Hunter Miska knows he didn’t play well his last couple of games with the Colorado Avalanche. He knows his record, saves percentage and goals-against average weren’t good enough to keep an NHL job with the Avs, that it was time for more seasoning in the minors and just more reps in general. Nobody is tougher on himself than Hunter Miska, and he doesn’t make excuses about anything.
Being a pro athlete means taking some shots from the fans, very often cheap and nasty ones. Miska knew that and still knows it. It comes with the territory. But Miska finally had had enough of the cowardly, anonymous trolls that, unfortunately, make up a good-sized portion of Twitter’s user base. Late last week, right before being sent down by the Avalanche to the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League, Miska decided to delete his Twitter account.
“I got tired of the anonymous Internet tough guys. I was getting like 20 or 30 direct messages a day, from people who never used their real names or faces probably, telling me I should find some other line of work or something,” Miska told Colorado Hockey Now. “I doubt that many of them were real Avalanche fans. I bet, if we put a camera on them at their jobs, we’d find them doing many more things wrong. But I just decided to get rid of the account. I never used it much to begin with.”
“Keyboard tough guys” are a plague on the world, but the protection of anonymity allows people to say things without having to back it up or have their own real lives exposed. More and more players are ditching social media altogether, as even very good players playing well still get their fair share of abuse from the cowards hiding behind their keyboards.
Miska, 25, played five games with the Avs, posting a 1-1-2 record with a 4.16 GAA and .838 saves percentage. Things had been going OK with him entering late February, especially after posting his first career victory, 3-2 in Arizona Feb. 26. But two poor starts, both at home against Anaheim March 6 and 16, caused his demotion to the Eagles and the Avs’ acquisition of Jonas Johansson this weekend from Buffalo, to be the new backup to Philipp Grubauer.
Miska acknowledged that nerves at the start of the most recent games against Anaheim did him no favors.
“I was playing so well in practices, feeling very confident, with the kind of swagger I’ve often had. But when it came time for the games, I got into a different mindset for some reason. I was feeling some nerves,” Miska said. “My goal is to go down with the Eagles and get some of that confidence back in game situations, get that swagger back, and go from there.”
Miska said he has been heartened by the outpouring of support he’s received from many more fans since word got out of his getting off Twitter. He still maintains an Instagram account, and he said the messages of support have been “unbelievable.” He also has nothing but good things to say about the Avalanche coaching staff and his teammates for their support, especially Grubauer.
It was only a couple of years ago when Grubauer himself was dealing with the trolls, after a poor start to his Avs career and some other bumps down the road. Plenty of trolls wanted him traded and said nasty things, but today Grubauer is a leading contender for the Vezina Trophy.
“(Grubauer) is great, just a great teammate and person,” Miska said. “He really helped me with his advice, in learning how to deal with the ups and downs and to just forget about it and move on and try to get better, and that’s what I’m going to do now.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Hunter Miska is a “great kid”, who is just going through a tough time at the moment, but that nobody has given up on him. Bednar said it was a lot to ask of a kid who hadn’t played nearly any real hockey in the previous 12 months, when training camp came around and suddenly he was thrust into the backup job with the long-term injury to Pavel Francouz.
“He’s a young guy, and goalies take a long time to develop,” Bednar said. “I loved his attitude, I loved his work ethic, he’s a great teammate, he wants to get better, he’s willing to learn, he wants to put the time in. It takes time for goaltenders. I wasn’t expecting miracles out of the guy. I just want him to keep working and trying to get better. We’re not going to indict him on a couple of bad games, nor were we going to sign him to a five-year deal if he pitched a shutout. Just learn from it and put it behind him and get ready for his next start, whenever that is.”