Undoubtedly there was going to come a time when the writers here at Flames Nation were not going to agree on something. With the Summer over and the blatant disregard from the NHL and NHLPA to provide us with our winter fix, we have been left no choice but to now turn our vitriol on each other, and it’s time for the Nation to eat their own!
The Calgary Flames have given us a glimpse of its new Forever A Flame campaign where they have given themselves countless opportunities to honour past players without having to retire their numbers. They promised us at least three, and gave us only one, leaving us
on the edge of our seats to probably forget about the whole thing all together.
With the rapid appreciation of Book of Loob’s 2 Minutes Hate, I decided to see just how far I could push our rookie scribe. He failed… Actually he started to cry during our lunch meeting, saying he just couldn’t in good conscience… Well I don’t wanna ruin the story, so without further ado. Get ready for the biggest demonstration of FlamesNation grandstanding you’ve seen since the CBA negotiations started.
So there I was, alone, at home, minding my own business, face deep in leftover ginger beef from maybe a week ago, feeling awesome, when VF approaches me about doing a Two Minutes Hate column.
“Yes,” I replied, never one to shy away from scorn directed at those who have wronged me. “Love gettin’ my hate on. Who’s the mark? Anders Eriksson? Ryan Kesler? Jason Weimer? I have to know”
“Nah, none of those guys,” said VF, solemnly, as if those were stupid ideas. The glint in his eye suggested he had much larger, more dubious decisions in mind. “I was thinking Joe Nieuwendyk.”
Apparently I came to rather quickly, though the bright lights and high pitched drone felt like they endured for an eternity. Surely I could not have heard that sin of a suggestion.
“I’m sorry; I thought you said Joe Nieuwendyk,”
“I’m pretty sure you’re thinking about Jonas Hoglund”
“No,” he assured me, with steel in his eyes. “I mean Joe Nieuwendyk”
Naturally, I just couldn’t do it. The only thing I hate about Joe Nieuwendyk is Corey Millen. I wanted to know why VF wanted me to lambaste one of the finest Flames this side of Atlanta, especially knowing it was one I adored so much as a youth.
Look, I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus, or besmirch the good name of a player that obviously deserves the numerous accolades he has acquired over a storied career; especially when that player is still an icon in the Calgary community. That’s what Joe Nieuwendyk is, and that’s how he will probably always be remembered.
Every hero, every superhero, has something that has motivated or sparked them to become what they are remembered for, let’s just call it the skeleton in their closet. Nieuwy is no different.
I have fond memories of watching Joe do what he did best. That is, carry this team on his shoulders. He was a leader in EVERY sense of the word for the Calgary Flames. So how is it then that I can sit here now and even fathom that he is one that is worthy of “Two minutes hate” from Flames fans? How can I turn my back on Joe Nieuwendyk??
Simple, HE did it first.
SAY IT AIN’T SO JOE…
If you asked a lot of people, it was Nieuwy’s chronic health issues, particularly his knee, causing a decrease in production that paved the way to his trade to Dallas. The real reason it all came apart at the seams is the same as it is has been everywhere – money.
In 1995, Joe wasn’t thrilled with his contract with the Flames. So much so that he went to arbitration over it. After the Arbitrator awarded him a deal of $1.85 million, Nieuwendyk wanted to renegotiate for a longer term. The Flames actually offered him a 3 year deal that would pay him $6 Million, but that still wasn’t good enough.
Rather than continue negotiating, Joe figured it was better to not join the team at the start of the season as a hold out. That lasted until December 19th, when he was traded to Dallas. The return? Oh that was Corey Millen and a kid named Jarome Iginla, who was turning heads in Kamloops and getting ready for the World Junior Championships.
And just like that, he was gone. Look, I don’t begrudge payers that ask to be traded, or whose sole purpose in contract negotiations is to look out for the proverbial #1. What I do have a problem with is that while you are trying to negotiate what’s best for your career, you tell your teammates and the fans you basically don’t give a rat’s ass about them and they’re on their own. That vitriol increases two fold when you are the team’s captain, their leader.
