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Cold Hard Rants

From Russia, With Love?

You are seventeen. You come from an under privileged up-bringing. Two parents who work hard to bring in an income, but never seem to be able to make ends meet. Multiple siblings, and both parents work two jobs, but can barely scratch out a decent living for you and your family.

You are the son of those parents, that sister’s brother, and you have a skill. An ability to play hockey. All those long hours on the neighbourhood ice rink, playing with a donated set of skates, a sub-standard hockey stick, and a chipped and broken hockey puck, seem as though they will pay off. Scouts are buzzing around you. They are making noise about your future in professional hockey. Making a living playing hockey would be a dream come true; a ticket out of your poor surroundings for you and your family. However, as in all great Shakespearean tragedies, your success won’t come for a few more years. You need seasoning in the Juniors, then to toil in the minors, then you may be ready for the big leagues, and the chances to earn some serious coin. By then, more years will have passed, three, five, seven years-who knows how many lost opportunities and bad nights in a crime laden neighbourhood for your beloved family.

What would you do?

You are seventeen. The KHL, a league in Russia is willing to allow seventeen year olds to play as professionals. You have heard a little bit about the league, but not a lot and nothing tremendously positive. The important part for you is they are paying out big salaries immediately. That means the money you would have had to wait for in North America will be on your door-step tomorrow. No more sleepless nights for your family, with the echoes of gun-shots ringing throughout your neighbourhood. No more worrying about your little sister, and the company she is keeping. No more worrying about who of your family will become a statistic as well as the tragic story du jour on the evening news.

What would you do?

You are seventeen. You swallow hard. Mother Russia, here you come. Talk about a culture shock for a kid from the projects. On the ice, everything is good. The rink is a little bigger, but that’s nothing to fear. The guys seem nice enough, language barrier not withstanding. Some cultures transcend borders, and hockey is one of them. However, as good as things are going, and you individually are playing well, the team is scuffling and management is demanding changes. The Russians take their hockey seriously, and your team’s deep pocketed owner demands nothing less than complete success. Management approaches you, wanting you to try a new technique to increase stamina and recuperate from games quicker. You aren’t sure about its legitimacy, but they promise you a cash bonus for doing so.

You are seventeen. What would you do?

For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell.

Please join the discussion below. Your comments are always welcome.

Remember to listen to the Illegal radio show every Wednesday night on 92.9 KICK FM in Winnipeg or by clicking the Illegal Curve Radio link in the top right corner.

One thing we do on the IC Hockey Show, in addition to hours of Jets talk, is have a whole lot of fun.

Check out the replay or download the podcast from the show this morning.

Also speaking from Chicago was Jets head coach Rick Bowness.

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