It might be easy for fans to view hockey players as commodities. We put price tags on them and haggle over their value like they’re something able to be bought and sold, but the truth is that there is a real human person with real human emotions behind those business decisions. We had a reminder of that fact this week.
On Wednesday, the Capitals were practicing at the Leafs’ practice facility in Toronto when suddenly Devante Smith-Pelly was pulled off the ice and told that he had been placed on waivers.
Smith-Pelly is a Toronto-area native and his father had been watching him practice from the stands.
Another cruel detail to the spoiled homecoming: after practice, the Capitals were scheduled to tour the Hockey Hall of Fame before presenting the Hall with a Capitals Stanley Cup ring. Smith-Pelly, who had been instrumental to the Capitals success in the Stanley Cup playoffs, suddenly was on the verge of being discarded by the team that he loved enough to take a discount to stay with when he signed a new contract last summer.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was at practice and saw Smith-Pelly’s reaction to being waived, as well as his teammates’ reactions. He talked about it on the 31 Thoughts podcast.
Begins at 19:40
Jeff Marek: You’ve just come back from Washington Capitals practice.
Elliotte Friedman: Yeah, that was a tough one. So I sit down at the rink at the Mastercard Centre where the Leafs practice, and that’s where the Capitals are… and I just happen to check and I see on twitter feeds they’ve announced Jaskin’s going on waivers. And then the list comes down at noon and someone says to me, ‘It’s not Jaskin, it’s Smith-Pelly.’
And the toughest thing about that is that Smith-Pelly’s on the ice at the time and he came off and I guess he found out about it–and you could tell he was really upset. That was a really tough moment for him. And the Capitals had an event where they’re giving a ring to the Hockey Hall of Fame and they had a team lunch and…I saw Smith-Pelly out by the bus while I guess a lot of his team was inside [the bus]. I guess he just needed to decompress and think. It’s terrible. It’s a good reminder at this time that we’re discussing rumors, about what a human thing this is, about how difficult these individual decisions are on people.
Jeff Marek: How big is this Devante Smith-Pelly situation? Is this big, is this a contained fire, what is this?
Elliotte Friedman: You know the old Bernie Parent story about when the Flyers won the Stanley Cup, what does Fred Shero tell them? ‘Win today and we walk together forever’? One of the other things that happened is he came out of the dressing room and there were about three or four guys standing around him–TJ Oshie was one, I think Michal Kempny was another—and you could tell that those guys legitimately wanted to make him feel better. Those guys won a Stanley Cup together, the first and only one in the 44 long and tortured history of the Washington Capitals. That team, they are gods among Capitals fans. And all those guys, you could tell they’re a tight team, you can tell they all get along really well, and you could see that they felt terribly badly for him. So I think internally its something that they’re going to have to manage. Players understand this is a business, but you could tell that those guys wanted Smith-Pelly to feel ok. And you could tell that he was really upset. The Capitals are a mature group, they can handle anything, they’ve proven it, but nobody likes to see that.
Smith-Pelly ended up going unclaimed on waivers and was assigned to the Hershey Bears. He was scheduled to be at the Stanley Cup Champions Chalk Talk event next week, but has since been replaced with Jakub Vrana.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.