March 26, 2014
Dalen Kuchmey is not the first 19-year-old to realize his heart wasn't in playing major junior hockey, but it is a given that acting on that epiphany in the middle of a game guarantees a certain notoriety.
On Wednesday, the goalie opened up to The Windsor Star's Jim Parker about why he left the arena in during the second period of the Windsor Spitfires' blowout loss to London the previous night. The main takeaways one can extract from it are that (a) Kuchmey claimed Spitfires staff did check on him later in the evening; (b) that Kuchmey apologized to "teammates" but not the organization.
In the short term, Kuchmey won't play again for Windsor.
“I didn’t have a good experience. I’ve been thinking about this for a month and not getting pulled (Tuesday) triggered it.”
Looking back, Kuchmey admits there might have been a different way to walk away from the game.
“There probably was, but it was in the heat of the moment,” said Kuchmey, who said he was messaged by athletic therapist Joey Garland and equipment manager J.R. Grant after Tuesday’s game to see if he was all right. “It was a way to prove my point. People can say what they want.
“My teammates, I don’t blame for being mad, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do for yourself to make you happy. I apologize to them.” (Windsor Star)
People will probably believe what they want to believe about what the Spitfires brass, coach Bob Boughner and GM Warren Rychel, could or should have done. The rub is that, ideal or not, there is an outsized expectation on young men in the OHL to act like significantly older men. It's understandable the Windsor hockey staff would be irate that didn't happen, regardless of extenuating circumstances. One should not make too much out of Kuchmey stating the athletic therapist and equipment manager reached out to him instead Boughner or Rychel; a junior team's support staff often have a more empathetic ear for players. That should disabuse anyone from thinking the Spitfires didn't care about Kuchmey as a person on Tuesday night, notwithstanding what built up to the incident.
Secondly, Kuchmey's apology is parsed in very interesting language. That's worth highlighting.
This will probably be taken as an amusing anomaly. The one aspect that might come back on the Spitfires might involving pondering its track record with developing goalies. It's used 10 in the past four seasons, and bringing in the 19-year-old Kuchmey who had never played above the Junior B level was definitely an outside-the-box move.
Since Windsor won the 2010 Memorial Cup, no goalie has managed to play at least 90 regular-season games for the Spitfires. In contrast, two other starters in OHL's West Division, Sault Ste. Marie's Matt Murray and Saginaw's Jake Paterson, have respectively played 166 and 142 since being selected in 2010. That's not exactly a scientific comparison, though.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.