What Sutton had coming next was a slew foot that would end his career. But that’s another story.
The point is, somewhere along the way, every great player puts the financials of the game first before anything else. Pay equals comfort, luxury and respect. Yet it wasn’t long ago they vowed, like any other kid who’s ever laced up the blades, “If I could be in the NHL, I’d play for free.”
The difference is most of us go on to exhibit a talent level so far below pro standards that teams would not only reject the offer but demand millions in compensation to carry you on their roster.
No one blames the select few who actually make it and then fail to make good on their vow to play for free. Why would anyone turn down a dump truck full of cash?
For the answer to this, we look to Sweden, where longtime NHL’ers Markus Naslund and Peter Forsberg are playing for free. Yes, free. We throw parades for NHL'ers who give hometown discounts and these two are actually playing for nothing. Both are playing for Modo, the Swedish Elite League club they broke in with.
When Naslund retired last May, he left a guaranteed salary of $4 million on the table. In doing so, he saved the Rangers a major cap hit, which allowed them to use that money to go after free agents like Marion Gaborik. Forsberg would have received at least that if he played over here.
Instead, he and Forsberg are helping to save Modo, the franchise that gave them their big break. Modo is in last place and struggling financially. I’m no expert on league attendance in the Swedish Elite League – well okay, I am. I took a course in SEL attendance back in college. But that’s neither here nor there. Modo’s attendance sucks right now but thanks to these two, they'll probably sell out the rest of the season. I’m guessing their talent level gets a little better too.
All without spending a dime on major player signings or intense marketing.
It's a classy gesture from two great players who never completely dismissed their childhood love for the game and their “I’d play for free” attitude.
(with files from Savidant media)