Probably a Good Choice
I like Jamie Fitzpatrick’s take on Stefan Legein’s decision to pass on his chance to chase the NHL dream:
Fans love the official story. The hockey business loves it too. The “dream” shtick ensures an endless supply of athletes fighting to get to the top, even though most of them will never make any real money…
But maybe it’s not burnout. Maybe Legein simply gave it some thought – always frowned upon in the sports world – and made a life choice.
I think this is very likely the case. And – assuming he makes the smart decision in terms of his alternatives – its probably his best decision. The key point is that most players like Stefan Legein don’t end up making any real money. Unless he is the exception, he was going to eventually get a real job anyway. And – again, unless he is the exception – he’ll make more money over the long term if he quits hockey now.
His best choice involves cashing the scholarship he earned over his OHL career and spend the next four years playing hockey and studying at a Canadian University. Stefan Legein the wannabe NHL player would earn much more than Stefan Legein the University student over the next five years. But for the forty years after that? The Stefan Legein who quits hockey and goes to school will end up miles ahead.
Professional hockey as a career only pays for the small minority of players who become NHL regulars and remain regulars for several years. Everyone else is better off getting an early start in the real world. So what were Legein’s chances of being an NHL regular for several years? He’s a player who has to play with reckless abandon to make it and he’s a very small agitator in the NHL. He’s suffered a major injury even before turning professional. How likely is further injury? How much fun can a guy have when the job involves throwing yourself at players who are six inches taller and outweigh you by fifty pounds? How likely is stardom?
Hard work. No fun. Lots of pain. Probable failure. Not nearly enough money to compensate for the time wasted chasing a remote chance, a dream. Who needs hockey that badly? I don’t think we should be surprised when smart young men in Legein’s position decide to pass on the NHL.
The real surprise is that it doesn’t happen more often.