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Mike Commodore was a fan favorite during his NHL days, winning a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes and being one of our more whimsical characters (although he never got around to fulfilling his destiny and wearing No. 64).
He’s with Admiral Vladivostok of the KHL now. He didn’t like the way his NHL career ended, with frustrating stays with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings. And yeah, he’s a little bitter about it.
It’s no secret he had heat with Jackets ex-coach Scott Arniel, who waived him. But in an interview with Danijel Jelenek and Krešimir Biškup of KHL.hr … well, just read on:
“I'm very disappointed with how my last year in Columbus went and with my year in Detroit. I feel I was treated piss poor; I was thrown off the team in Columbus because I was single and I was making a lot of money. The coach was jealous because he played a lot of years, he had a wife and kids and he felt he didn't earn a lot of money so he booted me off the team. The next year he started doing the same to Derick Brassard but he got fired before he could finish it.”
So, in summary: Scott Arniel hates his life and wanted to make the rich singles on his team suffer.
Then there was in infamous history with Mike Babcock, coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wings offered him a 1-year deal worth $1 million. His gut told him "no."
"They offered me a one-year deal worth one million. My gut was screaming: “Don't take it, you've got one chance, if it doesn't go well, you're done in the NHL!”
“I told my agent: ‘I don't want to play in Detroit for Mike Babcock, I don't trust him. Call him back and tell him thank you, we'll get back to you.’
"My agent then told me the GM put a 15-minute time limit on the offer. I needed to make up my mind in 15 minutes or he was gonna pull the offer off the table. This was July 1st, free agency had just started 10 minutes prior. I called the GM and told him: ‘Ken, Mike Commodore here, I like you, you're a good guy. Is it you who wants me or the coach?’ Ken Holland said that he wanted me and so did Babcock. So I told him that I would love to play for Ken, and I would love to play for the red wings, but that I didn't trust the coach from previous experience. So I called the coach, by now I had 10 minutes left.
"I called him: ‘Babs, Mike Commodore here. Please be honest with me, do you want me on your hockey team or not?’ He said he did. I wanted to know if I’d get an opportunity. I told him I am not looking for anything special, but that I needed to know if I was gonna get a fair shot and a chance to play. He said ‘I want you on my team. You will get a fair chance. We need someone physical on the back end with a right shot. I want you. You will play.’
“I hung up the phone, five minutes left. My gut screamed ‘Say No!’ This coach screwed me over nine years ago. He buried me in the paper after I had a good camp in Anaheim. He buried me so I would look bad so he could then play his boy from juniors who was an undrafted rookie at camp that year ... Kurt Sauer. Six years later when I finally had a chance to take a shot back at him publicly I did so in the paper when I was in Columbus. But then I started to think about Detroit, a good team, always makes the playoffs, get to play with great players, and about maybe getting the opportunity. So I took Mike Babcock's word and I signed the contract, thirty minutes into free agency. I signed the [expletive] contract faster than when I was a ‘hot commodity’ four years earlier. I was one of the first players gone that year in free agency. Off the board July 1st.
“I went to camp in Detroit, and got scratched out. I did injure my knee a bit so I missed couple of days in camp and the first four games. I got back as if it was nothing major. I came back, and the team won its first five games. I got scratched, but okay, the team was winning. We lost seven in a row, then I wasn’t even close to playing. Scratch, scratch.
“Finally, it was mid-November, Ian White got a puck to the face and was going to miss a week, we went on a road trip. A four-game road trip, and I thought to myself that this was my chance. I played three games, no two games, I think, three minutes a night… The only time I touched the ice was when the fourth line was on, and the faceoff was in the neutral zone. I was opening the doors for Lidström, that’s all I was doing, being a cheerleader.
“Bab then met with me, said he was calling up guys from minors, and scratched me until Christmas. Then the GM forced the coach to play me; I played fifteen games, I fought, I played the best I could with the ice time I was getting. And then I got traded (to Tampa) because Ken Holland felt bad. “
That is quite a tale.
Commodore has quickly become a popular player in the KHL, and for good reason: The guy has always had a spirit that couldn’t be tempered by the usual hockey homogeny that coaches preach. Maybe that’s why he was buried in Detroit and Columbus. But luckily for us, it doesn’t seem as though his candor has been affected.