Hockey: Legein and the burnout factor

“I think he’s going to play again. In fact, I think when the frost hits the ground, he’s going to get the itch.” — Doug Woods, agent for 19-year-old Blue Jackets prospect Stefan Legein (left), who has decided to put his hockey career on hold and will not attend Jackets training camp.

The quote offers hope for the Blue Jackets that the young power-pack, who was drafted in the second round in 2007, may turn up in Columbus in the third week of September. But for now he’s sticking to his decision to hang up the skates, which, in Canadian eyes at least, makes him one of the most interesting stories in hockey.

Much has to be assumed here—that Legein really is burned out and there’s not some other drama unfolding in his life (intriguingly, and sadly, he seems to be at odds with his parents on this matter). If this is the whole truth, though, I sympathize. Yeah I know. Woe is Stefan; he has to be a well-paid athlete. But think of what young players now go through in this super-charged age of hothouse prospect cultivation: development camps, international under-18 tournaments, showcase games for scouts, select tournments against the Russians, world junior championships, publicity appearances, combines, and on and on. Then they go back to Moncton or Swift Current or Tri-Cities and ride the buses all night. Oh, and most of them (try to) go to school. Phew.

It’s worth noting that two other players have now voiced concern about this load—Flames draftee Daniel Ryder, who took a “gap year” off himself, and Habs goalie Carey Price, who spoke after this year’s NHL playoffs of feeling run down after doing nothing but playing hockey for two years. It might be time for the NHL, CHL and Hockey Canada to discuss some limitations where elite players are concerned.

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