Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bryzgalov departs with uncanny eloquence

On Wednesday morning, outgoing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and his agent, Ritch Winter, crafted a statement regarding his feelings surrounding yesterday's announcement the Flyers plan to use their second compliance buyout to cancel the effects of his mega-contract. 

“As my family and I move forward to meet the new challenges ahead, I could not leave Philadelphia without publicly thanking Mr. Snider for the faith he showed in me when he committed to the long term contract that has secured my family’s financial future and acknowledging his passion for the game of hockey. Jeniya and I really appreciate his faith in me and what he has done for our family. Mr. Snider has an amazing energy for the deals he does and for winning. Hockey fans in this area should consider themselves lucky to have the team they cheer for led by a man who is as passionate about winning and doing whatever it takes to win as Flyers’ fans are. Getting to know Mr. Snider, has been a great experience. To see his passion for this game has been inspiring.

"I am grateful for teammates, to management and fans for the support I felt from so many of them through some very dark days and difficult situations. I have made many friends here – on the team, in the organization, among the media and throughout the community. Don’t ever think that I didn’t appreciate the kind comments of support made in the media by teammates and management and in private by so many very nice people I met on the streets of Philadelphia and in the surrounding area.

"I appreciate this experience more than many of you will know. I will learn from it. I have always said that a heavy sword makes a very strong arm. I intend to take this experience with me to my new team, to help me be stronger - a better player and, hopefully, a better person. At the end of the day, that is the challenge we all need to wrestle with.

"I look forward to the bright future ahead, but will never forget my time with the Philadelphia Flyers. For this time and this experience, I am grateful. “

Sure doesn't sound like a second grader strafing his ex-classmates on the way out of town with his family.

It is sad that, in this media saturated world of Philadelphia hockey, there seems to be just two camps regarding the 31-year-old Russian: silence and criticism. That unfairly skews public opinion on the matter since those who criticize hold the appearance of the balance of power to shape that opinion, and it is unfortunate that Bryzgalov himself had to cite unnamed teammates and media and fans who have come to his defense.

The smear job attempted by Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer and Randy Miller of the Courier Post, and by whoever else wishes to pile on as events unfold is so transparent as to have the opposite of its intended effect.

To quote Bob Marley: you can fool some people some time, but you can't fool all the people all the time.

And sure, this is a canned statement, but it is the best possible option for Bryzgalov at this juncture, as certain vultures waited to strike lest he slip up while speaking extemporaneously in a second language, one in which he is not entirely comfortable without resorting to metaphor and tangential thinking.

There might not be another team in another town in North America, given the caveats with Bryzgalov's contract, but he is owed a chance at a fresh start without the misguided feeding frenzy.

If Paul Holmgren can be professional and cite that the buyout was a business decision, and tell the world that Bryzgalov took the news like a pro, it isn't too much to ask those who cover him but dislike him, to grant him the same respect. 

That's something Chairman and agent provocateur of the signing Ed Snider acknowledged in his own statement on the matter:

"I fully support Paul Holmgren in his decision to use our final compliance buyout for Ilya Bryzgalov. It was a very difficult decision from a financial standpoint, but if Bryz remained a Flyer, the dollars would be far greater in a shorter time frame. We now have cap space, which will allow us to improve our team. In the meantime, Bryz can try to find a situation where he can achieve true happiness."

Though the blame in Snider's case is always implicit, never explicit, as he seeks to constantly move forward and make the deals which will push his franchise to another Stanley Cup, he knows that the risk of putting bad business before good doesn't sully the reputation of the player who falls victim.

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