From a footballing perspective there are merits to the Vancouver Whitecaps' decision to trade Rochat. On a personal level, it's all a bit cringeworthy.The world of professional sports is a small one, and clubs, and coaches, get a reputation pretty quickly for how they carry out their business.
Are the facilities appropriate? Does the coach treat his players with respect? Are the training sessions professionally run and challenging?
The list goes on.
When Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie was again asked this week about trading Alain Rochat to D.C. United, he spoke of the move in “big picture” terms.
The move, it’s been said, frees up salary and a roster spot to bring in another player – and potentially one with a hefty price tag and presumably a bit of quality about him.
Another big picture impact of this move, however, is what sort of players might be turned off coming to Vancouver – namely family men.
Professional sports in the modern era are transient in nature. No player expects to play his entire career with one club these days, and certainly in North America the situation is even more fluid due to trades which can be carried out unilaterally by clubs.
But the timing of this Rochat trade on a personal level is a bit cringeworthy, to say the least.
When asked to respond to Rochat’s slamming of Major League Soccer’s trading process following the move – which is unusual by world standards but in line with the way things are done in North American sports generally – club president Bob Lenarduzzi stated that the deal was made because it was “an option available to us.”
Rochat labelled the trading process as not “human,” and certainly it probably feels that way for the player and his wife – who are expecting a child in just over a month.
From a footballing perspective, there are merits to the decision to dump Rochat’s salary to D.C. He has been underperforming.
But if you were a quality player and a family man who had a choice of where to go, would Vancouver even be on the radar screen at this point?
Upon learning, in the wake of this move, that Rochat’s wife Emilie was due in six weeks at the time of the trade, I instantly recalled a memorable moment from a Hockey Night in Canada segment a number of years ago – which dealt with this market, albeit in a different sport.
At the time, rumours were swirling that Vancouver Canucks centerman Brendan Morrison was being shopped around the National Hockey League – that rumour had been mentioned specifically on Hockey Night in Canada by reporter Al Strachan.
Then Canucks general manager Brian Burke went on national television and launched one of his trademark rants, shutting down the rumours and slamming the reporter in question – and one of the key points was that he would never consider trading Morrison at the time as the player’s wife was due within weeks.
It was difficult not to be impressed with Burke’s attitude and approach to the situation.
It’s not as if the Whitecaps are a heartless organization – the decision to sign Andy O’Brien last season despite his past issues with depression sticks out as a feel-good story in recent times.
It just would have been nice for that feel-good vibe to continue, but in this case, it’s difficult to feel anything but sympathy for Rochat’s wife, who must make the choice of whether to have her child here with her family doctor but with her husband on the other side of the continent – or figure out a new doctor in a new city without whatever support system she has built up in her two and a bit years in Vancouver.
Oh well. It’s just sports, right?