EDMONTON — It was Thursday night by the time Mike Fisher’s flight from Calgary landed in Montreal, and rather than wait for a connector he drove the two hours to the big, beautiful, brand new house he now has to reluctantly put on the market.
Can you imagine how many messages were on his phone, how many friends had called to console, congratulate or just talk to him about being traded to the Nashville Predators?
“I haven’t counted them yet,” Fisher said with a laugh.
But he did find time to call a reporter he had worked with over the last dozen years, a guy who might not be among his closest acquaintances, but someone he understood had a job to do. All those good things you’ve heard about what kind of an individual Fisher is are true. He’s also a pro.
And with that, he understands the business, and why his life has suddenly been turned upside down.
Fisher found out about the trade he didn’t want at the Calgary Saddledome, when GM Bryan Murray talked to him an hour before Thursday morning’s practice. Just like that, a car was there to take him to the airport. But first, Fisher had to say some hasty goodbyes to some very close friends.
Did he manage to keep it together for the handshakes and hugs with his teammates?
“For the most part,” he said, indicating that it was an emotional time for him. “I always try to act tough ...”
Again a laugh.
His wife, country music star Carrie Underwood, is being blamed for the trading of the popular Peterborough native who grew up before our eyes. One Ottawa radio station has stopped playing her songs. Others are referring to her as Yoko.
It’s so ridiculous.
What really happened is that Murray, under the instructions of Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, has started in earnest the rebuilding of the franchise. Part of that is dumping salary, to free up as much money as possible for a summer shopping spree, and part of it is to gather as many high draft picks as possible.
Fisher, who has two more years at $4.2 million US per season on his contact, likely won’t be an impact player by the time the Senators are ready to challenge again. Not the way he throws his body around, when healthy, like he hasn’t been this season.
Underwood or no Underwood, the Senators were going to move him. So Murray went to his former boss (both were in Washington back in the 1980s) and asked David Poile if he was interested.
Don’t be surprised if it one day comes out that Murray had a slightly better offer on the table. Considering everything Fisher has done for the Ottawa franchise, Murray showed the class of sending him to Nashville, where he and Carrie have another home.
Of course, the trade has all the makings of a PR nightmare in Ottawa. Fisher did so much work for charity. He was such a fan favourite. Some will quit being Senators fans. Three girls I know texted to say exactly that within an hour of the news getting out.
“It’s not popular,” said Murray. “I wouldn’t think it should be in that fans care about our hockey team, they care about individuals on our hockey team, and Mike is one of the good individuals.
“The good thing, I think, we were able to do is put him in a place, No. 1 he can play in the playoffs, and No. 2 he should be able to set up a home with his wife and not be commuting back and forth to Ottawa.”
How did Carrie greet the news her husband was traded to her new hometown?
“She was a little emotional,” said Fisher. “She knows how much I love Ottawa, she loved it, too. But I think it will be a good thing for us, a good fit for me. She’s happy, too.”
Yes, Fisher wanted to stay in Ottawa — a week ago he told me he was sure he wouldn’t be traded — but he will adjust.
“It caught me off-guard,” he said. “I’ve been here for so long. But it’s still exciting. I have mixed emotions. I’m excited about going to Nashville, it’s a great spot and I’ll fit in well with their style of play.
“But there are so many good guys I’m leaving behind. So many good people. That’s the hardest part. I’m so grateful to Ottawa, the organization. I’m thankful to Eugene. I’m thankful to Bryan. He was respectful and classy.”
Fisher says his parents will have trouble adjusting to seeing him in another jersey — No. 12 in Nashville is available and he’ll be wearing it when the Predators host Colorado Saturday — but they’ll get used to it.
And while he’ll be selling that big beautiful new house in Ottawa, he’ll still have his hockey school in the nation’s capital, and his place in Peterborough. He’ll be back. Maybe even as a Senator someday.
A player, a coach?
“You never do know what the good Lord has in store,” Fisher said, laughing.