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Usual Suspects

Canucks enraged by Toronto Star gaffe Add to ...

It was difficult enough that the Vancouver Canucks were grieving their former player Rick Rypien, who died suddenly on Monday at 27 after a history of depression. Imagine their feelings when they saw a quote from the Toronto Star’s obit on Rypien that seemed to show GM Mike Gillis calling Rypien “crazy.”

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The Star’s story referred to how the Canucks had treated Rypien’s illness: “But general manager Mike Gillis told the Vancouver Sun at the time, 'When you come to know somebody and realize they’re a really good person ... but crazy... You don’t only support them when they’re at the top of their game ... you support them when they’re not feeling good about things or have other issues they have to deal with.'"

The Canucks were stunned, because the proper Sun quote did not include the words “but crazy” that appeared in the Star’s story. The “but crazy” comment went out in print and early online editions of the Star’s sports section (It was later corrected online.) The Canucks fired off a media statement: “A quote used in an article today in the Toronto Star sports section attributed to Mike Gillis is not accurate, not factual and does not reflect in anyway the feelings or level of commitment both Gillis and the organization had for Rick Rypien. Our organization is tremendously saddened by the passing of Rick and the newspaper's choice of words in this article is unfair."

Realizing its error, the Star posted an apology on page 2 of Wednesday’s edition. “An Aug. 16 article about the death of former Vancouver Canuck Rick Rypien misquoted Canucks general manager Mike Gillis as having referred to Rypien as “crazy” in an interview with the Vancouver Sun last November when Rypien took a personal leave from the Canucks. In fact, Gillis never said that.” The apology then quoted the proper Gillis line and summed up, “The Star apologizes for this error.”

It doesn’t look like the apology is working with the Canucks. “Of all the media interactions I've ever had, this is the most irresponsible and inconsiderate,” Gillis told Usual Suspects. “It appears to have been done with a purpose." The Canucks say they’re considering their legal options.

The Star’s apology to Gillis comes just days after the paper had to make an effusive apology over a column Heather Mallick had written about British journalist Melanie Phillps.

Best Friends

There are days when Primetime Sports on the Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 network is cutting edge, breaking new journalistic ground. Tuesday’s interview with NHL vice-president Mike Murphy was not one of those moments. From the first chummy “Murph,” hosts Bob McCown and Damien Cox conducted a collegial love-in with the man who, along with Colin Campbell, is responsible for the baffling variety of suspensions issued by the league.

From personal experience we know Murphy is indeed a fine man, but fellowship was not why he was on the radio -- a fact that seemed to elude the hosts who dropped “Murphs,” "Colies," (Colin Campbell) and "Brendans" (Brendan Shanahan) as if enumerating the Mouseketeers, not the NHL’s erratic discipline crew. Cox kept repeating what a tough, under-appreciated job Murph and Colie have. “Murph will never toot his horn,” Cox intoned. “If not for he and Colie Campbell ... the game wouldn’t be what it is now ...”

Fair enough. But when Murphy blandly declared that deciding NHL justice was “not just throwing a darts at the board and coming up with a number” and that “every supplemental discipline situation is different,” both hosts declined to ask what that process was that differentiated between Zdeno Chara bouncing Max Pacioretty’s head off a stanchion (no supplementary discipline) and Aaron Rome bashing Nathan Horton in mid-ice (four games).

Emboldened, “Murph” declared Chara’s situation was either no games or 25 games as a suspension. “It wasn’t somewhere in between,” he said. Neither host blinked at this comparison. “Either he did it or he didn’t do it,” agreed McCown. Really? You send a guy off on a stretcher while drawing a penalty and there’s no middle ground between zero and 25? What are the parameters, then? The interviewers passed on the distinctions.

Perhaps in the cozy world where “Murph” and “Colie” are coddled this scatter-shot logic makes sense. But frankly we’ve come to expect better of “Bobcat” and “Dammo.”

Fanciful notions

Our colleague Matt Sekeres wrote about the behaviour of certain Vancouver Canucks fans before the public Stanley Cup celebration of Boston’s Milan Lucic, a Vancouver product. The event was cancelled after several uncomfortable incidents with what are thought to be irate Canucks fans. This following the June riot after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the final to Boston.

Sekeres writes, “the behaviour of some Canucks fans is getting more difficult to defend as the summer rolls along.” He then suggests that, "in the aftermath of June’s Stanley Cup loss, and the riots that punctuated Vancouver’s seven-game defeat to the Boston Bruins, the team’s brass was fond of a more divisive expression: 'Those Were Not Our Fans. That response had all the hallmarks of a panicked reaction to an alarming incident that marred the Olympic city just 16 months after the Games.'"

Ignore the implication that the Canucks were somehow wanting in their response to the riot and boorish behaviour by loons. Was the Canucks’ loss the genesis of the riot? As we’ve seen in both London and Toronto, looting an X-Box or a pair of Nike sneakers is a mindless criminal act, not a political statement. The Canuck logo meant no more to the hooded looters than did their Levis jeans or their designer running shoes. As in Vancouver, many of the London rioters were not disadvantaged or downtrodden but the children of privilege and entitlement. The same applies for soccer hooligans who espouse nothing but plunder and fighting.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis has noted, “The thing that made a real impression on me was a guy who had goggles to protect himself from pepper spray or tear gas. I asked myself who would go to a hockey game in June with those goggles unless you were fully complicit and wanted to be part of that. That made a lasting impression on me that that isn’t a fan of ours. That was somebody who went into that situation hoping that these circumstances would occur and participated willingly.”

Can the Canucks take a strong stand against rioting and bad behaviour? Absolutely. But anyone studying the Vancouver and London riots who still believes a PR campaign by a hockey team will stop these indulged punks is indulging in whimsy.

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