Tyson Barrie is a Leaf

Buying a hockey jersey is a serious decision. They’re not cheap, for starters, and then there’s the pressure of selecting a player name and number, knowing, with some exceptions that they can be traded.

To be fair, for me, it wasn’t really difficult. Tyson Barrie is (was) my favourite Colorado Avalanche player, so I saved up from before Christmas to buy his jersey when I got to Pepsi Center in Denver, in March. Pepsi Center, by the way, is one of the nicest NHL arenas I’ve been to; the staff are friendly and the cotton candy is good.

So, the very first thing I did, once I got into the arena, was to find the team shop and very happily buy the Avalanche third jersey, Barrie, 4, done.

Incidentally, there weren’t that many Barrie shirts on view at the game. Lots of MacKinnon and a fair number of Landeskog, and these are excellent choices (with a better chance of longevity, for the cynical), but I was happy with my choice.

So. Who is Tyson Barrie?

Tyson Barrie is a defenceman who’s not very proficient at defending and, yet, he’s a record-breaker. He now holds the Avs’ records for defenceman points-scoring. He’s a handy little bugger on the power play and links up really well with his forwards. He’s great at jumping up into play on the rush and gave the Calgary Flames kittens during the Playoffs this year. (To be honest, Johnny Gaudreau looked like he could have done with some kittens after flaming out of the playoffs…)

As of yesterday, Tyson Barrie is a Toronto Maple Leaf. I really like the Leafs, although I could take or leave the attendant media circus. I really like the Leafs and yet this trade made me sad. I can’t quite articulate why – I should be pleased that a player I love has, at least, been traded to a team I enjoy watching.

Perhaps some of the sadness comes down to the fact that he was drafted by the Avalanche (64th overall, in 2009, the same draft year that yielded his former teammate, Matt Duchene, and his now-current teammate, John Tavares, as well as Nazem Kadri, who was traded in the opposite direction yesterday) and he played his heart out for them. He was very much a darling of social media, helped considerably by the fact that the Avalanche have the best social media in the NHL. (For more on the Avs’ A+ Twitter game, I highly recommend Ryan S. Clark’s article in the Athletic – behind a paywall.) At the end of the season, there was word that the Avs would like to extend him beyond his contract expiry at the end of 2019/20. However, at this year’s draft, they selected Bo Byram, 4th overall, and with him, Cale Makar and Samuel Girard, there’s suddenly a log-jam of mobile, puck-moving defencemen in Denver.

Loyalty between fanbase and team is strong, even if it sometimes feels unilateral. Loyalty between team and player is, it seems, rather rare. But, then again, hockey is a business. The Leafs needed a right-handed defenceman and the Avalanche were willing to give up one of theirs, in exchange for bolstering their offense. It’s a trade that makes perfect sense for both teams. It’s a trade that should, if not make me happy, at least keep me in an equilibrium.

I’m still a little sad, though

We’re not always rational about the teams we love and the players we adore. I’ll probably be grateful for this trade when the Leafs are playing in a time zone two hours more conducive to late-night watching in Ireland but for now, I’m a little sad.

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