The Stages of Trade Grief

For many hockey fans, the suffering is just beginning. The trade deadline has only recently passed. The ringing in their ears is loud, the nausea has kept them up all night, and the path to healing remains long and hard.

Trade grief is real, and it afflicts fans of all sports. It leads to eating entire bags of Doritos in a single sitting, rips workplace friendships apart, and finds the nation’s cats woefully underfed until eight or even nine at night, as masters sit glued to laptops while the TV runs aimlessly at a low hum barely heard by the afflicted.

Trade grief is complicated, but understanding the Kubler Art Ross Trade Grief Cycle (KARTGC) can help an individual suffering from trade grief to cope. Below you’ll find the KARTGC and how it generally plays out. Note that it’s not exactly the same for everyone. Some fans’ teams are buyers. Worse yet, other fans’ teams are sellers. Yet our grief is all the same.

The outline of this cycle will help you identify trade grief in someone you love.



“That’s it?” (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

It looks like it sounds. Subjects are frequently found sitting in their favorite chair for comfort, with a laptop warming their loins to the point of sterilization.

What’s most difficult about identifying a subject in need is that subjects don’t make a sound. It’s not like on TV, with the screaming, gnashing of teeth, or tearing of robes. Subjects are too deep in shock to respond. They may not even hear you call their name.

This is shock.

If the subject doesn’t respond to their name, check their vitals. First look at their Twitter account to see if they’ve recently retweeted something that begins with, “I’m hearing…” or, “Not official yet, but…” The offending tweets often come from figures like Adam Schefter or Bob McKenzie.



“Just believe!” (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Here, the subject may acknowledge that a trade has been made, but they assert that their team “isn’t done.” They may say things like, “This trade sets up another move.” It does not. Their team is done, and this is denial.

If you’re fortunate enough to be identifying these symptoms in close proximity to the league’s trade deadline, it may behoove you to wait until time passes and point out that this is the team you have.


(Mike Carlson/Reuters)

“Haaaaaaaaaamhuis!” (Mike Carlson/Reuters)

The lashing out in this stage may include going to games and throwing team paraphernalia on the playing field.

This stage can also manifest on social-media platforms. Look for hashtags calling for others to be fired. Tweets including hashtags like #FireCashman, #FireRamsey, #FireTherrien, and #FireGillis are signs of the anger stage.

If you’re monitoring, be cautious of people out on a ledge who can be identified by absurd hashtags like #FireBoudreau. Also beware of joke hashtags like #FireKerr or #FireGeno. Additional caution will be needed if the afflicted is a firefighter.


"Maybe they intend to lower Drouin into a vat of lava? That'd be nice." (Luis Santana | TB Times)

“Maybe they just wanna’ lower Drouin into a vat of lava? That’d be nice.” (Luis Santana | TB Times)

This stage involves the targeting of individuals who the subject may consider to be a “bum,” “overpaid,” or “in decline.” Depending on the rules of the sport in question, look for the subject to talk about loopholes, or the technicalities of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement.

At its base level, it may take the form of calling for a trade during the offseason. At its most irrational, the subject may suggest that the “bum” would be “better off as an announcer.” At its worst, you’ll find suggestions including “buyouts,” “waivers,” and “releasing the bum from camp.”



“We’re the Chicago Cubs of the NHL, aren’t we?” “Yah, bub.” (LYNNE SLADKY / AP)

This one is easy to identify, but it can also be confused with acceptance. When the subject says that he or she accepts that “we are just the Chicago Cubs of the NFL,” this is not acceptance, but depression.

It can be particularly difficult to separate from acceptance in Chicago Cubs fans.


"Reimer can't be that bad, right?"(Photo by Jon Swenson)

“New T-shirt idea, honey: ‘Reimer Reason!’ It’s gold.”(Photo by Jon Swenson)

As the depression stage continues, look for signs of testing. A subject may begin to show signs of brief acceptance. They’ll note things like a young player who has had a particularly good season. They may make mention of “having space” under the salary cap.

They may put their Russell Wilson jersey back on and wear it around the house while they clean. From another room, you might here them yell, “Kobe from range!” before they throw an apple core into the garbage can.

These are good signs.


"I guess I'm stuck with you guys."

“I guess I’m stuck with you guys.” (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

This may be the most difficult stage of all to identify. Fandom is predicated on the need to hate a team as much as one loves another team. Fans, at some level, accept this process. The Chicago Blackhawks need to miss the playoffs year after year before they can become a dynasty. The Yankees must have players test positive for PEDs before they can engrave yet another set of rings.

Further complicating this stage is that some fans will be forced to go through decades—nay, centuries—of torment before the light is ever seen. Some fans are unfortunate enough to have been born fans of the Minnesota Vikings. Others yet were born fans of the Buffalo Sabres, or even the Vancouver Canucks. And there are even more pitiable among us. Some were born fans of Chicago baseball teams, but have failed to accept the White Sox into their heart.

It’s up to you to identify these stages and welcome your fan back into the fold. Take them into the light and out of their trade grief.


Dustin Nelson is a writer who was nearly traded to Deadspin before the deadline. You should follow him on Twitter.