To Calgary by Johnny Gaudreau


To Calgary by Johnny Gaudreau

To my Flames family, I hope you can better understand my decision after reading this letter. I appreciate how much you wanted me to stay and I hope you can see how difficult this decision was for me.

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

However, all I would ask is that people listen to me as a person.

Last week I kept thinking about the conversation I had with my parents towards the end of my junior year at Boston College. I had the option of staying with BC and becoming a free agent and signing with any NHL team the following year or reporting to the Flames. But all I wanted was to be a Calgary Flame. I felt like I owed it to the organization taking a shot at a 5-6, 130-pound forward from the USHL. I wanted to show them that I could be the player they thought I could be.

When I was drafted in 2011, I honestly couldn’t put Calgary on a map. I knew about Iggy and the red jerseys and that was really it. But I quickly learned what it means to play for this city. I couldn’t believe the comments from people asking me to sign right away and become a flame.

“John!! Please sign.” “Will you play for us next year???” “Have you signed yet????”

And when I went to the Calgary development camps, I saw how deeply connected people were to their hockey team. Even just for games made up of prospects, we would get that many fans onto the rink.

this city is great I figured. This is a hockey town.

From those early days I understood: hockey in Calgary is just different.

It’s a special place with great people.

I’ve been obsessed with the game of hockey and getting better at it for most of my life. I’ve worked my ass off every summer to come back better than before. I’ve always believed that hard work can get you anywhere in this sport.

But as much as I love hockey… family is everything to me. It’s the most important connection I have. And a few years ago I started to realize how much you sacrifice when you give 100% to your career. I felt like I needed to do more to make my family the focus of my life after going through some tough times.

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

Another big moment for me was when I met Meredith. After my father’s heart attack, I bought a vacation home in hopes my family could spend time together and give my father a place to relax after we almost lost him forever. And that’s how we met… Meredith was my neighbor. At the time, she was a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. I was so overwhelmed by the work she was doing. And over the course of our relationship, I’ve learned a lot from her about how to balance those two things: a passion for your work with a passion for the people in your life. I learned a lot about the person I want be. What is a good son, a good husband and (soon!) a good father.

And in the end, that decision came down to finding that balance.

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

Johnny Gaudreau

As are we both love Calgary, I think Meredith and I just felt like it was going to be very difficult to continue living as far away from our families as we have been – especially as we start families of our own.

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

I want to clarify some things that I’ve heard over the past week.

I’ve heard people say that I used Calgary as leverage and that I “always knew” I was going. I’ve heard people say that with the money I make and how easy it is to get on a plane, location shouldn’t be an issue.

And while I wouldn’t normally give this stuff the time of day, I feel like I owe it to Flames fans, to be honest.

What it’s worth, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do until the last few hours of the last day. Man, even after turning down Calgary’s eight-year deal, I was still thinking about going back and trying to work on a seven-year deal to stay. It was all on the table for the whole process. Maybe this looks messy… but life is messy, you know?

And as for hopping on a plane and all that, I’m incredibly grateful to be an NHL player and to be making the salary that I deserve. I don’t take it for granted for a second. Which adds to why money wasn’t the main deciding factor for me. But the idea that Meredith and I can just fly to and from home or visit loved ones isn’t a problem because we have money? It is not so easy. Our families still work full time. Our siblings have their own lives. Our nieces and nephews are in school. It’s a difficult journey for people, and it’s only gotten harder with the pandemic. And it’s also hard for us to get out to the east. It’s things like missing your grandfather’s funeral or very ill relatives that make the distance so painful – and you remember that feeling as you plan your future for your family.

I know these answers won’t please everyone, just as I know my decision didn’t. But I can only tell the truth here.

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

But that doesn’t change how I feel right now. I’m so proud to have been on this team and represent this city. And for the past few weeks…I’ve fought every time I think about it. All the relationships we’ve built here, all the amazing friendships we have – I could feel them in my chest every time I thought about leaving.

Johnny Gaudreau |  Columbus blue jackets |  To Calgary |  The Players' Stand

And 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 strange as it may sound, I’m still really looking forward to coming back and playing in front of some very passionate fans. That’s why I loved this city and the people. You love your team. I have so much love for my time as a flame. No amount of boos or angry messages will ever change that for me.

One day Meredith and I hope to bring our family back to Calgary to show them all of our favorite places and things to do like Banff and the Stampede especially the Saddledome!

I know that’s the sort of thing every player tells a fanbase when they leave… but like I said, my story isn’t every player’s story. Not every player was a five-six, 130-pound USHLer when one of the NHL’s most famous franchises took a chance on him.

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

I hope people in Calgary will remember me not just as a hockey player, but as a good person with good values. Thank you for supporting me throughout these years and for making my family a part of yours.

I am so thankful that I grew up in the Calgary Flames Organization.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


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