Can you be fired for being too media friendly? If you're deposed NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly, talking openly with the press cost you plenty. In the considered opinion of NHLPA ombudsman Buzz Hargrove (pray tell, how did Buzz Hargrove get into hockey?), Kelly's willingness to talk to the media before vetting every single gerund and participle with the union's executive committee was proof positive of his failings as a leader. That was part of the message in a carefully scripted critique of Kelly delivered to the NHLPA executive board Sunday evening in Chicago.
Hargrove's poison pill (on behalf on unnamed complainants) was subtle in its verbiage. The long-time leader of the Canadian Auto Workers, who somehow succeeded NHLPA ombudsman from Eric Lindros, couched the accusations against Kelly in the cloak of process and constitutional dereliction. It was a more calculating strategy than Lindros' self-pitying resignation letter that excoriated Kelly for not heeding his counsel on the multiple daily visits he made to the executive's office.
But it was effective. The taint of "media suck" resonates with hockey players. Bred to stoic silence, most NHL players-- especially Canadian players-- view the press about as fondly a man views his annual prostate exam. Giving up too much of yourself in public shows hubris, a lack of team spirit and vanity unbecoming a "real" man.
You could countenance this media aversion if it had served the players and their union in the past. After finally disposing of the chatty Alan Eagleson in 1991, players selected the cryptic Bob Goodenow, who surrendered sound bites the way Martin Brodeur surrenders second-chances. Goodenow reasoned his loyalty was to his clientele, the players, and the rest of the world could take a hike. It worked in inflating salaries.
Unfortunately, the stealth strategy didn't hold up when the NHL rolled out its PR cannons in labour negotiations in 2004. Flayed by an unforgiving public, players folded like a cheap laptop in the face of the league's PR (tearing apart the union as they did). Kelly promised a spokesman who might actually articulate why players deserve a break when negotiating with Gary Bettman.
But to those mounting a palace coup - and who once coveted Kelly's position themselves - Kelly's candour demanded his removal, at considerable cost, in favour of... hmm. It'll come to us. Yet who could possibly want the untenable executive director's position after this?
Who could balance its contradictory demands? Some day, they will produce a business book on 10 easy steps to shooting yourself in the foot. And the NHLPA will conveniently supply all 10 of the steps.
The Madding Crowd
Usual Suspects fired up the old Motorola to watch Michael Vick's first appearance in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey last Thursday. The convicted dog murderer was given a warm ovation by Eagles fans, who apparently are willing to give him a second chance so long as his touchdown-to-interception ratio looks rosy.
Later that same night, we watched the CTVolympics.ca web feed of Team Canada's Red-White game … sorry, scrimmage … at Calgary's Saddledome. In the midst of the patriotic frenzy, we heard boos cascading down on winger Dany Heatley.
His "crime," demanding a trade from the Ottawa Senators then refusing assignment to the Edmonton Oilers, is dwarfed by Vick's animal atrocity. But if there was any forgiveness in the Calgary night, we missed it.
There's a point here about modern sport. But every time we think about it, we get a headache.
How has new technology changed the face of communications? Try this number from Nielsen Research: The total number of U.S. television households in 2009 increased from 114,456,650 to 114,866,380 - the smallest increase in the 10 years. Obviously, the economy factors in there. But so does people moving away from conventional TV to alternative methods of receiving programming.
And this number from the ravaged advertising market: CBS has sold 65 per cent of its inventory for Super Bowl XLIV next February. But NBC had already sold 85 per cent of its inventory by the comparable point last year.
And, reports TVbytheNumbers.com: "30-second ads during the game are selling 'in the range of $2.7-million-$2.8-million per spot' - down slightly from last year, but up slightly from two years ago."
Hedo, I Must Be Going
A slashing, gimme-the-ball presence, Hedo Turkoglu should give the Toronto Raptors' pallid offence a little jump next season. He's also a national hero in Turkey. How do we know? He made a killer cellphone commercial back home.
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