Friday, August 22, 2008

A step aside; or was it a step away?

It’s not every day that highly touted draft pick decides that at the ancient age of 19 he’s pretty well had enough hockey. But if indications out of the Columbus Blue Jacket’s camp are correct, Stefan Legein has decided just that. Well for now anyways we guess.

Legein, who played a whack of hockey last year for Canada, Niagara Falls of the OHL and even a short stop in Syracuse, has apparently told the Blue Jackets that he won’t be reporting to training camp this September and he has no timetable in mind for a return to the game and begin his introduction to the professional lifestyle.

Many have spent the day wondering aloud just what has been running through the young man’s head, whether it’s just burn out from too much hockey too early, or whether he really has lost the zeal for a game that like many young Canadians he began in his formative years and has dedicated himself to over the years.

He’s not the first young hockey player to put the skates away, though perhaps he may be one of the highest in profile to do so in recent times. The NHL is awash in former young phenoms who went along for the skate in their first few years only to disappear as though placed in witness protection.

Over the years, more than a few have collected huge signing bonuses, negotiated deals and then failed to live up to their reputations or expectations. It just comes as a bit of a shock when things turn south before they even arrive for the first of the training camp sessions.

Legein may yet become an NHLer, perhaps what he really needs is some time to sort out his thoughts, get away from the fishbowl and determine if pro hockey is really what he wants to do.

While there will be no shortage of armchair athletes who wonder why you would walk away from large sums of cash for what is essentially still a kids game at heart, (though clearly with higher stakes and more generous pay cheque), Legein should be left alone to determine his fate on his own terms.

The hockey culture in Canada and North America to a degree tends to turn young hockey players into autotrons from time to time; punching them out of the foundries that junior hockey has evolved into over the years. The push is always to excel and move on to the next stage, from peewee, bantam and midget on to Junior hockey and then the big show if you’ve become good enough.

Every once and a while though, there’s a reminder that in the end, many of those that survive the system are still just kids, occasionally confused and in some cases quite burned out at an early age.

Whatever his eventual decision, whether indeed he’s stepping away for just a little bit or forever, the decision is his alone to make. It’s after all his life, his career and he has to be the one to decide what is best for him and nobody else.

Columbus Dispatch-- Agent: Legein isn't reconsidering quitting
Columbus Dispatch-- Prospect quits, agent tells Jackets
Globe and Mail-- An NHL dream burns out
Hamilton Spectator-- Has Legein quit cold turkey?
Ottawa Citizen-- Jackets' Legein may be turning back on possible NHL career at 19

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