TORONTO – Word got out quick that he was traded. Reports had him at the rink in San Jose picking up his gear.
But at that point in early March last spring, John-Michael Liles was actually still a member of the Colorado Avalanche and hadn't been traded to the Maple Leafs – yet.
"People were calling me," Liles explained in conversation with TSN.ca, "so I had to call our PR guy and ask if I got traded and he's like 'No, not that I know of'…It was being reported that I was traded here."
Trade deadline day – and the weeks and months leading to it – has become a frenzy of sorts in the NHL with a daily assortment of buzz and wild rumours. The scene can produce some real discomfort for those players bandied about in the rumour mill, a persistent battle to keep potential destinations and implications out of sight and mind.
"You know you're 22-years-old and hear your name in trade rumours, it's like 'Well, wait a minute, what's going on?'" Liles said. "But you learn to deal with it and you learn it's out of your control, there's nothing you can do.
"It's not like you can go up and have a meeting with management and say,'hey, I really want to stay here.'"
It's advice that many in the league – including 22-year-old Luke Schenn – could likely stand to benefit from. Experience did, however, alter some habits for the now 31-year-old Liles.
"I definitely packed a little bit bigger bag a couple years," he said with a grin. "You never know, especially when the deadline occurs and you're on the road."
Professionalism under such circumstances is a given expectation, but quite often fails to account for reality, which includes friends, family and security in any given location. At a certain point along the way though, the ambiguity of what lies ahead fades and hockey simply takes over.
"You have to be able to keep that separate," Liles said of distractions and the game itself. "You have to be able to focus on going out and doing your job each and every night no matter what's going on.
"It's part of the game we play, it's part of the business of hockey. It's something for guys maybe that haven't dealt with it before, it's new and it can be something that can probably weigh on you."
"Definitely it was in the back of my mind for a few years in Colorado, but at the same time it's something you learn to deal with and it's something you've got to just continue to play through and almost push it to the very back of your mind. That's the best way I can describe it, you have to push it to the back of your mind and just continue to go out and play hockey."
Clarke MacArthur was an unsigned impending restricted free agent at the deadline last year, the weight of faltering contract talks and subsequent rumours admittedly a struggle to contain.
"I was wanting to stay here and I think that played into it more last year," MacArthur said, noting the difficulty of impending free agents – such as Mikhail Grabovski who is unrestricted at the end of the year – and their trade appeal.
"It's one of those things you try and play hard here, obviously want to stay here and make the playoffs here – that's been my goal since I got here – but if you're one of those guys to get moved, what do you do?"
"It's not like you're going to do a jail sentence. That's how it is. It happens to guys every year."
Wiser for the experience this time around, MacArthur concurs with Liles as far as shoving idle chatter deep into the mind.
"That is the best way to do it," he agreed. "The other thing too is we have a huge game [Saturday] that's much more important than the trade deadline for us. It's one of those things where you need to push it back just for the rest of the team and get the win. I really haven't put that much thought into this year, not like I did last year.
"Whatever happens is going to happen."