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It’s not about the game

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St. Louis Blues v Winnipeg Jets - Game Five Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Yesterday morning Bob McKenzie made Dustin Byfuglien’s reason for his personal leave public: he was thinking about his playing future. Good for him.

Playing a sport at the highest level is extremely hard and athletes bodies are constantly on the line. Andrew Luck realized it was not worth it when he retired from the NFL at 29 and it probably was not. If you are constantly dealing with injuries and having to rehab those injuries so you can jump right back into the fray. The cost can be high and at a certain point one has to decide if it is worth it.

If Byfuglien decides that he is done and retires, good for him. It is his right to decide that he is done even if it is at an inconvenience to his team. One should only play a sport at the highest level if their heart is in it and if this has changed for Byfuglien then he should do what is best for him and his family. Damn the consequences to the Jets; they do not matter in this equation. They can restock their defence and move on, even if there is short-term pain.

Athletes are not robots. They are living in a world that expects them to perform even when their personal life is going to hell or their bodies are telling them to stop. It can get mentally trying and wanting to step away even if it means retiring, makes sense. It is about the team because when athletes are no longer capable of giving their all, they can become a detriment to the team. When fully engaged Byfuglien is a force, but when he is not he is a detriment to the team.

If Dustin Byfuglien is truly deciding his future in the NHL right now, good for him. It shows he is taking the time to properly evaluate his feelings on continuing playing. If he isn’t, that is fine as well. More importantly, if Byfuglien or an other player decides to retire very close to the season, leaving their team in a lurch it is their right to as free people. They break their contract and they no longer get paid.