A job well done
Posted February 17, 2009
To understand the man of honor tonight at the RBC Center, one has to grasp his emphasis on work. His devotion to just doing what he did and really leaving it at that. In my career, I have the opportunity to rub shoulders with many terrific athletes. When it comes to characterizing Glen Wesley, who is having his jersey retired, I keep going back to, a man doing his job.
When the Hartford Whalers first decided to take a leap at the big red head, Jim Rutherford talked about the importance of this player not only as an on-ice acquisition but also as he put it " to get one of them." That's right, the Whalers were going out and securing a member of the hated "black and gold," a guy that for a number of years would terrorize the Hartford Civic Center. At the time, I didn't know what to expect. You couldn't miss number 26. He played in the Whalers' back yard. He had already been to the finals twice and every year they would keep the foot pressed down hard on the mighty Whale. He showed up with his wife Barb for the press conference the day he would dawn a Hartford Whalers sweater in late August of 1994. Most players are excited for a fresh beginning but this player was different. He was genuine about the fact that he was turning over a "new leaf" with a direct rival to his previous club. Playing just 120 miles to the west the he put himself on the spot every night to justify the move. The Whalers at the time had teenage Chris Pronger on defense and now he would slip in along side to lend credibility to a very important position. He understood his place, welcomed it. He knew it was his job and he set out to do it.
There were many people within media circles that took their shots at this transaction. Questions would arise - did the Whalers get full value by surrendering three first-round picks to get this guy? It's very easy to assess signings and trades too quickly. We have to do it, it's the nature of sports. But it is one of my pet peeves, because in this case you really have to look at the entire body of work to fully appreciate the worth of this player. Through the early years, Glen would never waver. He felt, well, let them say what they want, it's part of the job.
The early years in Carolina were difficult. The shuttle back and forth to Greensboro was taxing. I remember passing a smiling face on I-40 as we made our way back to Raleigh. We would joke the next day about it and to him it never got old, it was part of the job. The first two seasons were culminated by a six-game loss to the Boston Bruins (who else) and the tragic loss of Steve Chiasson. Glen took this opportunity to quietly provide religious faith for Sue Chiasson. He was a time of need, he was a team mate and friend. Again, it's part of the job.
You don't play 20 years without sustaining your share of bumps and bruises. This player had his will tested on numerous occasions. None more evident than that Sunday afternoon in Chicago when Steve Dubinsky checked him into an open penalty box gate and left him with a horrific jaw, facial, neck malady. But like all the others injuries he worked through it. He endured pain I'm sure most of us can't relate to and made it back as quickly as possible. Why, because it's part of the job.
We shared a "cup of joe" the morning after a game in San Jose in early December of 2005. The Canes just lost a tough one to the Sharks the night before. It was very early in the a.m. and Glen started to reflect on his time in Raleigh. He spoke of the area, the people, his family and what had been built. He relished in the fact that he and his mates in the early years were like hockey pioneers. They brought this game to Triangle and watched it grow. The previous year and then some, the game was taken away by the NHL lockout. For the third time in his career a labor issue would not allow him to do his job. He reflected on that time and said how much he enjoyed playing again. He also paused and said that it might be over after that season. He asked me to never say anything. I never did. Life went on. That team won 52. He did his job so well, they handed him the silver chalice on the night of June 19, 2006. As I watched him remain in his uniform well into the night, I thought had witnessed him do his job for the last time. I was wrong (again) he had two more in him.
Glen has transitioned beautifully into family life and has eased himself into a hockey department job. He'll succeed at that too because of his ethic. The times I'll miss are the moments we would spend in the lockerroom on a practice day. We'd grab a coffee and discuss the game the night before. They might be others in the room who had the microphones or the notepads in their face because of their exploits. I would saddle up and say, "Wes, great job last night.: The response never changed in 13 seasons, "Johnny, that's my job."
Well said, well done! Congrats No. 2!