Modern Sadler

This is Robin Sadler. He played for the Edmonton Oil Kings, terrific junior. He was so good in fact that Sadler played in the second World Junior Championships in Winnipeg and Brandon in 1975. It was an unofficial tournament that helped set stage for first official World Juniors in 1977.

He was drafted by the Habs, 9th overall in 1975. Sadler attended Montreal’s 1975 training camp, but decided that he did not like the experience after just one week and went home to North Vancouver. He said there was too much pressure on him in pro hockey, and he didn’t have any interest in turning pro.

He had already signed a three-year, $250,000 contract that included a big signing bonus, but he returned the money, announcing his retirement September 1975. Sadler then spent the 1975-76 season playing amateur hockey in Vancouver while earning $250 per week working for a delivery service.

Hockeydraftcentral picks up the story from there: He came out of retirement in 1976 to play the 1976-77 season in Sweden, and would later take another shot at North American hockey. After talking to Edmonton coach Glen Sather, he signed a two-year contract with Edmonton (WHA) on June 16, 1977. The deal was worth over $100,000. Sadler, however, left Edmonton training camp in September 1977 after running into issues similar to those he had dealt with two years earlier. He had a 90-minute talk with Edmonton coach Glen Sather and co-owner Nelson Skalbania before deciding to go home to Vancouver. Sather said emotional stress was affecting Sadler’s eating habits and he was sorry that Sadler had chosen to leave. In February 1978, Sadler contacted Montreal to express his interest in playing for the Canadiens. He was assigned to Nova Scotia (AHL) in early March 1978, and collected six points in nine games, but quit the team near the end of the season. He returned to Europe for the 1978-79 season and never played North American pro hockey again. In Europe, where he likely experienced a very different sort of atmosphere, he was a top-notch hockey player.

Robin Sadler is one of the few people on planet earth who might understand this story.

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13 Responses to "Modern Sadler"

  1. Tom says:

    I’ve actually long thought that to some extent Hockey is …. too much of a pressure cooker in and of itself.

    If you take a look at the stories from the Oilers in the 80′s for instance, they were amazing. And yet the players (Or in this case virtually the whole team) just had fun together. THey didnt have their summers planned for them (Outside of the keg stands)

    Its not to say its not satisfying… but I think that to some extent the ‘fun’ is gone. Or at least from how it was.

    Actually… Raffi Torres is probably a prime example of a player who would’ve excelled in the 80′s.

  2. doritogrande says:

    He had a huge, huge injury in the gold medal game this year. I wonder if this had anything to do with his decision.

  3. Ribs says:

    Wow. And Columbus just gets worse and worse.

  4. therealdeal says:

    Very disappointing from a fan’s perspective because he was such fun to watch. Maybe he’ll pull a Dan Ryder. We can only hope.

  5. Boondock says:

    UPDATE: Just talked to Stefan’s father, who said: “Until Sept. 20 (when training camp starts), he hasn’t quit anything.”

    Might be reading too much into this quote, but sounds like another overbearing parent pushing their kid to play a sport they don’t love.

    I’ve been heavily involved in amateur hockey including playing, refereeing and coaching at the highest levels, but this is Hockey Canada’s biggest problem, IMO.

    Another top WHL prospect, Brandon Regier, just hung up his skates this month.

    “It’s never been my favourite thing to do in the world,” he told The News on Tuesday. “Everyone’s telling me they hope I change my mind.

    “But I haven’t been on the ice since March, and I haven’t missed it at all.”

    “I’m just a kid – my mind can change at any moment,” Regier acknowledged. “I’m not going to promise I’m never going to play hockey again, but for now, I really don’t want to.

    “Right now, I don’t think I’ll regret it. People who make it to the NHL want to be there (at the rink) every second of the day.”

  6. Bohologo says:

    Paging Eddie Caron.

    Sports are full of guys who have the talent for the game, but don’t really have their hearts in it. Ultimately they’re no further ahead than their peers who much less talent and all the desire in the world-it’s the guys with both that stick with it.

    It’s tough for Blue Jacket fans, but this isn’t the Soviet Union, so at least the kid has the freedom to choose another life.

  7. Bruce says:

    Sadler was a hell of a prospect. I saw him play for the Oil Kings, and years later I happened to catch him playing for Austria against the Soviet Union at the Calgary Olympics. I was mighty surprised to see him, but even at 33 he was one of the few Austrian players who looked like he belonged on the same Calgary Corral ice as the Big Red Machine.

  8. Black Dog says:

    Friend of mine has a nine year old daughter who plays competitive hockey north of Toronto.

    This spring they were informed that there would be dryland training this summer.

    My buddy played university hockey – guy is a terrific player. Once playoffs were done every year he never laced them up again until the fall.

    Told the coach to stuff it.

    My guess is this kid’s dad (based on his comment) has been on his kid forever and the kid has had enough. I met a guy at a BBQ a couple of years ago and he was telling me about his plans for his son (who was 7) and how his kid was going to make the NHL.

    No word of a lie.

  9. Scott says:

    black dog:

    Sadly, you might be surprised at how few people are surprised by that BBQ story. I think most people have met a parent like that. And it’s not just hockey.

  10. Doogie2K says:

    My mind was blown by this, too, because I remember him being pretty good at the WJHC level. The theory about the overbearing father probably has merit, all things considered, though with only one quote, with no real context, it’s not entirley fair to judge the elder Legien just yet.

    I don’t understand some of the bullshit that’s going on now in minor hockey. I never played when I was a kid (one of five in all of Canada, no doubt. ;) ), but I remember the worst problems my friends had were travel, usually, with one friend of a friend being personally offended by the locker-room language. But still, that was the worst that happened.

    My thinking is, you play until it stops being fun, and in the summer, do something else. Play baseball or soccer, ride a bike…anything, really, as long as it’s somewhat active. Dryland training? I don’t think that should be happening before major-junior; at least by that point, most players at least have aspirations of turning pro.

  11. Alice says:

    And aren’t baseball or soccer or tennis ‘dry-land training’ themselves, hand-eye stuff, agility, anticipation? Mandelbaum for the 9yr old? Good for buddy who pushed back. Fact is, the cream will rise to the top, elite-caliber hockey talent doesn’t fall through the cracks in this country. If the kid is good enough, they don’t need to be pushed, the system will find them soon enough. If not, then they should be enjoying themselves. Parents these days need to develop hobbies that aren’t their kids.

  12. Black Dog says:

    scott – yeah I wouldn’t think that story is a surprise actually – my sister in law coached softball in NB and has a guy there who figures his kid for a scholarship at 14 and on and on

    alice – my friend went through it as a kid so he has perspective – coming home from games getting criticized – so much so that he lost his love for the game for a couple of years – he got it back but only in a different setting

  13. Baroque says:

    Not at all surprised if the young man is burned out.

    More and more parents not only live through their kids, but see a child who has athletic talent as a meal ticket. In the US you see this a lot with Basketball – aspiring agents are seeking out high-school kids for sponsorship deals and using a status as a “family advisor” as an in for being an agent when the kid turns pro and makes millions.

    Whatever he chooses, I hope it makes him happy – regardless of what his parents think. It’s his life, not theirs.

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