I’ve never liked Bobby Nystrom. Brash and conceited, he’s the New York Islander I remembered for almost taking out Borje Salming’s eye in 1978. And so it was with a mix of revulsion and childish glee that I received his figurine at Barclay’s Center on Bobby Nystrom Night. I knew I would destroy it as soon as I had it. But what started out as a joke – it was Lorne Henning and not Nystrom who was responsible for Salming’s injury – turned into a glimpse of a personal abyss, in the creation of seedy ISIS-ish video.In my mind, it was fine and funny, something I had to do, but as an act it wasn’t. It was awful really, just wrecking something for a reason that didn’t exist. Not that I’m sad it’s gone.
Phil Kessel started the summer by bringing the Stanley Cup to Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. He ended it with a biting tweet on being left off the USA team, which lost all of their games at the World Cup of Hockey. Coach Tortorella – and some players – took offense. They said that Kessel shouldn’t express an opinion, no matter how relevant, because it had an edge. They have a problem with Kessel simply because he’s his own person, because he says what he thinks. Which says a lot more about them.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded away the majority of veteran players over the past season to begin anew.
On Monday, February 29, four young players had their NHL debuts: Connor Carrick (21), Kasperi Kapanen (19), William Nylander (19), Nikita Soshkinov (22). Soshkinov was the first of the rookies to score, two days later, on March 2 against the Washington Capitals.
The best thing about Toronto Blue Jay Edwin Encarnancion’s home run against the Miami Marlins on June 9th wasn’t the swing. It wasn’t the look. It wasn’t the trot. It wasn’t the celebration at home plate of the walk-off winIt wasn’t even the high five with BJ Birdie. It was the moment when this Sportsnet reporter got shrugged off.Oh, the desperation! The indignation!“Edwin?! Edwin, please!!”
I blogged in February on The Five Big Problems of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Happily Team President Brendan Shanahan agreed on the most important point. By hiring Mike Babcock as the new head coach – $50 million for eight years – Leafs management sends a clear message to media, fans and players alike: this team must win now.
There are many next steps, the most important of which is to address player leadership, but the first step is the most important.
Said Babcock this morning: “I believe this is Canada’s team and it’s time to put it back on the map. I came here to be involved in a Cup process. I have a burning desire to win. I want to build a team that the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can be proud of.”
Phil Kessel is to be admired for more than his stick work and scoring touch. He’s also good at saying it like it is, even in the face of harsh criticism. “I’m embarrassed for you (sports writers). It’s disgusting the way people treat (Dion Phaneuf).” The sports writers surrounded him, and he stared them down. “I’ve had it. I think this city is a great city. I love Toronto. I love playing here. but I’m just tired of it. I’m sick of it. I don’t think it should go on any more. I think it needs to stop.” The likelihood of Kessel’s advice being heeded is as good as as seeing snakes fly.
Or maybe it’s less likely than that.
Steve Buffrey of The Toronto Sun did his best to spin Kessel’s words: Dumping on the media makes for great copy and sound bites on sports radio. And don’t kid yourself, media types love it when players dump on the media.
The truth is, no matter how Buffrey and his cohorts try to smirk it off, these rumor-mongers are none too pleased. Cathal Kelly, of The Globe & Mail, tried to take the challenge head on: “Once (a player treats reporters with respect), you’ll never rip that guy in print. You’ll criticize, but the ripping days are over. He’s not just someone you cover any more. He’s someone you know.”
The irony here is that Kelly admits to ripping people, which is Kessel’s exact point. The job of a reporter is not to rip, but to report. (Stunning as that may be.) And the idea of Kessel of becoming invested in the personal lives of those looking to attack him just to make them write good stories about him is foul indeed.
Indeed this hubris of the sportswriter is pathetic because they have nothing to have hubris about. They lack skill, ability, insight, empathy, in fact any of the characteristics that make one human. All they seem to know how to do is stand in a clump and rip people – and maybe eat a donut at the same time. They give nothing back. Whereas, Mr. Kessel does give something back with his skill, talent and straight-forward demeanor. Phil Kessel is right. Sports writers are embarrassing. They should all be put on waivers just so they can see what they are actually worth for themselves: nothing at all.