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The Globe and Mail

Snakes on a plane? Not these days in the NHL

They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But what happens to the activities on an NHL team charter? If a reporter on board sees the star player in a walking boot or witnesses the coach and goalie in animated conversation, can the reporters go with the story? And is it true, in the words of Alexei Kovalev, that "when [reporters]fly with the team and go through the [metal detector]at an airport, their bags are filled with beer"?

We canvassed five Canadian NHL clubs about their policy (Toronto and Ottawa did not respond) regarding journalists' ability to disseminate what they see in the air and on the tarmac. The Canucks, Jets and Flames all told us that they expect "a level of confidentiality" from media in return for the privilege of flying with the team.

"We have no written rules, but an understanding the plane is an extension of the locker room and what goes on there is private," e-mailed Scott Brown, senior director of corporate communications for the Jets. "They are provided a courtesy of being allowed on the plane in order to make travel more convenient for them and they are asked to extend us some courtesy in return." Brown added that if there is a newsworthy event, the team and three media members who regularly use the charter can "agree on a time when they can report that, and they are given some lead time when compared to other media." In other words, timing is managed by the club. Which is understandable on its own plane.

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This is less of a problem now as very few media members still fly on team charters. Some reporters prefer the extra work time they don't get with the prompt departures of teams after games. Others prefer not to accept the control exerted by teams over what may or may not be reported. Most media members on team charters are either working for TV, radio broadcasters or those working on the team's website – many subject to hiring approval by the club.

But it's important for fans to understand the distinction. For complete candour, it's hard to fly with the team a reporter covers. As for beer, reporters are entitled to share in food and drink aboard team charters, but abuse of the privilege is, according to our sources, rare to non-existent. Especially with police on alert for drunk-driving incidents.

Dan Like Dinner

TSN Radio 1050 has bowed to reality and shunted The Dan Patrick Show from its 9 a.m. to noon slot into the netherlands of nighttime. Patrick has an excellent show, but when the U.S. sports wheel turns to college hoops and NBA at this time of the year, TSN could broadcast Hinterland Who's Who and get better ratings.

Patrick simply doesn't talk enough hockey to satisfy Leaf Nation's mania for all things Carl Gunnarson. And so the decision to plug the time slot for now with someone who knows Dion Phaneuf from Dionne Warwick. The fact that TSN has assigned journeyman Scott MacArthur to the slot says it hasn't made any firm decision on the future of the time slot. Or else it takes a very liberal interpretation of its slogan "The Hockey Experts."

Which leads us to wonder about the Fan's new afternoon duo of Tim (Micallef) and Sid (Seixeiro), who are doing their own version of Wayne's World from 1-4 p.m. on the station. (Call us crazy but it has its charms.) The former Score TV duo skew younger than any other hosts on the station. If so, the Fan should put them in a higher-profile slot to exploit their appeal to a new cohort of listeners. Plus, the ad revenues of the early afternoon shift hardly justify keeping two well-compensated hosts in that slot.

As McCown is not going anywhere soon, that leaves the morning drive slot, the other big-revenue slot on the schedule. Greg Brady and Jim Lang are doing fine with the Fan's traditional constituency but Richards is grabbing the youth vote. If the Fan wants to fight Richards for the younger listeners, Sid 'n Tim might be the answer.

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