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.