Puck Daddy - NHL

In an interview about his recent trade from the Florida Panthers to the Washington Capitals, Dennis Wideman(notes) answered a seemingly innocuous question: When would they like you in the line-up?

Wideman said the Caps would like to have him in uniform for the game tonight, just a day after the trade deadline. He also mentioned his family in the same conversation.

That's no easy time for a family.

When the New York Islanders dealt my dad to the Los Angeles Kings in 1986, it was a tough situation for our family.

The roots had long-since set on Long Island for us, being that we'd lived there for 12 years. My parents built a home next to Clark Gillies and his family and, more importantly, built a life.

My brother, Jeff, was born with spina bifida, scoliosis and hydrocephalus -- serious conditions that require ongoing medical attention and support. My parents found the right schools, teachers, nurses and support staff to help meet his needs and start his happy life. I had started school. And then, of course, there were all the friends you make living in the same community for well over a decade.

This was different than when I was traded in the minors and switched fully furnished apartments. My parents, like many veteran players, had a house to sell and lives to move. With the 86-87 season on the horizon, a tough decision had to be made: for his first year with the Kings, my dad moved to LA without the family while everything was taken care of on the Island. My mom and us kids would move the following summer.

This arrangement isn't all that uncommon in the NHL. In fact, that same summer Clark Gillies was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, and his wife, three daughters and multiple dogs stayed behind for a season as well.

It was hard on my mom, and it was hard on us kids, but that the nature of the business for NHL players and their families.

The lifestyle afforded by the sport is worth plenty of sacrifices, but as players get older their priorities change and decisions get harder.

(Knowing how hard these changes were for us, by the way, reinforces how much Bill Guerin(notes) loves hockey. Dude would take his family to Alaska tomorrow if they got an NHL team and signed him.)

Now, this isn't the problem of general managers -- that's not to say they're cold-hearted, but as we so often say, it's a business. They make a lot of money to hand off quality rosters to their coaches and to the fans, so nobody considers them villains for being businessmen.

But sometimes we forget that the weeks and months that follow a trade bring unseen challenges to the players being dealt. Sometimes we can't quit figure out streaks and slumps, but really, what do we know about a player's life away from the rink?

My worst college season was directly linked to off-ice struggles. It's not like you're thinking about those personal issues during games; it's that they take away from your ability to prepare.

I remember rushing home from practice to deal with problems instead of going to the gym. I remember being on the phone to iron things out instead of getting proper rest and preparation time. Dealing with realtors and moving trucks can't make an NHLer's ability to prepare very easy either.

For younger players, it is simpler. Most up and comers have one main focus: hockey. They're excited to meet new teammates, get new opportunities, and to live in a new city. But it's different for the family man who's played in the NHL for ten years.

Some players value no-trade clauses more than they value dollars and cents -- the stability and security they provide in an insecure world is priceless.

For the players without that luxury who woke up in their own beds this morning -- knowing that tomorrow will be no different -- you rest assured that smiles abounded.

Off the ice, consistency is underrated, and simplicity is a gift.

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