As you’re no doubt well aware by now, I am an amazing writer devoid of flaws or shortcomings. I have nearly 37,000 followers on the social networking site Twitter and have earned several writing awards that I gave to myself in elaborate ceremonies attended by pets and posters of 1990s swimsuit models.
This may come as a shock so strong that you will lose the use of your legs for 15 minutes, but I wasn’t always this way. Oh no. There was a time where I made these things called “mistakes” and committed these other things people refer to as “errors.” I haven’t said that second word in a long time and I no longer know how to pronounce it. It prevents me from reporting on baseball.
That’s why today I will be sharing with you all of my gaffes, missteps, foibles and errors (pronounced ayeroars in my head) to show that no one is perfect – not even myself. So here are some embarrassing and dumb things* I have done during my illustrious career as a hockey reporter.
*This entry not included.
April 15, 2009 – The Ryan Miller Interview
At this point, I hadn’t done much writing for NHL.com. But we had a new philosophy where anyone with 10 fingers and a keyboard was going to write, and since I fit those requirements, I was going to interview Ryan Miller when he came to the NHL store that afternoon.
This was a very last-second assignment and I didn’t get much of a chance to prepare. Not that I needed to prepare, per se, as it wasn’t as though I was asked to spend 10 minutes talking to someone I didn’t know, but I didn’t want to just ask dumb questions and write a dumb story. The Sabres weren’t going to the playoffs this year, so that situation was to be my unique angle that was going to rocket this story to the Page View Hall of Fame.
So I gathered up my recorder and pad, which was lined with questions, and went downstairs to talk to Miller. My first impression was OH MY GOD HE IS SO RAZOR-THIN HOW DOES HIS BODY SUPPORT ALL THAT EQUIPMENT. It was very jarring. I couldn’t believe it. But being the professional journalist after the big story that I was, I pushed that off into my peripherals and went about my business of asking a person questions.
“So Ryan, this is sort of a new experience for you this time of year, being in New York doing press and not playing in the playoffs. What’s this been like for you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’ve made the playoffs every year of your career and now dealing with the feeling of missing out.”
“We missed the playoffs last year too.”
I may as well have just walked away at that point because he was even less interested in talking to me than before. So in the end, I asked dumb questions and wrote a dumb story.
May 30, 2010 – The Brent Sopel Incident
During the Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Flyers, I was covering the Blackhawks end of things. I was on the Western Conference playoffs the entire postseason, so when everything filtered into the Final, they were my team. Practices, morning skates, postgame stories, I was the guy. They were a fun team to cover, so it worked out great.
As the Blackhawks advanced, the media coverage began to grow to out of control. In their locker room at United Center, the Blackhawks have perhaps the biggest floor logo of any team in the NHL, which was made famous by the whole Justin Bieber thing this summer. Of course, you can’t step on the logo, because that would be offensive to the players. That’s right – if you step on that logo of all logos, that’s what is considered offensive.
But like a smart team, the Blackhawks PR staff sectioned off the logo with the type of ropes you’d see at a bank or airport security. It created an intense log jam around players who had lockers in the corners of the room, but who cares as long as no one insults anyone by stepping on a cartoon Indian head.
So there I was at the back of this long line to get to the locker of Dave Bolland. It must have been 8-9 people deep, and the ropes were preventing people from fanning out and making a semi-circle around Bolland. Nowhere near the locker, I took out my gigantic flip cell phone to check Twitter.
“Hey, buddy, show some f***ing respect!”
I can’t get any cell reception in here. Maybe this phone from 2005 isn’t good anymore.
“Either show some f***ing respect or I’ll get you tossed out of here!”
Man, that guy is yelling at someone something fierce! I bet that person feels like an idiot. That’s weird. I’m feeling a lot of eyes on me.
At this point, I look up from my phone. Yep. Everyone is looking at me. Should I not be on my phone in the locker room? Is my phone so massive and old that it’s embarrassing this hip young Blackhawks team? Is it messing with someone’s pacemaker?
I turn around, and a shirtless Brent Sopel is sitting at this locker and staring daggers at me.
“Watch where you’re standing when you’re in here,” he said directly to me, clearly hoping I’d mouth back so he could hit me as hard as he could.