Yeah, alright, you’re going to have to let me interject here for a second. I’ve been reading all this stuff, V-Flame, and all I can say is “ARE YOU F#@$%^G KIDDING ME?”
Let’s pretend, for one moment, that you’re sitting at home, basking in the glory of another highly praised edition of Voice of the Nation (a wonderfully written and insightful piece featured regularly, exclusively here at FlamesNation. Tell your friends), when you get a phone call from Kent Wilson, telling you you’ve been traded to Dallas Stars blog Defending Big D, because they were willing to give you a hefty pay increase over the discarded bottle caps you get paid here? You’re telling me that you’re not going to even consider it? You’ve got a family to feed, dude, and those bottle caps cut your tongue when you chew on them.
Nieuwy did what Nieuwy had to do. Hockey’s a free market. On an individual level, Joe did what was right for Joe, and in this cutthroat world, that’s somehow the way things have to be.
I mean, come on, he’s Joe Nieuwendyk. The man became a hero off the bat. He scored a goal in his first NHL game. In his first full season, he scored 51 goals. Sure it was the 80’s, and a good number of those goals probably came off of a coked out Grant Fuhr, but any rookie putting up those kind of numbers is a special player, and the kind a franchise and the city that loves it can build an identity around.
Not too many franchises have been able to immediately canonize a player off the bat. In NHL history, there has only ever been 13 players to score 90 or more points in their rookie season. Only 4 have ever scored 50 or more goals. Joe is one of those guys. He became a franchise player as a 22 year old on a team that featured Lanny McDonald, Hakan Loob, Al MacInnis, Joe Mullen, Gary Roberts, Gary Suter, John Tonelli, Brett Hull (asterisk), Jim Peplinski, and Mike Vernon. That is an All-Star team, and Nieuwy shone as bright as any of them. Now come on, VF, how are you gonna go hate on that?
“Let’s pretend, for one moment, that you’re sitting at home, basking in the glory of another highly praised edition of Voice of the Nation, when you get a phone call from Kent Wilson, telling you you’ve been traded to Dallas Stars blog Defending Big D, because they were willing to give you a hefty pay increase over the discarded bottle caps you get paid here? You’re telling me that you’re not going to even consider it?”
Ahhh yes, see that just proved what I was trying to say. Of course I’m going to consider it, but that situation is not the one that Nieuwendyk was faced with.
If I may borrow your analogy, then let’s look at this way. Like you said, I am at home basking in the glory of another edition of “Voice of the Nation” (two shameless plugs in the same article… Man this IS grandstanding at its finest!), and suddenly it occurs to me, “Hey, I don’t get paid enough for this Sh!t!” I get on the phone and call Kent expressing my epiphany, and my desire for a raise*.
*Pay attention Wilson! 😉
Kent admires my profound use of the English language, saying, “I’m glad you put it like that VF, cause, well, your last few editions of VotN have been just that, SH!T!”
He then goes on to say if I want out, he could try and find a spot for me with another team to blog for, but it would make it a lot easier if I could continue writing and maybe even step my game up a bit. Thoroughly disgusted now, I snap back that no, I’m not inclined to keep writing masterpieces when I’m treated like a first year art student. Call me when you have the name with my new editor… and I hang up the phone.
THAT IS YOUR JOE NIEUWENDYK!
They say history is written by its victors, and time heals all wounds. Put these two clichés together and you have the Joe Nieuwendyk tragedy that is the story of when Joe left Calgary, the team, the City, and all of its fans.
When you look at the big picture, like fans and even the organization tends to, it’s easy to say that the Nieuwendyk for Iginla deal was a win for the Flames. What I wanted to emphasize was that when you look at the deal a little more narrowly, it shows that maybe, just maybe, Joe is worthy of at least two minutes of hatred and animosity from fans.
Fans had no idea that Iggy was going to break almost every offensive record, including Nieuwendyk’s and later Fleury’s.
