Windsor - May 6, 2013 - Much has been said and written about Ken Dryden’s refusal to sign a Team Canada jersey after his speaking engagement at the WESPY Award banquet held in Windsor last month. The story goes that a fan brought a Team Canada jersey to the event, and asked Dryden to sign it. Previously signed by several players from that 1972 team, Dryden apparently refused, saying something to the effect that it would show up for sale online someday. You can’t blame him, check out eBay sometime for autographed memorabilia.
Dryden doesn’t need a reason for not signing the jersey. He is one of many players who won’t sign certain items, based on that logic.
Professional athletes don’t owe fans anything. They do the same thing as we do. They work. We work. Yes, they make more money than we do, but does that give us the right to complain when something like this happens?
How many times have you heard about the guys who hang around waiting to have something signed, put a pile of pictures or cards in front of an athlete, and expect him to sign everything? Today, there are people who make a living from standing outside hotels, and putting the autographs online before the ink is dry.
Some would say “They owe it to the fans to sign” The reality is, they don’t. “The fans pay their salaries.” No, the owners pay their salaries. The fans buy tickets to the games, and the souvenirs, etc. that go along with it. Nobody is forcing a fan to buy a ticket.
Athletes have absolutely no obligation to sign anything for anyone. On any given day an average athlete probably signs his name fifty times or more. Unless you’re Wayne Gretzky, and probably sign ten times more. Which would explain why a lot of times, you can’t even make out a signature. In the old days, 1995 BE (before ebay) and before, you could actually read a player’s signature. Try to read one today. The only way to be sure is because they nowadays include their number.
According to some accounts, Dryden offered to personalize it, and was refused. He signed and personalized a card for the guy.
When I was a kid, I used to write letters to my favourite hockey players, telling them how much I admired them and loved to watch them play the game. Many would respond by sending a picture, sometimes with a facsimile autograph, and sometimes with a real one.
I have a letter, written to me by Ken Dryden, from his days with the Canadiens. He responded to a letter I had written to him. I was a kid, writing to a hockey idol, hoping he would at least read my letter. I never expected him to respond. After all, he was Ken Dryden, at the time, the best goalie in the NHL. What would he care about a letter from a kid in Windsor Ontario? He cared. He cared enough about a fan to take the time to respond to me. Yes, I still have the letter. Typed on his own typewriter. Closing with, “Your friend,” and signed boldly in ink, “Ken Dryden”. It remains one of my prized possessions.
I had it with me that night, hoping for a chance to show it to him. But the throng around him was a large one. Since I have met him twice, (he was very gracious on both occasions) and have his autograph (not for sale), I thought I would just stand back and observe the adoration.
So, don’t knock Dryden for not signing the guy’s jersey. He was only sticking to his principles. He doesn’t need to explain himself, and he doesn’t owe anybody anything.