I looked down, and I wasn’t standing on the logo, although that was clearly his beef. As previously stated, the logo was roped off from media. For me to get my foot on it, I would have had to squat and stretch my leg out to touch it with my foot. It was one of the more bizarre incidents I’ve ever been apart of in a locker room, but that was the end of it.
Guess what I had to hear about for the next five games of the series from reporter buddies.
January 2, 2010 — Aaron Ward Rightfully Thinks I’m An Idiot
Before Aaron Ward became the only person under the age of 60 on TSN panels, he was an NHL defenseman. He was nearing the end of his career with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010, and while playing against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, he blocked a shot with his knee.
Not the padding around his knee – his knee. He hobbled to the locker room and did not return.
The Hurricanes won, so I was working their locker room. This was before MSG was renovated, and the visiting room was divided into two halves. There was a door frame you’d pass through to get to either side of the room. After talking with someone in the back room, I made my way to the front room to get Cam Ward, but he was still undressing, so I leaned against the door frame and waited.
Sitting directly in front of me with a giant ice bag on his knee was Aaron Ward, looking pretty miserable while not saying a word to anyone. Being the friendly, outgoing, concerned sort that I am, I asked the man, “How’s the knee?”
I’ll never forget the look on his face as he tilted his head upward. I immediately regretted the question. I may as well have asked, “How’d you like to swim in hot, wet garbage?” He was incredulous.
He answered truthfully, angrily and loudly, “It f***ing hurts, what do you think?”
It was a really dumb question toward a person who clearly didn’t want to be asked one. Oh look, Cam is ready to be interviewed now…
April 2011 — Brian Boyle Loses All Respect For Me
I needed a fresh angle for a Rangers story as the playoffs were getting started. Have you heard of Henrik Lundqvist? Yeah, so has everyone. Marian Gaborik? Yawn. Ryan Callahan? Done it to death. Being the genius I am, I wanted to do something on Erik Christensen and Brian Boyle, two players the Rangers scooped on waivers who had done some little things throughout the season. One of those stories. I think Christensen scored a game-winner like a week earlier.
So I talk to Christensen. Nice kid. Good interview. Happy with the results. Let me mozy over to Boyle, who at this point I had talked to a few times but never really introduced myself to. So I go over, do a formal introduction and ask my first question.
“What was it like for you when the Kings put you on waivers and…”
“Whoa whoa whoa, buddy. Waivers?”
He was upset.
“I wasn’t put on waivers. I was traded.”
“What? Um, uhhhh, ummm…”
Yeah, he was traded. I’m an idiot.
So I apologized for like a minute. He laughed about it, but he was clearly offended. Apparently there aren’t many worse things for a hockey player than being put on waivers, and he didn’t like being thought of that way. For the next two years, I’m pretty sure whenever he saw me coming, his thought was, “Here comes the bald idiot doofus who had me on waivers.”
May 20, 2012 — The Daryl Sutter Press Conference
When the Kings won the Stanley Cup, you might recall that they had an absolutely atrocious power play. I may be making this up, but they failed to score on an extended 5-on-1 power play against the Coyotes. Again, I could be making that up.
But it was bad. Especially going into the Stanley Cup Final against the Devils, it was as putrid as any team that had come that far in NHL history. Of course the Kings were winning with ease, but the fact that their power play was record-setting-ly awful was sort of a thing.
Up until that series, I was on the Rangers for three rounds. I saw some Kings games, of course, but I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of that team. So when they were in New Jersey before the start of the Final, I was grasping for a story. I had nothing. So as someone who was fourth in line for a story, I decided on a power play story. Kings are winning, but maybe they’ll need their power play to beat the Devils. You know, Pulitzer-winning type of stuff.
So here comes Kings coach Daryl Sutter to the podium for his pre-series availability. Throngs of media, dozens of cameras, all there for Sutter’s time on the podium. At this point, the Kings had scored six goals in three rounds in 74 opportunities. I’m not an advanced stats expert, but of corsi I thought this could be an issue against the Devils. So I asked about it during the press conference, microphone in hand, NHL Network airing it live (I think).
“Coach, do you have any concerns about your struggling power play entering this series?”
Keep in mind, he was about as condescending and dismissive as possible.
“Struggling, what makes you think it is struggling?”
I was stunned. He’s contesting that his power play doesn’t stink? Also, I’m paraphrasing. I can’t find the video.
