What do the following events have in common: the Chicago Cubs winning their first world series since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the 1982 miracle on ice, Joe Thompson’s epic full court shot and the St. Louis Blues’ first Stanley Cup? Answer: these are some of the greatest victories in all of history. I believe there is another victory that deserves to be preserved alongside these.
The Carolina Hurricanes, with both goalies injured, defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3 on Saturday, Feb. 22. The Hurricanes’ dilemma left Dave Ayres, a Zamboni driver, as the Hurricanes’ emergency goalie. The NHL trade deadline followed the Hurricanes’ victory by only two days. Some of the decisions made in the wake of this victory prior to the deadline have sparked some serious outrage over another goalie in the NHL from none other than yours truly.
First, a little disclaimer about a personal bias for which I am proud. I grew up in Southern Illinois, just south of St. Louis, Missouri. I spent most of my childhood surrounded by die-hard fans of all St. Louis sports teams. If there is one thing I learned as a child that I will carry with me forever, it is to passionately hate Chicago sports.
Obviously, this makes me a St. Louis Blues fan, but I am proud to say I also have come to love following the Vegas Golden Knights. Sadly, the Knights are the subject of my recent outrage. Just one hour before the trade deadline, my beloved Knights traded goalie Malcom Subban, along with defender Slava Demin and a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, for Robin Lehner, a goalie from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Obviously, my first reaction is complete and utter disgust, nevermind Lehner’s better stats and greater experience. I completely understand the Knights’ need for a new goalie. Their star, Marc-Andre Fleury, is without a doubt one of the best goaltenders ever. However, Fleury’s age is starting to show, and the Knights do need to be planning for a future after his retirement. Logically, Subban would be the player to step up, but he is too inexperienced and inconsistent to fill Fleury’s shoes.
The trade was most definitely a smart move, but I don’t believe it was the right move. In the wake of Ayres’s performance with the Hurricanes, I think it’s safe to say that an enormous number of skilled hockey players are being overlooked by teams like the Golden Knights.
If the Knights wanted to replace Subban, I believe they should have recruited someone already working at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Zamboni drivers, janitors, their mascot Chance the Gila Monster or even an actual gila monster would be a less offensive goalie than Lehner. Yes, the team’s record would most definitely suffer, but think about the publicity that would come with every win. This idea would appeal to more than just hockey fans excited to see an average Joe live out his dream on ice; it would also attract millions of new fans to the sport, helping the Knights lock down new interest.
I may be frustrated with the Knights for now, but I certainly won’t let that break my loyalty to the team (do I look like a Cubs fan to you?). Maybe in future seasons we’ll see more stories of heroic Zamboni drivers winning hockey games, but for now, all we can do is wait eagerly and enjoy watching actual professionals play hockey.