To Calgary by Johnny Goudreau

To Flames Family, I hope you can understand my decision more after reading this letter. I appreciate how much you want me to stay and hope you see how difficult this decision is for me.

Before I became a hockey player, I was a hockey fan. I totally understand it. It’s hard not to see any free agency decision as a betrayal.

All I ask is that people hear me, as a human being.

Last week I kept thinking about the conversation I had with my parents at the end of my junior year at Boston College. I had the option to stay in BC and become a free agent and sign with any NHL team the following year, or report to the Flames. But all I wanted was to be the flame of Calgary. I felt I owed it to the organization that seized the opportunity to advance five, six, and 130 pounds from the USHL. I wanted to show them that I could be the player they thought I could be.

When I was recruited in 2011, I honestly couldn’t point out Calgary on the map. I knew something about Iggy and the red shirt and that was really it. But I quickly learned what it means to play for this city. I couldn’t believe the comments of people asking me to sign and it instantly became a flame.

“Johnny!! Please sign in.” “Will you play with us next year???” “Did you sign yet????”

And when I went to Calgary for development camps, I saw how deep the connection was between the people and their hockey team. Even for games that consist only of potential customers, we will get a lot of fans at the rink.

This city is wonderful, I said to myself. This is hockey city.

From those early days, I understood: Hockey in Calgary is very different.

It is a special place with wonderful people.

Almost all my life, I’ve been obsessed with hockey, getting better at it. I worked my tail off every summer to come back better than before. I’ve always believed that hard work can get you anywhere in the sport.

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But as much as I love hockey… family is everything to me. It’s my most important connection. And a few years ago, I think I started to realize how much you sacrifice when you give 100% to your career. I felt like I needed to put in more effort to focus my family in my life after we went through some tough times.

My father’s heart attack in 2018 was a big moment for that. It was really, really bad and he’s lucky to be here today. A very scary situation. And seeing him in that hospital bed… it hit me so hard. I thought about how little I’ve seen of my parents since I was in the league. These moments and experiences change you as a person.

It was another big moment for me when I met Meredith. After my father’s heart attack, I bought a vacation home hoping my family would spend time together and have a place for my father to relax more after we lost him almost forever. And so we met… Meredith was my next door neighbor. She was a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at the time. I was amazed at the work she was doing. And over the course of our relationship, I’ve learned a lot from her about how to balance these two things: a passion for your work and a passion for the people in your life. I learned a lot about the person Wants to be. He is the good son, the good husband, and the good father (soon!).

In the end, trying to find that balance is what this decision came up with.

Before I became a hockey player, I was a hockey fan. I totally understand it. It’s hard not to see any free agency decision as a betrayal.

Johnny Goudreu

as much as we both the love Calgary, I think Meredith and I felt that it would be very difficult to continue living as far from our families as we used to – especially when we started a family of our own.

It’s the hardest decision we’ve had to make.

I want to put the record straight on some of the things I’ve heard over the past week.

I heard people say I was using Calgary for leverage, and that I “always knew” I was leaving. I’ve heard people say that, with the kind of money I make, and how easy it is to jump on board, the location shouldn’t be an issue.

And while I don’t usually give these things a time of day, I feel like I owe a fan of Flames honestly.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do until the last hours of the last day. Oh man, even after I turned down the eight-year contract from Calgary, I’m still thinking about going back and trying to work on a seven-year deal to stay. Everything was on the table for the whole process. That might sound messy…but life is messy, you know?

And in terms of “jumping on a plane” and all that – I’m so grateful to be an NHL player, and for being paid my salary. I don’t take it for granted for a second. Which contributes to why money is not the main deciding factor for me. But the idea that Meredith and I are able to travel to and from home, or visit our loved ones is no problem, because we have the money? It’s not that simple. Our families still work full time. Our brothers have their own lives. Our nephews and nephews are in school. It’s a tough journey for people to take, and it’s gotten even tougher with the pandemic. And it’s hard for us to get out of the east as well. Things like missing your grandfather’s funeral, or having very sick relatives, that make the distance so painful — and you remember that feeling when planning your future for your family.

I know these answers won’t satisfy everyone, just as I know my decision didn’t. But all I can do here is tell the truth.

And that’s the truth, I promise: I dear My time in Calgary. For a long time, Meredith and I saw our future there. We wanted to re-sign last summer. We were looking for homes to start a family. But it didn’t work out and we thought this summer could be different.

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But that doesn’t change the way I feel now. I am very proud to be on this team, to have represented this city. And these past few weeks… I’ve been struggling every time I think about it. All the relationships we’ve built here, all the wonderful friendships we have–I felt it in my chest every time I thought about leaving.

Johnny Goudreau |  Columbus Blue Jackets |  to Calgary |  Players Tribune

It’s weird, you know, I’ve been thinking about what it’s going to be like when I come back next season. I know there will probably be boos…but as strange as it may sound, I’m still excited to get back and play in front of some very excited fans. That’s why I loved this city and the people. They love their team. I have so much love for my time as a flame. No amount of boos or angry messages will change that for me.

Someday, Meredith and I hope to bring our family back to Calgary to show them all our favorite spots and things to do like Banff and the scramble, and especially Saddledome!

I know things like this are what every player says to their fan base when they leave… but it’s like I said: my story is not every player’s story. Not every five, six, and 130 pound USHLer was a USHLer when he took up one of the NHL’s most iconic franchises.

I felt like the luckiest guy in hockey when that happened, and I still do.

I hope the people of Calgary will remember me not only as a hockey player, but as a good person with good values. Thank you for your support during these years, and for making my family a part of you.

I am so grateful to have grown up in Calgary Flames.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

– Johnny

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