Friday, 11 May 2012

Maybe It's Just You, Gary

I'm pretty respectful of the media coverage that hockey employs with some notable exceptions: John Buccigross, Pierre McGuire, and Mike Milbury in name. These three certainly do nothing to make the game better when they are on TV spouting off about the game, and their opinions and commentary are often mocked because all three seem like they are under the influence of something when they speak. The one man in print media that I have a low tolerance for is the New York Post's Larry Brooks. As I stated in Monday's article, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella has little patience for Larry Brooks as well, but they work in the same city and see each often. In Brooks' case, it may be close quarters breeding contempt, but a Winnipeg Free Press reporter complained today about Tortorella's personality while being interviewed.

I've never personally interacted with the pictured Gary Lawless in my time around both the Manitoba Moose and the Winnipeg Jets. I have heard stories about Lawless' behavior that calls into question his professionalism on a number of levels, but this is mostly hearsay without any evidence presented. I'm not saying that the people I know are lying, but there are a number of sides to every story, so I can't say Mr. Lawless is guilty of anything.

His latest article, however, is a lot of preaching about John Tortorella's demeanor that really has little to do with the fans and a lot to do with how he treats reporters. Published in today's Winnipeg Free Press, Lawless' article, entitled "Snippy, intolerant Tortorella disrespects NHL fans", reads as follows,
"John TORTORELLA behaves like he works for a secret service agency, denying fans of the New York Rangers and the NHL all but a few crumbs of his hockey acumen, and Gary Bettman should put a stop to it.

"Tortorella is coach of the biggest hockey team in the league's biggest TV market and with that title comes the responsibility of dealing with the media on a daily basis.

"Tortorella, however, has deemed it beneath him and refuses to engage. The media ask questions and he gives short, terse answers before storming out.

"Snubbing the collective NHL media, who work for organizations that spend thousands of dollars to follow and cover the league, is bad enough, but Tortorella is also snubbing fans of the game everywhere.

"Churlish and rude is one thing. Most reporters are used to the arrogance of coaches like Ron Wilson. But say this about Wilson, he lived up to his responsibilities in Toronto. Tortorella doesn't do the same in New York and if he gets to the final and behaves like this it will be more than an embarrassment for the NHL -- it will be a lost opportunity.

"Tortorella has every right to be miffed -- with himself. Dale Hunter has quietly out-coached him to get his seventh-seed Washington Capitals into a Game 7 with the top-seeded Rangers.

"Hunter has found a way to get his team to overachieve, while Tortorella shortening his bench too early and jumbling his lines has only dried up the Rangers offence.

"If New York manages to get past the Caps on Saturday night they'll have to deal with the rested and rolling New Jersey Devils, and that won't end well for the Blueshirts."
It's an interesting read, but it seems to me that Gary Lawless' argument is wrapped in all sorts of fallacies. While I took Lawless' article to read more along the lines that reporters can't get comments out of Tortorella which, in turn, affects the stories they file for public consumption, I'm pretty sure that Tortorella is not disrespecting the fans in the slightest by not talking to reporters. The only people who may feel disrespected are the reporters, but even they must know their subject.

It's common knowledge that John Tortorella has little patience for stupid questions. We'll go back to a media scrum after the Tampa Bay Lightning suffer a playoff loss to the New Jersey Devils back in 2007. Larry Brooks is the man asking the questions that light Tortorella's fire (language warning in this video):
Tortorella did exactly what the NHL mandates him to do: he met with the press and answered their questions. There is no "you must describe in detail what you are thinking" clause or a "you have to be polite" clause on that mandate. Simply, the coach must make himself available after a game to the media for their questions.

You know what fans hate a lot, Gary Lawless? Rehearsed, cliché-filled answers about "playing hard", "good effort", and "rebounding in the next game". That's disrespectful to fans of the game because it takes zero insight and even less passion to spew that crap. Instead, fans love a fiery coach because it's part of the entertainment, and John Tortorella is perfect example of why fans love coaches with a short fuse. Not only are they entertaining in the post-game comments, but their actions on the bench also play a big part of the entertainment.

If you are complaining that John Tortorella makes it difficult for you to do your job when he's not really interested in explaining the same thing over and over and hearing the same questions over and over, I can understand why you might find his approach to the media scrums "disrespectful". You are required by your respective news organization to file a story, and getting a juicy quotation from a coach under pressure always makes for good copy. I get that, and I totally see why you may be frustrated in having him clam up when you need a story.

However, to frame Tortorella's reluctance to speak to the media as being "disrespectful to fans" is egregiously wrong. If anything, we fans appreciate that he's not just spewing rhetoric to satisfy reporters, and I, as a fan, encourage this practice to continue. I can't begin to tell you how much I hate the same old clichés used over and over by coaches, and I respect the fact that John Tortorella has bigger things to worry about than some question from a reporter from Winnipeg.

Stop complaining about how difficult it is to do your job sometimes, Gary. It will only make us fans disrespect you.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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