T.J. Oshie(notes) and the St. Louis Blues have agreed to a one-year, $2.35 million deal — that's a bit of an odd contract for a 24-year-old rising star. Given the current cap situation in the NHL, where everyone suddenly has a lot of bucks to spend, you'd think they'd want to lock up a physical, talented player like him for a long time.
The thing is, Oshie kind of likes to have himself some fun.
When you first start playing pro hockey, learning to balance the fun factor with the seriousness of the job is essential to reaching your potential.
This isn't meant to be an attack on the kid — a lot of players take more opportunities to have fun than they should. He's just earned the reputation in a short time. There are clips of him online returning to UND and joining the guys in the booth in a rather jovial state. He's been on the wrong end of "unexcused absences" stories, and the tales go beyond that.
For a young, rich NHLer, life may be good, but it ain't necessarily easy.
Being a successful pro takes discipline, if for no other reason than the fact that there are constant opportunities to go out with your buddies and let the night get away from you.
Practice ends before noon, which means even if you hit the gym and get some medical treatment you're home by two. I lived beside the rink in Salt Lake City, and was home before noon on the days I didn't stick around to do extra work.
That's a lot of free time.
Beyond that, you're always in new cities, and just happen to be staying in a hotel in a good part of town. Combine that with any "oh you play hockey?" favourtism and it can be tough to not go out and explore a few local bars on occasion.
And that's fine. On occasion.
I was lucky that during my first year pro, I became friends with an older player on the team, who walked me through his tumultuous early years. He felt that chasing girls and booze badly hindered his chances of making the NHL. (There are a million stories like this in the ECHL, and it's not all "I coulda been a contendah" stuff). He basically had a "green light" schedule for when it's okay to get after it (worked out to about once a week), and I was able to adopt a similar policy on going out.
If you aren't so fortunate to meet a guy like I did, consider how your life suddenly changes, and how easy it would be to get a bit too excited about it — you step out of college where you're taking a full course load, have no money, and the coaches watch you like a hawk, to pro, where you have endless free time, money, and the attitude is "be a pro, if you can't take care of yourself then we'll find someone who can."
If you're a guy coming from junior, that completely free lifestyle starts even earlier.
Oshie may be able to handle that just fine. The Blues may not have even thought about any of this when it came to signing him to a new contract. The point is, if it's not him, it's someone — on every team I've been a part of, there's always at least one guy that needs to be reined in with regularity.
As fans, we often struggle to figure out why a player can't reach his potential, or why he's inconsistent, and we sometimes just forget that like other jobs in the real world, some people just don't take proper care of themselves away from work.
Playing professional sports, for most, is a dream come true. You play a kid's game for a living, make a lot of money, and spend every day hanging out with people a lot like yourself. You travel, you have an interesting job, and life is pretty darn good.
For some, that's just too much to handle. It takes a measure of maturity to deal with the opportunities provided to these guys as pros, and not every player comes equipped with an "off" switch.
To be all that they can be, some need to get one installed.