By Ryan McCracken on October 16, 2018.
Gary Haden’s bags were packed when he arrived at the Canalta Centre Thursday morning.
While the Medicine Hat Tigers forward told the News in a text Sunday evening that he “asked for a trade on Thursday morning and was told to go home Thursday afternoon,” the team refuted the claim that he was told to leave at a Monday press conference, and Haden’s agent later confirmed he had no intention of remaining in Medicine Hat when he made the request late last week.
“I think Gary just maybe misspoke a little bit on that,” said Haden’s agent, Rick Valette. “Gary spoke to me at length about this over the past week or so and he had his car packed and it was ready to go. He wanted to leave. He’s got whatever reasons he has for wanting a change of scenery. This happens often in junior — won’t be the first, won’t be the last — and he decided that going home and requesting a trade was his best course of action.
“Now we’re going to see what the Tigers come up with in respect to a new home.”
Haden joins a handful of players to request trades over the past four-plus seasons, including Zach Fischer last year, Cole Sanford in 2015-16 and Connor Hobbs in 2014-15.
In these three cases Tigers coach and general manager Shaun Clouston managed to get a significant haul — acquiring Haden along with forward Brian Williams and three bantam draft picks in the deal that sent Sanford to the Regina Pats, former Spokane Chiefs Hayden Ostir and Eric Van Impe and a second-round pick for Fischer last year and former Pats Dryden Hunt and Kyle Burroughs for Hobbs and a pair of picks in the team’s final season at The Arena — but it took until almost the trade deadline to complete a deal for Sanford and Hobbs.
Fischer was traded one week after his request was announced at the overage cutdown.
The Tigers aren’t alone. Saskatoon Blades centre Michael Farren asked for a trade last week due to his perceived role with the team and was sent to the Kelowna Rockets, and Tigers forward Elijah Brown was acquired by Medicine Hat at last season’s trade deadline after requesting a trade from the Seattle Thunderbirds two months earlier.
Clouston says there is still a stigma surrounding players who request trades, which can result in a long waiting period, especially when they don’t stick around with the team.
“We sure hope it doesn’t take that long (for Haden),” said Clouston.”Maybe the hardest part for me is the personal part, because we get to this point where you’re dealing with sort of value and you’re dealing with what the market is and what this player is worth, but ultimately they’re players, they’re people. It’s going to affect Gary, this decision is a big decision that’s going to affect him.”
Clouston added the Tigers provide their players with a strong support system, from inside the dressing room to their billets and educators, but Haden never brought up any concerns regarding his role in recent weeks.
“We’ve changed players’ billets before, we’ve worked with tutors. We’ve done lots of different things to try to clear the paths. It’s a challenging league,” said Clouston. “But with Gary and that decision, it was 100 per cent his. He had his car packed and let us know he had made his decision. We worked with him and tried to understand the reasoning … We tried for close to an hour to get him to change his mind.”
Clouston added Haden only showed signs of frustration in his play, as the 5-foot-10, 176-pound lefty was held to just a goal and two assists in his nine games before requesting a change.
“The players do put a lot of pressure on themselves,” said Clouston. “There’s lots of expectations and I think sometimes when those expectations aren’t being met, there’s some stress that sets in. That’s what I think. But I do believe he was getting a real good opportunity to play, I really do believe that he was getting ice time and the proper minutes and power play time.”
Clouston added he feels there will be a number of teams around the league with interest in Haden —who departs the Tigers after recording 25 goals and 28 assists in 115 regular season games — and he plans on talking to all of them before finalizing a deal.
“Gary is a good player. He’s a guy that can help teams, he can be a top-nine guy for sure, maybe a top-six guy in different settings,” said Clouston. “We’ll make sure that when we get to that point we’ve addressed potential needs for our team and talked with any of the other teams that have interest.”