When Alex Forsberg decided to walk out on the Prince George Cougars he may have done more damage than just to his former club's morale as they battle for a playoff spot.
Cougars head coach Dean Clark said it's difficult for him to comprehend why a player in the Western Hockey League, or any league, would quit on his teammates.
"It's hard for me as a guy who has been involved with the game as long as I have as a player and as a coach to understand how you can pack it in on your teammates and your friends," said Clark. "I don't know if it's the way things are nowadays, but I couldn't imagine doing it when I was a player at this level.
"Sometimes people think [quitting] is the best way to do it," he added. "Personally I don't. If you're not happy, I think you've got to continue to play and not just stay home and not participate."
Clark said he hasn't talked with Forsberg since before Christmas and a text message he sent to the young player wasn't returned. He speculated Forsberg's unhappiness comes from not receiving a ranking in the NHL central scouting November preliminary report, adding the 18-year-old's decision will likely affect how he's viewed by NHL scouts and teams.
"When you decide to quit it obviously affects your draft ranking," said Clark. "It's a character issue. Whether it works out for him or not is to be seen I guess."
The Cougars (12-20-1-4) have played three games since learning of Forsberg's decision to quit the team and have dropped all three road games, suffering 5-1 and 4-3 losses (the latter by shootout) to the Victoria Royals (19-15-0-2) before losing 8-4 to the Vancouver Giants (10-28).
"I think the players are disappointed and a little bit mad because a player who was playing with them as a teammate quit," said Clark. "When you've gone through half a season and a guy packs it in it's very, very disappointing. He was an important guy on our team offensively and, I think he was pretty close with some of those guys in there."
Two of Forsberg's now-former teammates, Caleb Belter and Troy Bourke, both admitted the news of his defection caught them off guard but both were diplomatic.
"Obviously you want to wish your teammate the best and, hopefully he has a good career the rest of the way," said Belter. "He's a great person and I have nothing against him."
The 19-year-old forward added the Cougars just have to move on in the post-Forsberg era.
"It's sad to see him go and it's going to hurt the team a little bit but we're going to have to face the adversity and keep going," he said. "Everyone knows that. We're not going to dwell on it. We're just going to move forward."
Bourke said he'll always consider Forsberg a good friend and is curious to see where he ends up.