When we are younger, we often think about what it would be like to play for a professional team, no matter what the sport. We might not like certain teams but when it comes down to it, it simply doesn’t matter what team as long as there was a hefty paycheck to do something that you have always enjoyed.
The same cannot really be said for goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who feels it is not a privilege to compete with any team at the NHL level.
Nabokov is an established NHL veteran who played most of his career with the San Jose Sharks but this past summer, the 35-year-old decided to leave the NHL for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, signing a four-year, $24 million contract with SKA Saint Petersburg. After only 22 games, Nabokov met with management and was granted his release due to family matters.
Just weeks later it was reported that Nabokov wanted back into the NHL and on January 20th he was signed by the Detroit Red Wings. In order to play for the team he would have to clear waivers, at which point any team would be able to claim the former Calder Trophy winner.
And someone did claim him.
The New York Islanders claimed Nabokov after their starting goaltender, Rick DiPietro once again became injured. When Islanders GM Garth Snow called to tell Nabokov he was immediately hung up on him. It wasn’t until almost a day later that the two finally spoke and Snow found out the goaltender was not happy with what had transpired.
Nabokov’s hopes were to join the Wings, who find themselves in second place of the Western Conference. He did not expect to join the Islanders, who are 14th in the Eastern Conference and 18 points out of a playoff spot.
“I think I’m going to stay home for now, I’m sticking with my decision,” Nabokov told ESPN. “It’s nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s just that I’m at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don’t see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, ‘Wow, what’s the point?’”
Now however the story has become a soap opera with neither side planning on budging. It has led to an indefinite suspension of Nabokov by the Islanders.
“I understand the rules,” Nabokov added. “We knew what was going on before we made the decision. But I made this decision because the goal was to play with Detroit.”