Wednesday’s opening of free agency created a multitude of Canes hockey news.
When the dust settled, the departed included Dougie Hamilton, Brock McGinn, Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, Warren Foegele, Cedric Paquette and prospect Roland McKeown.
Jordan Martinook was the only unrestricted free agent from the 2020-21 season to be re-signed.
The new arrivals included Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, Ethan Bear, Ian Cole, Josh Leivo and most notably Tony DeAngelo.
That makes for a whopping 14 players either coming or going on a single day and seemingly a ton of different things to debate/discuss in terms of building the 2021-22 lineup.
But by far and away the news over the past two days has been initially rumors that the Hurricanes were considering signing Tony DeAngelo and then the resolution that saw that come true.
I will not detail all of the transgressions here, but DeAngelo’s rap sheet includes using racial slurs as a junior player in addition to a couple suspensions for berating/accosting referees and most recently getting into an altercation with a teammate. The end result was DeAngelo being suspended and ultimately bought out by the Rangers who were already his third team after two others had moved on. He was six games in a two-year $9.6 million (total) contract when the Rangers decided to move on.
There are so many possible angles to the Hurricanes decision to sign Tony DeAngelo to a one-year ‘prove it’ contract for $1 million, but as is often the case with messy situations like this, I think the simplest and most direct angles are usually the ones that rule the day.
Signing a player with such problematic character issues
I am not in the camp that says anyone should be ‘banished for life’ even if they have done horrible things. This is not a hockey viewpoint but rather my world viewpoint that happens to apply here. But for me second chances need to be earned, especially in cases like this when it is really a fourth-ish chance. Obviously in conversations trying to resuscitate a prosperous career that had died, anyone can/will say the right things. For me, that does not count in the slightest as earning another chance. So my question with regard to DeAngelo is what, if anything, he has done to improve and become a better person. I did not get any clear indication of that from what he or the team said in media availability. If someone is aware of anything in this regard, please let me know. So in such a case where someone with a checkered past has not made measurable and visible strides to make amends and become a better person, I just think it sends a horrible message that, if talented enough, people can be above the law, human decency or whatever.
Based on that, I voted ‘no’ on this transaction when it was rumored on Tuesday and again after it happened on Wednesday.
The Canes hockey community
The other thing that jumps to the forefront is the damage done to the relationship between the team and its fans. To be clear, I recognize that not everyone agrees that this move was wrong, but there is a significant portion of the fan base that did. And the volume of fans, many of whom have been been with the team for a long time through thick and thin, who were ready to abandon their season tickets should have been enough of a sign to management that this move was a no go. With roughly a full day between when the uproar began and when the team could officially ink the contract at 12pm the next day, there was enough time for Canes management reassess the situation and reverse course. That of course did not happen.
Teams making decisions to overlook character issues in gifted athletes is not a rare occurrence by any stretch of the imagination. And no doubt teams make such moves all the time with fan revolts that fade very quickly into the background and are insignificant in the bigger picture of the fan base.
But I think this is different with this team and this community. Maybe because the team had to build a fan base in a market where hockey was foreign when it arrived, or maybe because the team lucked into having a great set of ambassadors who were accessible in people like John Forslund, Chuck Kaiton and many of the early players, or maybe because the market is smaller, the relationship between the Carolina Hurricanes and its fan base has always been a unique one. On the team side, the roster has mostly been free of players with problematic character issues. And on the fan side, the fan base has always been one to embrace players even during down times. Where else do failed goalie projects like Eddie Lack and Scott Darling become loved fan favorites even as they are playing their way off the roster? Where else has the fan base applauded the team as its season was ending in home playoff losses?
This market is unique. The relationship between the team and the fans is unique. And I think management completely missed the boat in that regard in signing Tony DeAngelo.
The result is that either team management ignored a significant portion of the fan base fracturing a unique bond between the team and its fan base. That hurts. Or possibly, the unique bond never really existed to begin with meaning that this market and hockey community is no different than almost all other professional sports franchises. For long-time fans with up to 23 years of supporting this team through ups and some difficult and extended downs, that hurts far worse.
If the team is winning, the immediate impact likely will not be significant. There will always be new fans joining a winner to help fill empty seats. But I think the damage from this and other moves will be felt in a big way when the team hits a downturn which in pro sports is inevitable at some point. When that happens, there will be a depleted core of downtime fans, and there will also be enough others who maybe stayed because the team was winning but have scars from this and other breaches that removed ‘through thick and thin’ loyalty that might have existed previously.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What are your thoughts on the Canes decision to sign Tony DeAngelo and in so doing seemingly overlook his checkered past and raise ire with many in the fan base?
2) Do you buy that the Hurricanes hockey community and the relationship between the team and fans is/was unique? Or is that a mirage that is not really even possible with pro sports teams that are really just big business with brands and marketing spins in the truest form?
3) For a player like Tony DeAngelo, should there be another chance? If so, what should be the requirements to earn or receive one?
Go Canes! ???