It's no secret that Brad has wanted to head back west to be closer to his family. I can't say that I relate to Brad because I do not have children and I am no one's spouse. I can however relate to his children. When I was significantly younger than I am now, My father was working on the road with his company and would be gone for months at a time. He worked in Mexico, Canada, Nebraska, St. Louis, and so on and so on. Unlike Brad, my Dad was able to dictate when he got to come home. He always made sure he never missed a single birthday or significant event. But in day to day life, there was still something missing that would stay missing for months on end then return just to leave again. I was old enough to understand that traveling was part of what my Dad needed to do to bring home a paycheck but it didn't make weeks of disruption to our family routine any easier to handle. Hockey players travel all the time and they don't get to dictate their schedules like my Dad. They don't get to tell their bosses that their daughter's prom is coming up and they would like to be there. They don't get to tell their employer that it's their child's graduation from high school or that their daughter is due with their first grandchild and they would like to be there. That's the life hockey players sign up for, however. I'm sure when they're young athletes they don't envision getting married, having kids, and then having to leave them in order to make their careers successful.
I think it all changed after Ruslan Salei passed away. Suddenly, the career that had always come first now comes second to family. It has come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Brad struggle publicly with the distance that separates him from his family. It has been the writing on the wall since training camp but most chose to ignore it. I don't fault Brad in any way. I will never think less of him for opting to leave this organization when/if that time officially comes. If that time comes, I will thank Brad for what he did for this organization and express how grateful I am that I was able to watch him play for us as long as he did. No player will be able to fill the enormous skates on the blue line that will be left when Brad departs. Kyle Quincey, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and the like are not and can never be Brad Stuart. Brad is a unique player that will bring his tremendous skill and talent to whichever team is lucky enough to be close to his family and he chooses to move on to.
It's always difficult to watch a player we have grown to love leave the organization. But at the end of the day, even though we make it our lives, hockey is just a game and there are often more important things in life.