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Bruce Bennett

Former NHL defenceman Craig Rivet was featured in an item in Monday's Look Ahead page and there is a much longer piece on him that is worth pursuing.

Rivet, who finished off a four-year contract worth $14-million (all currency U.S.) last season and found no NHL takers for his services, is now making $850 a week in the ECHL, two rungs below the big league. But he says he couldn't be happier.

My pal Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News has the story and it's a good read. It's also a look at a bit of a phenomenon in recent years, the athlete who can comfortably finish out his playing days at a lower level without the pressure to perform that comes with a job in the NHL because he has no financial worries.

Back in the day, a staple of the sports writing game was the feature on the washed-up big leaguer who fell all the way down to the low minor leagues. Those stories were all about the quiet desperation of an aging player who wanted to get back to the big time and the big money.

Hockey was slower to come to the big money than the other professional sports. But in the last 15 years or so there's been a rise in what you could call the leisure class – ex-players who don't need to earn a living when their NHL career ends.

Funny thing, though. People like Rivet are still relatively rare, those who play simply for the fun of it. While there are quite a few ex-NHLers playing in the American Hockey League, almost all of them are playing out the final years of a big-money contract an NHL general manager gave them. There are also lots playing in the European leagues but the money there is much better than in the ECHL, where the average salary is $620 a week.

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