"Why won't you just come to Applebees with me and my friends ONE TIME Stevie Wonderful? They'll think I'm SO COOL and the chili poppers are the best!"

Tonight Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will make his first visit back the place where he built his legacy, Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Few people in hockey are as closely associated with one franchise and Stevie Y is with the Wings. His return is a pretty big deal.

Detroit knows it too – they’ve prepared a short video compilation to honour his return, and of course, his legacy.

But every quote I’ve seen from Yzerman – one of my favourite people in hockey – has tried to downplay his return. His heart’s in the right place here (maybe he doesn’t want to be seen as a distraction) but does this annoy anyone else?
“Oh man I’m so glad I’m playing well so they’ll NEVER trade me. I’m gonna win a Cup for them. U-S-A! U-S-A!”

This was a perfect example of what we call “saying all the right things.” He said stuff like ”just worried about the two points,” and ”do I think it’ll be emotional? Depends on the score of the game.”

Really? The score of one hockey game will affect your emotions more than returning to a building where 18,000 people who adore you are going to celebrate you?

But we do this in hockey. We see what he said as the proper, professional things to say.

Why? Why is it that hockey players and coaches and managers are unable to say when they give a shit about something, anything?

Why can’t Phil Kessel say “damn right tonight isn’t just another game. That team traded me, and I want to make them regret it.” Why can’t Yzerman say “tonight is a huge moment for me. I can’t wait to walk in that building. I’m already emotional about it.” It’s not like GM’s need to be on their A-game during the 60 minutes of game time – he’s allowed to be human.

Really, this rant isn’t about Yzerman at all. It’s just the latest in a long line of quotes that we all read where you KNOW the guy is absolutely not telling the truth, and it’s in the interest of being professional.

I’m not saying I’d like to see players say “the refs suck, my coach is an idiot, I hate playing here.” – that stuff creates problems internally, and I’m not asking for that.

I’m just saying it’s okay to admit that you give a damn once in awhile. It’s okay to take the suit off and admit that sometimes certain things make certain games about more than two points.

It’s not a situation that’s likely to change anytime soon, so I guess this is a reminder to celebrate the rare personalities in our game who do speak the truth. On the other hand, guys like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews…I doubt we’ll ever know anything about how they really feel.

Anyway, I had to get that off my chest, and I don’t care if you liked this post or not. Nope. Just gotta keep writin’ hard. The good posts will come. I don’t read what other people write about me.

Comments (13)

  1. This is why I don’t bother listening to post or pre game interviews anymore. They’re just a litany of boring, repetitive cliches. Barf. I’ll stick with the hilights and analysis from bloggers such as yourself.

  2. I agree and disagree with you. It would be great if athletes and managers took the muzzle off…but there doesn’t seem to be ANY benefit to them doing so.

    If Kessel says the Boston game means more to him and he bombs in the game what does that set him up for in terms of questions after the game? He would get crucified in Toronto. There’s just no upside.

  3. Not to mention that I’ve seen way too many athletes’ non-cliched comments twisted and taken wildly out of context. I don’t blame them for being extremely careful about what they say, though I certainly can understand the frustration over it. IMO the media sort of made their own bed on this.

  4. In fairness, maybe it has something to do with the humility of these guys as opposed to other athletes, and the avoidance of being embarassed. Kessel is going to say it is any other game because what if he says “I want to make them regret getting rid of me” and then has a -4 type of night? I would also like to think hockey is different than other sports where it is more about the logo on the front of the jersey versus the name on the back.

    I hope that is the mentality at least. Endlessly frustrating and boring to us fans, but at the same time one of the reasons we can brag to our NBA lovin’ friends that there is more class in one NHL player than 99% of the entire NBA.

  5. i used to get really frustrated with the lack of honesty, and still do sometimes, but more when it comes to media personalities and front-office people than players. i tend to think of player cliches as a necessary part of the job, because for them (and you can correct me if i’m wrong on this) speech isn’t really about communicating facts, it’s about keeping yourself and your team in the right headspace to compete effectively. Being honest about doubts, fears, anger, pain- any passionate emotion, really- can set off a whirlwind of fan debate and attention that can and does become distracting and counterproductive for getting past these things. in the specific case you’re talking about, i think yzerman could probably get away with more emotion without doing any damage, but after a long playing career i think guys get used to a very conservative and traditional way of expressing themselves which sticks with them even when it’s no longer necessary.

  6. This is why in reality Sean Avery will always make hockey news, and why Sidney used to be so goddamn boring on the air. Thank god for 24/7 showing us a lot closer to the reality of hockey players and coaches. I would love it if one clip did catch a comment from a coach saying “I fucking hate loosing to those assholes, get it done you shitbirds”

  7. “Why you heff to be mad?”……

  8. It depends on the person. Some players don’t have a problem speaking their minds. Remember when Crosby slewfooted Callahan last year? In between periods MSG network interviewed Dubinsky and he spoke his mind. Dubinsky called it a dirty play and called Crosby out on it.

    It is annoying how most people (in sports or not) just give the PC response. Look at all the politicians, lawyers, etc. Someone will ask them a question, and they will totally sidestep it and not answer it.

  9. I agree with @skennedy39. Kessel has zero to gain by saying that and everything to lose. I also agree with Char. If the media didn’t take the personality guys quotes and twist the headline around to say what they want it to say so they can sell more newspapers (ok old school)/magazines and website hits. I love the personality guys and would prefer to see more of them as well. But if I got burned or saw a teamate get burned bad I would be spouting all the cliches pretty quickly too.

    And really Justin your headline is just as bad. I love your writing and this site is very good. But really are they all “lying” as you said in your headline…or is it just not telling the whole truth??

  10. Why aren’t players more honest with the media? Because when they do, they get creamed for it. Remember when Bradley called Semin lazy? Or when Ference refused to defend Paille’s dirty hit? Or Miller calling Lucic a POS? Or Luongo’s “pump my tires” comment? People go NUTS. In a bad way.

    When players really talk to the media, they get called rats and cowards and are often forced to apologize. Imagine the circus that would build in Toronto if Kessel actually said what this article suggests. Everyone would say “shut up and put your money where your stick is. Prove it on the ice.”

    Players will be honest when we stop over-analyzing and over-criticizing every sincere word they utter.

  11. Also, by telling the world how much a game means to a player/coach/GM just gives ammunition the the opposing locker room. “Really? Kessel said he wants show Boston…”

    Perfect example is the media friendly Canucks, “Pump my tires”

  12. Geez…you guys should hear coach Jacques Martin’s interview. Always the same answer, same tone same everything.

    A question is asked and nver really answer it. He talks a lot, but the words have no meanings.

  13. As much as I’d like to see a little more personality from some of these guys, I’ll always take the bland media personalities that let their on-ice stuff speak for themselves over the guys whose personalities take over everything. It’s one of the main reasons I can’t stand basketball–egos everywhere.

    I guess what I’d like to see is a balance between completely rote answers and obnoxious conceitedness…but at the same time, what are guys supposed to say when asked the same questions a hundred times a season?

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