Wednesday, 8 July 2009

State of...Tenure

First off, let me send out a very large and heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Joe Sakic on a wonderful career. He is certainly one of the greatest players to ever play the game of hockey. He is also one of the great ambassadors of the game. It has been a pleasure watching him play hockey for all these years. He will most definitely be missed – not only from the NHL but from Team Canada.

Joe’s retirement got me wondering about sports “stars” these days. It feels like the days of an athlete playing out his time for ONE team is gone. I remember growing up and watching guys like Ryne Sandberg, Steve Yzerman, Cal Ripken, Mario Lemieux, and Magic Johnson.

Those guys bled their team colours and it was a given that they would retire with that team. I’m not sure when all that changed (Gretzky to the Kings perhaps?), but today’s stars seem to move around a lot more than they did in previous times.

This got me chatting with my friend Bev about current stars that could spend their entire career with the same team. We came up with a partial list of the guys that could conceivably play their entire career with the same team. In order to be really considered you had to have spent at least 10 years in the league.

I'm sure that we've missed some, but here is what we came up with so far:

Derek Jeter – Can you imagine him playing anywhere else? There’s no way that the captain of the Yankees would ever get traded and I don’t see him deciding to move on. Derek IS pinstripes.

Nicklas Lidstrom – at 53rd overall the Wings made one of the greatest draft picks ever. Nick will finish his career with the Winged Wheel.

Peyton Manning – See above. Peyton now embodies what the Colts are all about….although isn’t that what we said about Favre and the Packers?

Hines Ward – A perennial fan favourite, there would be a revolt if he were let go or traded.

Kobe Bryant – He’s been in the league for 13 years already! Granted he’s only like 26 years old (I know, he was drafted at 13 – that’s crazy!!!) and has several years left, but he certainly has made a name/home for himself in LA.

Ray Lewis – I’m not sure that he’s untouchable anymore…but he made the Ravens what they are today. A couple more years and hopefully he gets to retire in the black and purple.

Paul Pierce – At the rate the Celtics are moving players and bringing in new talent, who knows if PP can stay on forever. He certainly looks at home in the green jersey.

Tim Duncan – it’s not like they don’t have a history of keeping their captains. The Admiral made a career of playing for the Spurs…I don’t see Timmy leaving any time soon (unless to retire).

Dirk Nowitzki – Strangely, we’ve heard talks over the years of him moving so I don’t know how stable this is…but he’s been there for 11 years so I guess he’s got the potential.

Steven Gerrard – Who? I know, I know…it’s soccer so it hardly counts, but he is a hometown hero (born 10 minutes from the stadium) so he makes the list. He’s been with his team for 12 years and he’s a fan favourite. Thanks for the insight Bev.

Other than this, there isn’t much out there. Some names that were thrown about were Tom Brady (he’s been with the Pats for 9 years), Donovan McNabb (who’s name is rumoured every year to be traded), and maybe Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, David Wright (all too young to be considered Lifers yet). Rich Nash just too an 8 year deal to stay with Columbus, but that deal expires when he's in his mid 30's so he has another contract before he retires. Other than this there isn't much out there.

I know that sports has become a much larger business than it was in years past, but it saddens me a little bit to know that some of the stars that my kids grow up watching may get moved around every 3-5 years when their contract expires. Is that what sports has become; take as much money as you can while you can? Surely there is more to sports than that?! We’re just not seeing as many players taking the “home town discount” as we used to.

I’d love to think that a player like Roy Halladay, who was drafted by the Jays and was developed in the minor league system, would want to stay on with the team forever…but the reality is, players want to win and players want more money. Sometimes a player is okay settling for just one of those things and sometimes players need both. It’s what sport has become.

How many people would rather have seen Bret Favre retire as a Green Bay Packer instead of the circus that he's been involved in over the past couple of years? I'm not even sure that Jets fans would have wanted to see him come out of retirement for what he did last year.

Maybe it's just that there are too many teams now. Back in the day when there was only 6 hockey teams there was no need to trade players. If you wanted another stud you just got him from down on the farm (literally). Maybe it's free agency. I'm not even sure there was "free agency" back in the day. You stayed with the team because that was your only option.

Either way, I miss having players that played their entire career with the same team. It helped me remember who the good guys and bad guys were. Now the lines are all blurred. If Halladay goes to Philly do I still hate them? What if Hines Ward becomes a Bill?

Thanks Joe, Steve, Mario, Cal, Magic, Ryne and all the others for your dedication to your team. My hat goes off to you.


1 comment:

  1. A lot of older players fought for free agency, an era we missed as youngsters. As nice as it is for a handful of players to be able to play all their careers in one place, movement is an essential part of making sure these guys get paid.

    I'm willing to bet that one day a number of your the players on your list will end up wearing different uniforms.

    If Favre can move teams then Manning, Brady, Lewis, Ward are not untouchables later in their careers.

    You think Paul Pierce is going to stick around in Boston after KG, Allen and Sheed are done? No way, he had one foot out the door until those guys were brought into the fold.

    Gerrard? Really? I thought you were talking about sports and not sissies that don't know how to use their hands...