What an awesome picture.

Shown: Brian Burke and Bobby Ryan.

When the stewards of the American men’s Olympic hockey team met to start their roster selection process, two journalists (Scott Burnside of ESPN and Kevin Allen of USA Today) were granted unprecedented access. You can read Burnside’s piece here, and Allen’s here. Both did a great job highlighting how names came and went from consideration, and how the men in charge arrived at the final roster.

Unfortunately, a reality of these situations has caused some fallout – a few of the names who fell on the “snub” list had some negative things said about them, and they aren’t too pleased with the dual junk-kick of both being left off the roster, and being disparaged by some of the most important men in hockey. That’s fine and all – I wouldn’t be too pleased about it either – but those comments have to happen.

What boggles my mind is that the guys who decided to include reporters in the meetings know that negative things get said about players – highlighting both strengths and weaknesses is sort of the norm. And, what those reporters did was quite literally how someone in their role writes an article – when granted access, you use that access to filter out the good stuff and you share it. It’s unfortunate for Brian Burke that he has such a way with words. Had he said “I feel like other guys offer a little more jump in their step” instead of “the guy can’t spell intense” about Bobby Ryan this is probably a non-issue. And, it’s not usually Burke’s job in those situations to be careful with his words, because that information rarely gets back to players. Which, again, is why it’s odd they decided to let guys sit in on the meetings, knowing they can’t pick a team solely saying sunny words. That David Poile mentioned “they thought they’d have some editorial control” almost makes the situation look even worse.

It’s inevitable that some American player is going to be injured come Olympic time in February, meaning names like Kyle Okposo, Bobby Ryan or Keith Yandle could end up getting the call, but you wonder if the articles damaged relationships to the point where the US selection committee would avoid taking someone like Ryan who expressed their anger at the situation (he called Burke’s comments “almost gutless”), regardless of how far back David Poile is trying to walk the comments on Ryan and others. Maybe that makes Brandon Saad a more appealing fill-in. If that’s the case, then the access will have had a legitimate effect on the actual Olympic roster, and holy hell is that the worst-case scenario for both the men assembling the team and reporters who crave that sort of access. It’s a total mess.

Both pieces were expertly done by two professional journalists, and I would have most certainly used the same quotes if given the chance to take in the selection process. If that’s why the men in charge don’t want those players, and you’re writing on exactly that, you have to. It’s just awkward and clumsy watching the Americans trying to reel in things they said despite being the same guys who allowed them to be heard in the first place.

I don’t blame Burke for saying what he said, and I have no doubt similar things were said about other players – Ryan is just a big enough name that the light was shined on his particular situation. The whole thing is unfortunate for all parties involved. As great as the articles were, and as neat as it was to get a peek behind the curtain, I can’t see something like this happening again any time in the near future.

Comments (10)

  1. Your closing sentiment is spot on. My reaction to those pieces was basically “well that was awesome and will never ever happen again”

  2. I think the Americans really just wanted to hype up the Olympic hockey team, as people aren’t born into losing sleep over it like Canadians. They used an early announcement and full access journalism (I agree it was cool, not the writers fault and won’t be repeated), both of which put them at disadvantages two months before the tournament even starts. Major junk kick for Ryan having to listen to Burke say he wished he drafted another player in Anahiem.
    I bet if a top end American offensive talent goes down in the next two months, they would really appreciate the ability to call up Ryan and ask if he would like to play in their top six in Russia. As you pointed out, that may not be so easy now.

  3. Definitely the fault of whoever decided to grant access. Players must know these conversations happen about them, even in their own organisations, but they don’t usually become public. And yet if Team USA had got that editorial control and yanked those comments, the articles would have been an anodyne reflection of half a process. Interesting comments on what happens if they need to call on one of these players in the next few weeks: similarly blunt assessments of players in salary arbitration have been known make the working relationships pretty difficult after.

  4. “The Real World Colorado Springs: What happens when selection committees stop being polite and start getting real, and reporters are allowed to write about it verbatim.” I guess if you want to hype something, reality TV is a successful model down here.
    Although maybe instead of hype, a little focus on expanding rink widths might be a little more productive (and – if you consider concussion liability – more financially lucrative).

  5. I think there were some pretty odd choices, and yeah, some good players aren’t going to make it, but it seems like you could find room for people like B. Ryan, Yandle, and Byfuglien. I mean Orpik? Really?

  6. Great read. The unfortunate thing that gets lost in these discussions is context. Bobby Ryan comes out of it sounding like a slug, but the guy has enough skills/intensity to be in the conversation with the top 25 players in the US and the top 100 players in the world. That’s pretty rare air and no shame to be on the bubble in that group.

  7. Ryan would have been better served proving he CAN spell “intense,” and challenging Burke to a spelling bee. He comes across as petulant and self-entitled here. Maybe he could use a dose of truculence?

    • Go read everything Bobby Ryan has said, you’re wrong.

      • Calling Burke “almost gutless” is unlikely to endear him to the powers that be in USA Hockey, no matter what else he’s said. Are you implying challenging Burkey to a spelling bee is not a good idea? That would make sense, given Burke went to Providence College and Harvard Law School, and famously vowed to implant “truculence” and other scary big words into the Leafs.

  8. I’d be upset if I were them. The things they said were’t just critical, it made the process–and assessments–sound incredibly dumb and irrational.

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