The news out of Columbus late Tuesday – namely, that Stefan Legein, the Blue Jackets’ second round pick (37th overall) in 2007, was abruptly retiring at age 19 – left the team’s fans and management in a fair amount of shock.
I hope the young man isn’t vilified for his decision. Who among us hasn’t had doubts in our late teens (or for that matter, well beyond that age) about our direction in life? Legein’s biggest problem is he has been in a line of work that receives so much publicity and adulation most casual observers assume he should be down on his hands and knees in gratitude for the opportunities he’s been afforded.
That attitude has some degree of validity. At the same time, though, nobody knows what led this kid to his decision. There was also no guarantee he would’ve evolved into a full-time NHLer, especially with his modest size – he’s listed at 5-foot-10, which means he’s likely an inch or two shorter than that – and in the end, he’s the one who has to live with the ramifications of his choices, the same way we all do.
Furthermore, if I were an NHL GM, I’d rather have one of my players throw in the towel at Legein’s stage of development than deal with someone like Ray Emery, who signed a multi-million dollar contract in Ottawa before coming to the conclusion last season he just wasn’t into all that practicing-hard-and-showing-up-on-time business.
My best wishes go out to Legein, regardless of his lot in life. It couldn’t have been an easy choice – and the last thing he needs right now is thousands of second-guessers dressing him down for it.
• The other intriguing angle to this story is the way in which the news was broken: by a Blue Jackets blogger who received an anonymous tip and forwarded it on to intrepid Columbus Dispatch reporter (and THN correspondent) Aaron Portzline, who confirmed the news with team officials.
There’s still a sizeable chasm between the hockey media establishment and bloggers, but I’m guessing that gap will shrink in the coming years. As long as both sides are on the same page in terms of accuracy and accountability, there’s room for everybody.
Indeed, at a time when the NHL has trouble selling itself to traditional media, nobody in the hockey business should be especially picky as to who piques fans’ interest in all aspects of the game.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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