Decision time for Stegall

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

An aging but still remarkably gifted sports icon who made his name in Winnipeg announces he's not retiring, after all.

I'm talking about Teemu Selanne, who returned to the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks yesterday.

As for Milt Stegall, we're still waiting -- but probably not much longer.

Stegall's potential return to the Blue Bombers should come to a head this week. Emphasis on should.

The Bombers would like a decision, with free agency looming in 17 days. After all, you've got to know how much money you have in your pocket before you go shopping.

Bomber GM Brendan Taman touched base with Stegall yesterday, and yes, the topic of money came up.

Taman says he gave Stegall "a rough idea of what we could or couldn't do."

"That's a factor," Taman said. "But I don't think Milt's coming back just because of money."

If he's coming back at all.

"I'm optimistic we'll know something by the end of the week," the GM continued. "I'm not optimistic what it'll be, one way or the other, because I really don't know."

And if it drags into next week, Taman says he's not about to "put a gun" to Stegall's head.

So what's the holdup, you wonder?

As we saw with Selanne, the decision to retire is something athletes often agonize over, the elite ones even more.

Average players are usually forced out of the game by better, younger ones. When the writing hits the wall, it's usually in boldface. If you can't read it, a coach or GM will do it for you.

But players like Selanne and Stegall are rare.

Their skills don't erode as quickly, and even if they lose a step, they were so far ahead of their peers they can still keep up.

So the decision about whether or not to retire stays in their hands for much longer.

GO OUT ON TOP

The Finnish Flash had an opportunity to go out on top, a championship ring capping his amazing career like a cherry on top of the sundae.

But the 37-year-old wouldn't let go.

What brought him back to the NHL grind?

"I feel the passion again to play hockey," Selanne said.

Either you've got it, or you don't.

Selanne wasn't sure until he'd missed half a season.

Believe it or not, the Bombers considered a similar plan for Stegall, who finished last season with a banged-up shoulder. A plan that would have allowed him to skip training camp, at least.

"But Milt doesn't want that," Taman said. "And that's the way Milt is. He said, 'If I'm a player, I need to be in camp.' He says he owes it to his teammates and to the organization and everybody to be here in camp."

FAMILY

The issue that keeps coming up with Stegall is family. Living apart from his son and his wife, who has business commitments in Atlanta, is just too difficult, he says.

But if this decision comes down to the same thing Selanne's did, the same thing it often comes down to for the great ones, then I'm betting Stegall is back for another run at one of the few things he hasn't been able to get his hands on, in high school, college or the pros: a championship.

It sounds like Taman agrees.

"I saw Milt's face after the Grey Cup," Taman said. "And I know he would have played another 18 games after that one. I definitely still think he wants to play, deep down, football-wise."

Passion for the game -- it's a powerful force, one money can't buy. One that's fuelled, in part, by the yearning for a championship. Sometimes, even that can't smother it.

Teemu Selanne, apparently, still has it.

Down in Atlanta, wrapped up in his family and off-season business life, Milt Stegall has to decide if he still does.


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