If you watched the Capitals come onto the ice for pregame warmups or between intermissions either this season or last, you could see two players coming out of the tunnel holding hands. The narrow tunnel does not allow for players to stand side-by-side, but that did not deter Jakub Vrana and Madison Bowey. Friends from their days in Hershey, it became a pregame tradition for them to hold hands as they came out onto the ice for games.
Now that pregame tradition is one-man short.
Bowey was traded to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday as part of a package that landed Washington defenseman Nick Jensen. The move presents a new start for Bowey who had precipitously slid down the Capitals’ depth chart. But it also meant Vrana was losing one of his closest friends on the team.
“When you lose a friend like this, it's not a nice feeling because you spend a couple of years with him, right?” Vrana told NBC Sports Washington. “Really good friends. Been hanging out a lot and have a good practice together. Once the practice end, you just figured out you won't see him again.”
The trade deadline is a fun time for hockey fans who dream of all the moves their team can make. What players can they add? Who will play where in the lineup? Can they fit this player under the salary cap? Is there a defenseman available?
From the outside, these moves appear to be a little more than moving around chess pieces on a board. On the inside, however, these are players with families and friends who suddenly have to drop everything and start a new life in a new city.
“No one really thinks they're going to get traded unless they're told that they're going to get traded,” Brett Connolly said, “So it always comes as a shock to guys when they do get traded. I've been traded once and it really changes your life. Everything just changes in split second. Going through it, it's not an easy process. Obviously with our group you want to stay here and be a part of it because we did win last year and we're obviously going to try and make another run at it this year.”
The quest to repeat is now something that Bowey will not get to be a part of. He has gone from the defending champions to a Detroit team that sits near the bottom of the league standings. But despite the turmoil and shock that comes with getting traded, this could actually prove beneficial for Bowey’s career.
Bowey was clearly falling down the depth chart in Washington, getting passed by other young players like Christian Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler. In Detroit, he will get an everyday role for the rest of this season and presumably next season as well.
“Hopefully he will do good,” Vrana said. “I want all the best for him. He's a great guy, he's a great teammate and hopefully he will settle in pretty good in Detroit.”
Bowey’s new opportunity comes at a cost, however, and it is one that both he and Vrana will have to pay. It means uprooting his life in Washington to make the move to Detroit and it means for Vrana losing a friend in the locker room thanks to a situation he had no control over.
Still relatively new to the NHL, that feeling of helplessness that came at this year’s deadline certainly stuck out to Vrana.
“It's kind of new to me,” he said. “I haven't gone through lots of [trade deadlines] in my career so that was like a big first one I think. Obviously last year we brought in couple of guys. It's just part of the hockey, this trade deadlines. It's just how it is. We're just here to play. We can do our best on the ice, but those kind of things other people take care of. It stinks you cannot control. You just come here and play.”
Vrana will miss his friend’s presence in the locker room. Now when he takes the ice, he will do so alone.
When asked if he would get someone else to replace Bowey for his pregame ritual, Vrana said, “I don't think so. I think it's over.”
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