Every playoff year brings a media hobby horse. For the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the casus belli is the peril to the sport from players who embellish hits to draw penalties. To hear it, diving is a dagger pointed directly at the heart of the sport's integrity.
Forget for a moment that the NHL has made it clear that it punishes actions on the basis of consequences, i.e. injuries. As a player in this postseason, it's in your team's best interest to stay down when fouled. Getting up quickly allows NHL disciplinarian-at-large Mike Murphy to invoke the no blood/ no foul rationale.
Reporters who have never been cross-checked in the teeth or speared in the groin wax eloquently about the corrosive effect of diving on integrity.
Yet there is no protest when referees appear to pursue vendettas against players such as Alex Burrows or Tomas Holmstrom. In the Stanley Cup final, zebras have been exacting retribution on players who have "shown them up" by dramatizing hits to the head, slew feet, high sticks and boarding.
Referees haven't forgotten that Burrows publicly accused fellow ref Stephane Auger of promising to "get" him in 2010, before a game. And in the 2011 final, Burrows was penalized for diving in Game 5 while a Dennis Seidenberg two-handed cross check to No. 14's molars after the whistle went "undetected". Interesting to note that one of the referees for Game 5, Stephen Walkom, was referee-in-chief last year. At that time, his boss, NHL vice president of operations Colin Campbell, verbally lynched Burrows for embellishment during a Hockey Night in Canada interview with Ron MacLean. Burrows was given no rebuttal on TV, and the league fined him $2,500.
The media have delighted in Burrows's comeuppance. What harm, right? Disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy knew which refs had it in for which players, and his underworld handlers took it to the bank. How is the apparent bias of NHL refs against Burrows different from certain NBA refs punishing Iverson or Dallas owner Mark Cuban? Where's the integrity in that? Don't hold your breath waiting for columns addressing the subject.
There seems to be a similar glaucoma involved when it comes to NBC/ CBC analyst Mike Milbury, who called Vancouver's Sedin twins "Thelma and Louise". Besides being the oldest chestnut on a poisoned tree, Milbury's comments defy the evidence of the past few years as Henrik and Daniel won consecutive Art Ross titles (and likely Hart trophies). The twins' classic rebuttal http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/globe-on-hockey/canucks-sedin-brothers-rebuff-mike-milbury-after-thelma-louise-jab/article2057291
is worthy of Jon Stewart.
But where are NBC and CBC, as one of their analysts uses a comparison to women as an insult? So far there is no public indication that either organization has cited Milbury's descent into juvenile innuendo. Curious.
HE SAID WHAT?
More signs the media need a long holiday. Roberto Luongo is being excoriated for saying he'd have had the game-winning goal in Game 5. Luongo said Tim Thomas' wandering style makes him vulnerable to such shots. Luongo immediately added that, using his style, there are shots he wouldn't stop either.
But the attention deficits out there only reported the first part of the statement, and are creating a firestorm for Game 6 tonight. Which is sort of like reporting JFK's 1960 inaugural speech as, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Good night, and don't forget to tip your congressman."
HABS MOVING ON THE DIAL
Reports in Montreal say that English radio rights for the Canadiens games are going from traditional powerhouse CJAD to TEAM 990. Sources tell Usual Suspects that the deal is close, but is not confirmed yet (where have we heard this before?). This would be a game changer for the TEAM which trailed CJAD 25 to 6.1 in adults 18-54 morning ratings in the recent BBMs. With TEAM owner Bell Inc. targeting sports broadcast rights, money was not an object this time out. It didn't hurt, either, that TSN-- also owned by Bell-- added English language TV rights to the Habs this past season.
Next up for bid this summer is the Vancouver Canucks radio rights, currently held by TEAM 1040, also owned by Bell. The Canucks' Cup run is making those rights a lot more valuable. Example: In afternoon drive, the TEAM 1040 typically registered a 7.3 in the adult 18-54 category. For Game 5 of the San Jose series, that number shot to a 50.
Odds and ends from last week's BBM survey of Feb. 28- May 29: the departure of Mike Richards from Calgary's Sportsnet The FAN 960 for TSN 1050 Radio was not as devastating as first predicted. FAN 960 morning drive had the same share as same time last year but was down in terms of average-minute audience. Rob Kerr's afternoon drive vaulted to second in the male 25-54 category. In Edmonton, where the Oilers were cooked a long time ago, the TEAM 1260 was down slightly on both morning and afternoon drives (A18-54) but day listenership was up.