If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan, you probably know all about the saga of William Nylander. He’s a flashy skater and scorer who’s refused to sign a new contract, wanting more money than the team is willing to give him. If he doesn’t sign or get traded by 5:00 pm Eastern Time today, he sits out the rest of the season.
Thousands of words have been written about Nylander by professional sports journalists … and now it’s my turn.
I love the Leafs like I loved them in the 60’s. “Willie, come back!” sings in my soul. For the first time in years, there’s a “my team”. Part of me thinks I should always elevate my consciousness above “us versus them” but there are times when cheering on the Leafs makes me so very happy.
I remember how much I enjoyed players who spent their entire National Hockey League career with one team. There was Henri Richard in Montreal and Steve Yzerman in Detroit. I’m hoping that Willie wants to be one of those players. There’s a sense of place, of being part of a long hockey tradition, of loving the home fans and being loved right back. Willie, would you like that?
I fear that money is more important to Nylander than being a Leaf. The potential for Toronto winning the Stanley Cup multiple times in the next decade is right before our eyes. But perhaps dollar signs shine brighter. If that’s true, it makes me sad. Yes, we need enough money to get along in life, plus to have some neat experiences. But surely the difference between $8 million and $7 million a year doesn’t guarantee larger happiness. I know that hockey players retire around age 35, and they need to plan for their future after being a professional athlete. But Willie … come back.
Think of being revered by countless Torontonians and Canadians. Think of lifelong friendships with your teammates. Think about being a part of Stanley Cup history.