It was a week ago that former Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina announced his retirement from the game of hockey.
The Lightning should not let another week pass without offering him a job.
Let me state right up front that I have no idea what he would do. I don't have access to his LinkedIn profile (if he even has one) and don't know what his administrative strengths and weaknesses might be. Maybe a willingness to block shots lends itself to an accounting position. Maybe a heavy shot is an indicator of sales prowess. Who knows? That can be worked out later.
This is also not an invitation to open the door for every member of the 2004 Stanley Cup to be given a job just because we love those guys forever and they suddenly find themselves with extra free time on their hands. I'm also not talking about some "special advisor" or "consultant" job that requires nothing more than showing up to sign autographs and pose for pictures at fanfests and chamber of commerce luncheons. It's not uncommon for professional sports teams to do that kind of thing for former players and some of them end up with entire rosters of "ambassadors" who essentially do nothing.
Still, I'm sure there has to be a role within the organization that he'd be ideally suited to fill. The Lightning currently have two former players currently working in administrative roles, Brian Bradley (Director, Youth Hockey) and Dave Andreychuk (Vice President, Corporate and Community Affairs), Both of them regularly work 40 hour weeks, either out and about or at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, actually doing their jobs, not waiting at home for an invitation to function as an organizational figurehead in a public relations capacity.
Kubina's dedication and genuine love for this team and area are well-documented. Lots of athletes say they love the towns they play in and there's no reason to doubt their sincerity. Unless they're trapped on a poorly run team with no chance of winning and/or an aggressively hostile fan base and press corps, which isn't usually the case, what's not to love? In addition to Tampa Bay, Kubina played in Toronto, Atlanta and Philadelphia and was born and raised in Celadna, Czech Republic, a country for whom he helped win a bronze medal in the 2006 Olympics. Yet, he has chosen to live and raise his children here in the Tampa Bay area. In Kubina's case, his expressed devotion to the team and area comes across even stronger than what you usually hear from a former player. In his farewell letter, he said the following:
"I would like to thank the great Tampa Bay Lightning fans. Although I did not have the opportunity to play my final game in front of the same fans that I played my first game, which I desperately wanted to do, rest assured my heart, my skates, my No. 13 jersey and my home will always be here among you in Tampa Bay. Your cheers and your support throughout my career gave me fond memories that I will cherish for a lifetime."
"Finally, I would like to say Jeff Vinik is one of the best owners I have ever played for and Tampa Bay is very lucky to have him."
That's him going out of his way to single out an owner for whom he only played 131 games. In other words, he's already supporting the organization without being a part of it.
As a player, Kubina was not above legitimate criticism for his play on the ice. He was often too slow and made strange decisions at bad times. But nobody ever questioned his work ethic, enthusiasm or dedication. I believe those are characteristics that could serve the Lightning organization well in some capacity. He's a young man (only 36) who works hard and loves the team and the area it represents. All things considered, he might be an even better fit in the Bolts front office than he ever was on the ice.