Thursday, October 27, 2005


Bob McKenzie: Shill

Today's NHL Insider column is just brutal. Reading that Pat Quinn was being fined for saying nothing more than "he doesn't like it" brought this question back to the top of my mind: exactly what instructions have the NHL's Broadcast Partners been issued? I have a better idea now:
This is a painful thing for any member of the media to admit. Inflammatory comments are welcomed and even encouraged. The more pointed, the better, we say, because it makes our jobs more interesting. Easier, too.

But it is fair to say no sport has consistently run its game into the ground on a more regular basis than the NHL.

Maybe it's that NHL coaches, managers and players are simply so passionate about the game that they can't keep their feelings to themselves. Maybe it's just an inflated sense of self-importance, thinking that everyone has to hear their opinions. Whatever it is, the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball don't seem to verbally denigrate their product as often or as intensely as hockey people do with the NHL game.

How bloody disingenuous. You know, maybe TSN doesn't need the NHL to tell them to lay the praise thick on the new NHL. Unlike newspapers, or this blog, TSN needs people to like the revamped game and watch it. I understand why they're happy to trash the old NHL and extol the new, because they need to sell commercials during NHL broadcasts now, not two years ago.

But assume that Bob is free to say whatever he wants, positive or negative. How can he, with a straight face, applaud a policy while knowing full well that it won't make his job tougher in the slightest, however he chooses to do it? I quite like how commenter Robert Cleave put it at Tom Benjamin's place (3rd one down):
Bettman's biggest folly is thinking that he can quell Quinn or anyone else from speaking up. [...] If Quinn, or another coach, decides being fined isn't worth his trouble, he can have a little off the record chat with a compliant media person. The story would have his fingerprints all over it, but he would be referred to as an "NHL insider". That term could theoretically cover anyone from Colin Campbell to Joey Moss, so a fine would be hard to pinpoint, and the message would get out to hockey's version of the chattering classes.

That said, the underlying problem here is that it's nutty to look at NHL popularity as a PR issue. Everybody, even in Georgia and Tennessee and Florida, has heard of the NHL. The challenge is not to talk everybody into believing that it's the best sport around, the challenge is to get more people to watch it and buy tickets -- repeatedly. And the best (and in the end, only) way to achieve this is to make it the best game it can be.

Tom's not always right, but he sure is here:
The new NHL is going to have to survive a blast of criticism. It should have to be able to survive it. If it can't, then the problem is the change, not the criticism.

Shouldn't this be obvious to everyone, especially someone who trades in criticism for a living?


What the game needs is for active players to tell coaches and GM's like Sinden and Quinn to shut the hell up. These guys still live in an age where swinging sticks at each other's heads is a noble pursuit. Do we really want Tie Domi to be a spokesman for the NHL? I sure don't. Unfortunately, the games greatest ambassador is now coach of the Coyotes, and players like Hull and Lemieux have either retired or are near the end of their careers.

Why is the shootout a gimmick? Why are twenty penalties a night a bad thing? 30 years ago, in the NFL, a ball couldn't be caught by a player if it had already bounced off of a player on the same team. I am sure people screamed about the "purity of the game" when that rule was changed, too. Does it seem a tad bit ridiculous to think of it in that way now? It does to me.

Whil I agree that censoring these guys won't solve anything, that isn't the real story. The real story is why dinosaurs like Pat Quinn are allowed to be stewards of the game. When Quinn states, "I don't think it's hockey", people should be asking him, "Well WHAT IS hockey?" Actually, they should be asking him "what is championship hockey?" but I don't think his record will let him speak to that.

Nice jab at the end, but you're right. Why isn't Bettman (or someone) defending the changes, or taking on Quinn's arguments, instead of fining him? You never need to tell someone to shut up if what they're saying is easily disproven. Gagging these guys gives the impression that the NHL has something to hide, that they're trying to sneak something by everyone.

I hate to admit it, but I agreed with McKenzie's sentiments when I heard them and I was was even surprised to hear them from a member of the media. Like it or not, the head coach of a hockey team is their first spokesman, the guy who calls the shots on and off the ice. It's their comments which are going to be broadcast.

In his editorial, McKenzie also mentioned that there are proper channels for those insid the NHL to voice their disagreements at their heart's content. Indeed, I would encourage all coaches and players who take issue with the on-ice product to use those channels.

However, they aren't helping matters by denigrating the new changes -- changes which we brought about through input by players, coaches, analysts and GMs alike -- in such a way as to make it public record.

Keep in mind, even a terrific product needs the full support of all members of the league if the NHL hopes to thrive in non-traditional markets. Potential fans in Tennesee, Florida et all are more likely to catch hockey reports -- especially reports of denigrating comments by a notable coach -- on ESPN (and the OLN) before they ever sit and watch a game.

And who would get involved in a new sport if they kept hearing on the news how poor the product has been?

Hate to say this but Quinn and Sinden work for there teams and then indirectly for the league. This is etertainment. Although being an Oiler fan it has been a horror show for the last 7 shows. You want the fans to watch the product you don't need the GM's in 2 major markets shooting their mouths off. For crips sake the occasional outburst adds to the color of the game. Quinn is a borken record. The thing I remember about Quinn is him bull dogging Bobby Orr into the ice... so class is not his strong point.

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