listed at 5-foot-10, he was looking at the same battle that Theoren Fleury had to endure as a smaller forward in a game now dominated by giants. The punishment on his body alone could have been a reason for his departure from the game. It has been noted by a number of sources that a shoulder injury at the end of last season really affected his game. He returned home to focus on working out after playing in only two playoff games for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. I'm not sure about you, but how many hockey players give up the opportunity to play in the playoffs voluntarily? Not many, I can assure you.

Here's what matters, though. Stefan Legein is a healthy, young man who has a long life ahead of him in whatever walk of life he chooses. Whether it be hockey, business, flipping burgers, driving a bus, or whatever he chooses, I know he'll put the same energy and passion into it as he did for hockey. Why? That's just who Stefan Legein is.

Columbus fans, don't hate on the kid for being a kid. We've all been there, and we most likely can relate to what he's going through. The best way to help him is not to rag on Mr. Legein for being young, but to support him until he finds his way.

To Stefan Legein: hang in there, kid. You made me proud as a Canadian on numerous occasions, and you deserve happiness and health in whatever venture comes your way.

To my friend and blogging colleague, Bethany: well done on this one. You handled this news like a pro, and you should be commended for your integrity and honesty when it came to dealing with a sensitive matter such as this. Enjoy your time in the spotlight. You certainly deserve it.

To Mainstream Media outlets: maybe we're not so different after all, eh? Huge props go out to Adam Proteau of The Hockey News for giving Bethany her due, and for calling out his media brethren for their negative views on bloggers.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

Good post, Teebz. I get really frustrated when fans who haven't totally gotten over their childhood dreams of being a pro athlete act like it's a personal insult to them when someone who has a legitimate shot at it decides he'd rather do something else.

And honestly, as a Jackets fan, we've seen our share of players skate through here who seem less than committed. I'd much rather Legein be honest and quit if his heart's not in it, instead of going through the motions for a few years so he can cash in, as many messageboard posters have been arguing he should do. (As if a smallish agitator is going to make the NHL by just going through the motions anyway -- even in Columbus!)

Bethany said...

Teebz you wrote a great piece. Thanks for writing it, and thanks for being a buddy :)

Kirsten said...

This is a good post. I'm 20 and I have no idea what I want to do. I love to study various things, and I don't know which I wish to pursue for the next 40 years of my life.