What if Iggy wasn’t Iggy? What if he was just Iginla? Do fans still hold Nieuwy in such high regard?
When a player holds out on a team, it’s my belief that he severely hampers or even handcuffs a team in getting a suitable or decent return on him in a trade. The team loses all leverage with partners because they know, simply put, “He doesn’t wanna play for you, so why should we give you what YOU want, rather than what WE are willing to give?”
In the end, Iggy was the superstar we wanted; he is just as, if not more, beloved in Calgary. Hell his name is even easier to spell! That’s what I mean by time heals all wounds. If we rewind to the trade day and Corey Millen had ended up being the offensively superior of the two, fans would have lost their minds.
Joe Nieuwendyk had a phenomenal career, being part of the only Calgary Flames team to win a Stanley Cup. Then, like the insufferable D-Bag that he became, he ran out with dollar signs in his eyes and his tail between his legs, and won two more Cups and a Conn Smythe!
YEAH, IF I COULD STEP IN HERE AGAIN
First of all, Iggy became Iggy. Theoreticals be damned, it didn’t happen, it doesn’t matter. Iginla was new hotness, end of story.
But further to that, every trade is a gamble. Any General Manager worth his salt has enough insight and analysis into the game and won’t handicap them in a trade that involves one of his stars. Al Coates wasn’t that General Manager, but hey, Law of Averages right? Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
In fact, given what you say about a handicapped GM is generally correct, I’d say the Flames came across like gangbusters in the deal. Maybe Bob Gainey didn’t see the potential in Iginla to become what he was going to become, but the Stars still had to be pretty high on him. First round picks are always a valuable commodity, and teams are loathing parting with them. The fact that Coates was able to land such a highly touted prospect AFTER his coming out party at the World Juniors for a guy who, while certainly in his prime and capable of so much more, did have the whispers about being injury prone start to get louder from that point on. Hindsight shows us that the pros outweighed the cons for the Stars on the Nieuwendyk trade, but at the time it was a bit of a gamble to give up so much to get him.
In the end, the deal worked out for both teams. The Flames acquired, let’s face it, their franchise, as Iginla has been lucrative for the Flames on and off the ice, while Nieuwy helped the Stars achieve something they had never done: Cheat their way to a Stanley Cup Victory. Brett Hull guys, Brett Hull.
But this is about Joe, and Joe as a Flame, not at how he helped deliver Baby Iggy to Cowtown. The point is, nobody plays forever (except Teemu), everyone leaves eventually (except Teemu), and if the only reason to hate on Joe is because he left, well then we can make the same case for everyone who has ever or will ever suit up for the Flaming C for doing the same thing (except for Jonas Hoglund. I loved that guy for leaving).
THE LAST WORD…
Oooh okay. Iggy became Iggy. Well thank Jonas Hoglund (I can’t use the Lord’s name in satire) for that!
Yes, every trade is a gamble, but that doesn’t mean you need to start off with 8-2 off suit. I think one of the most important factors we are ignoring as fans is, as said, hindsight. We view the trade as a success because of the Hall of Fame career Iggy has had, so as a result, the trade was a good one because it matched the fact that we gave up a Hall of Famer. Seems logical right?
Consider the alternative if Nieuwendyk HAD played ball with the Flames; reported to the team, and gave the chance for the Flames to showcase him to prospective trade partners. As much as you say the Stars were giving up quite a bit in a first round pick, he was still just a prospect, and everyone can agree that even the highly touted prospects can turn out to be NHL duds (*cough* Trevor Kidd!). Nieuwendyk was a proven leader, offensively gifted center that had a Stanley Cup under his belt. I’m not disputing Iginla being part of that trade, but let’s look at the often forgotten cog in the deal, that you yourself have already expressed an issue with.
If Nieuwy had not chosen to throw the handcuffs on the Flames then maybe, again, just maybe the Flames could have gotten something more than Corey Millen. Could the Flames maybe had a shot at a different addition like, oh say… Jere Lehtinen or Jamie Langenbrunner? What about Darryl Sydor? No instead we got Corey Millen.