“Well, it’s only scored six times in three rounds.”
At this point, he begins looking around on stage for the pre-series stats packet that has every drop of statistical information you could want, including power-play results.
“Did you get the packets everyone gets with the stats in it? Those goals were big goals for us. You should check the packets. I thought you guys all loved stats. Our power play has come through for us in these playoffs.”
This is my major regret. At these press conferences, you get a microphone and you ask your question into it. Once you do so, you hand it back to the microphone master, and then you are being shouted at by a guy on a podium with a microphone. It’s over. I had things to say, but this was a story I wasn’t exactly passionate about and Sutter wasn’t being as bad as it seems. But the “packets” stuff was something I heard about for two weeks. Lot of laughs had at my expense when I got back to my work area. It was good times.
Of course, the Kings went 6-for-20 (including three power-play goals in Game 6) against the Devils in what was their toughest series of the postseason, so yeah, the power play helped them out a bit, but also, apparently the power play wasn’t a problem. Read the packets, idiot.
June 30, 2011 — The Guardians in Carolina
This one hurts to talk about, because the mocking extended beyond a small, immediate group of people who eventually let the joke die down. Someone will bring this up at my funeral, and it most likely will be Katie Baker.
Remember the Guardians? Easily the worst idea ever hatched in sports history? They make the glowing the puck look like MRI machines as far as innovations go. Well, at the 2011 All-Star Game, with all of the best players in the world in one location, my assignment was The Guardian Project. I spoke to one of the creators of it for one story I wrote from my hotel room. It was a really bad story. I tried so hard to understand the point of this, but the guy I spoke to just wasn’t conveying it to me. “So the Leafs guy throws sticky bombs at people? That doesn’t sound wrong when you say it out loud?” After a 15-minute conversation, I was more confused by the project than before I talked to him.
But the real fun was at the actual game. During the second intermission, there was this “introduction” of the Guardians. It was interminable. Thirty super heroes all projected under the scoreboard at center ice one at a time. No one in the building was paying attention to this, except me, I guess. Then there was this thing where the bad guy trapped the guardians with a magic spell but then they were freed when seriously this was my assignment during the All-Star Game and I wanted to die.
After this production, I had to write about it. Even after a conversation with one of the masterminds and watching this…thing, I didn’t understand what was happening. So in an effort to get this done in a hurry, I wrote a quick recap of the attack and rescue of NHL super heroes that was posted before the start of the following period.
This is what I wrote. The last line – “Only time will tell” – will be on my tombstone. It’s not that I tried writing a bad story; it’s that I couldn’t write a good one. Imagine giving Scotty Bowman the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators. What’s he doing with that material? Nothing, that’s what. There is nothing not terrible about the story, be it the content, the topic, the beginning, the middle, the end, and it will live on the Internet for the rest of time. Is it possible I will write something worse than that?
Only time will tell.
Does Boston’s schedule in the East become harder with the Wings now playing them more?
The Bruins play Detroit and Columbus more and Winnipeg less because of realignment, so their schedule is clearly harder. But at the same time, they now have Florida and Tampa Bay in their division, so the schedule might actually be easier. Let’s break it down.
In 2011-12, the Bruins played Detroit once, Columbus twice and Winnipeg, Tampa Bay and Florida four times each.
In 2013-14, the Bruins will play Detroit four times, Columbus three times, Winnipeg twice, Tampa Bay four times and Florida five times.
So really, having Tampa Bay in the same division gives Boston no added benefit. Sure, the Bruins get one more game against the Panthers, but two fewer games against the Jets and more games with the Wings and Jackets means yes, the Bruins don’t appear to benefit from all this realigning.
Do you consider fantasy hockey questions?
Yes, I do.
There are only so many front-office and TV jobs to go around in the NHL. But there’s no real definitive answer as to where they go. Some of them take jobs coaching in the junior ranks, some of them open successful auto dealerships. Some European players return to their home countries to take jobs in hockey, some players become agents. Some players amass enough money that they can get fat and live off the interest for life (aka The Dream), others get involved in charities.
Sean Avery went into fashion. Mike Richter went to Yale and started a consulting firm that’s into clean energy. You just never know what a player might do once his mind is no longer occupied by hockey, like when George couldn’t have sex with his girlfriend and began using other parts of his brain to educate himself.
I guess you could say, only time will tell.