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Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia smiles during a team training skate in Moncton, New Nrunswick, Monday Sept 18, 2006. (The Canadian Press/ANDRE FORGET/The Canadian Press/ANDRE FORGET)
Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia smiles during a team training skate in Moncton, New Nrunswick, Monday Sept 18, 2006. (The Canadian Press/ANDRE FORGET/The Canadian Press/ANDRE FORGET)

Usual Suspects

Crosby's press conference ill-timed Add to ...

It was the press conference the hockey world had awaited all summer: Sidney Crosby discussing his concussion and whether he’d play in the NHL again. But it should have been delayed a day, according to Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 morning host Greg Brady in Toronto. Even as the first reports of the Russian air crash emerged Wednesday morning, Brady used his Twitter account to urge the Pittsburgh Penguins to delay Crosby’s meeting with the media. “bradyfan590 Greg Brady No one wants to knee-jerk here, but current player’s health status shouldn’t push this horrid tragedy off page somewhat, & sadly, it would.”

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The momentum continued as the awful truth from Russia sank in. At least 23 players from the KHL’s Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and its Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon were among those who perished in the crash. “bradyfan590 Greg Brady NHL scout text to me: “Biggest tragedy in history/sport, & so-called ambassador of game going ahead w/ a “how am I doing” presser? Insane.”

The concern that Crosby was insulated from reality continued at the presser. While Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero briefly acknowledged the tragedy, Crosby found not a single word in his me-fest to mention that many hockey colleagues he knew or played against were lying dead along the Volga River. “@bradyfan590 The sports best known player didn’t reference the sports biggest tragedy at the end of the worst summer in hockey history.”

Brady got lots of pushback, but Thursday he was not changing his tune. “I can see both sides of the Penguins going ahead with it,” he told Usual Suspects in an e-mail. Brady acknowledged Shero’s comment, but added, “I will say, I was shocked the game’s best player and most recognizable face didn’t grasp the importance of doing the same. If the NHL is truly a global game, and this is the greatest unparalleled tragedy in the sport’s history, surely its biggest star would acknowledge it happened and pass along sympathies before his first answer. It takes 10 seconds. Every other star of the sport commented on it, and Crosby had a massive platform to speak for ALL players, not just himself.

“If it had been an NHL team [that crashed] there’s no chance the presser goes forward, so why differentiate between the two? The tragedy has countless links to the NHL. I mean, would the Pens have announced a player signing at the same time? I doubt it. None of this makes Crosby an unfeeling person, but when you’ve grown up watching statesmen like Arthur Ashe, Muhammad Ali, and Wayne Gretzky, maybe I expected a bit more.”

Twitter chatter: The tragic crash was the best and worst of times for Twitter and journalism. The best is blogger Dmitry Chesnokov’s illuminating updates from the Russian media. Worst? Another rush to put someone in the cemetery. In this case, CBC’s website listed Riley Armstrong, brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong, and former Penguins winger Ramzi Abid as possible passengers on the ill-fated plane. That led Fan 590’s Barb DiGiulio to tweet, “We are hearing that Riley Armstrong, brother of Maple Leaf Colby Armstrong was on the plane.” Neither Armstrong nor Abid was, in fact, aboard, and DiGiulio was simply repeating the CBC message without checking it herself.

How’s that different from the many who reported speculation that Ruslan Salei might still be alive in Minsk? While unresearched speculation (especially from Russian sources) is not advisable in any case, it’s absolutely verboten when talking about a death, particularly one with such close connections to the Toronto market.

Rogers Bows Out: After originally confirming they would be part of the bidding by the Olympic TV Consortium for the IOC’s TV rights to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia and the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil, Rogers has announced they’re now dropping out of the bid. Rogers was a 20 percent partner in the consortium, which, ironically, was run by current Rogers Media Inc. president Keith Pelley through the Vancouver 2010 Games. The IOC Canadian bidding result, which was delayed to allow for better economic conditions, is to be decided this year.

Rogers is saying that its channels are full of Blue Jays and tennis coverage at the time the Summer Olympics are staged and hockey when the Winter Games are on. Until Rogers can get more channel space, it will stay out of the competition. Of course, Sochi and Rio are not the strongest draws in North America, either. No great skin there. Plus, under terms of the consortium agreement Rogers cannot now partner with another network to bid against CTV. It’s also no state secret that, since Bell Inc. took full control of CTV this year, having the two telecom rivals as partners was getting unmanageable. So there will be no surprise at Thursday’s announcement.

Into the gap left by Rogers, say welcome to CBC. The two announced Friday that they're combining efforts to bid for the 2014/16 Games. Facing the loss of NHL hockey rights in 2014, CBC needed to regain the Olympic package, which was long its signature event. But cost-cutting at the Corp. of late made it very difficult to come up with a significant bid against cash-flush CTV. (Plus CBC is wary of the optics with the Tory government of taking rights from the private sector.) So rather than fight 'em, CBC joined 'em. They may only get biathlon and rhythmic gymnastics out of the deal as the junior partner, but it gets CBC back in the IOC game.

Welcome Back: Rogers did have a positive announcement Tuesday as it heralded the return of Scott Morrison as the new executive producer of hockey. Morrison will also appear as an insider on Hockeycentral and Sportsnet Radio The FAN 590, as well as a feature writer for Sportsnet magazine and a contributor to sportsnet.ca. Morrison had been a columnist and contributor to Hockey Night In Canada since being ushered out at Sportsnet by the previous regime. And the reason he left was...? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Olympic Safety: Speaking of Sochi, one of the great concerns about the Winter Games from the NHL and others is security and infrastructure. Now tell us how the crash of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team’s aging jet reassures Gary Bettman and others that the Russians can pull this off? If they can’t protect an elite hockey team, how do they protect the world’s great athletes and fans in 2014?

NFL Cashes In: If you read Those Guys Have All The Fun about the history of ESPN, you’ll know the full monty abut how the cable station finally claimed NFL rights for Monday nights on 2006. Fascinating read. Now, ESPN has locked up the Monday Night package and digital rights for eight more years at $1.2-billion (U.S.) per. The deal gives them no guaranteed playoff rights, however. Guess that lockout really set back the NFL brand, huh?

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