Hot on the heels of Trevor Linden‘s jersey retirement ceremony, the Vancouver Canucks signed Mats Sundin for a reported $10mil/year (pro-rated for the mid-season start). You know, I’m so glad that when I sign a new contract, the newspapers aren’t obligated to report what the companies pay me. One day they just might pay me $10mil/year. And nobody would ever know!
The pressure to perform at this level must be overwhelming. I recall years ago when the Canucks paid exorbitant sums to sign Pavel Bure, and later Mark Messier. At the time I thought paying specific players outrageously higher salaries would alienate the rest of the team. Well, both of them buckled under the pressure and proved themselves unstable on and off the ice, and their contributions will always be remembered as mistakes. The damage was already done: both took their money straight to the bank. They did not need to pass the Goal—there was no performance clause in their contracts.
Meanwhile, Trevor Linden earned a reasonable salary for an athlete, but abysmally below the curve established by those players. Yet even in spite of his comparatively low earnings, he raised the profile of an athlete to become an advocate for the children, the underprivileged, and during negotiation time, the NHL players. While I won’t go so far as to say the world owes Linden anything, I will say he set the standard for celebrity behaviour that I hope will continue to challenge our own.
In this day and age of the “look-at-me” wannabes who think more highly of themselves than they ought, it’s refreshing to know that being himself, and by doing what he normally did, Linden gave so much to so many people. And he would have done it anyway, even without the spectacle.
It’s also sad that so soon after Linden gave one of the world’s greatest speeches at the classiest event in hockey history, Sundin slapped us in the face by reminding us of everything we hate about professional athletics.
Somebody should pull the wool away from Mike Gillis’ eyes and remind him that the world is in the middle of a recession.