Monday, November 13, 2006
Screen Shots: Searching for truth in the NHL
By Adam Proteau The Hockey News
In early October, Editor & Publisher ran Joe Strupp's tremendous story on professional baseball writers and their relation to the recent, shameful steroids scandal.
Strupp interviewed more than a dozen former and current baseball scribes and asked whether they believed they'd either willingly turned a blind eye to -- or flat-out missed -- the now-obvious influence of steroids on the game and its shockingly overstuffed players.
During baseball's steroid-fueled resurgence in popularity -- its zenith, the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run race of 1998 -- you would have been hard-pressed to find a discouraging word about the sudden surge in power. And writers who dared to question what might be behind that surge weren't exactly supported by the mainstream press.
We won't disclose the baseball writers' conclusions. You really should read it yourself. And you can do just that, by visiting the publication's Web site, editorandpublisher.com.
Like all great journalism, Strupp's story asks questions that beget more questions. And as a card-carrying member of the Hockey Writer Community -- our motto: be all you can be, but please, be filing it by midnight at the absolute latest -- I couldn't help but ponder what baseball's nightmare might mean to the hockey world and the people who report on it.
What stories are hockey journalists not covering enough? Consciously or otherwise, are we diverting our attentions from the topics that matter most, in favor of the short-term, "sexy story"?
Should reporters be delving deeper into the NHL's performance-enhancing drug program and of hopped-up hockey players in general?
Did the hoopla surrounding the resuscitated league cause reporters to let the NHL off the hook too easily on the drug issue? Or are Andrei Nazarov's pants on fire?
(Simmer down, World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound. Everybody knows your answer to those questions.)
Of course, a story doesn't need to be about a drug issue for it to deserve further consideration.
Some might say that, thanks to a slew of factors -- rapidly shifting demographics; outrageous equipment and ice rental costs that put the game out of reach to new immigrants; the explosion in popularity of video games, extreme sports and a sedentary lifestyle among children and teens; threadbare ice rinks, with no plans to replace or rebuild them -- North American amateur hockey is a windstorm away from seeing its house of cards blow away.
Maybe that story should get a little more play in the media. Or maybe reporters need to discover whether (a) the coach-as-cult-of-personality example of which David Frost may or may not be guilty; and (b) hockey hazing incidents are mere aberrations, or indictments of a sports culture that entrusts too much of its children's time to too few individuals.
Perhaps the hockey media doesn't deal with the Canadian college scene enough for your liking. Maybe you believe the women's game -- and the up-and-coming women's amateur scene -- is criminally under-covered. Maybe you think Crime-Related Stories of the United League should get a weekly feature.
Regardless of the issue you think isn't getting its due, we'd like to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The invite is extended to fans, players of all ages and stages, management types from leagues around the world, and yes, even other hockey reporters.
We would love to tap the sport's many vested interests, as well as those folk without an axe to grind, in search of sub-surface warts and barely-detectable drains on the game today.
Down the line, we'll print some of the responses, and see if we can't get a few hockey writers to address what comes of your suggestions.
No amount of debating is likely to stave off an indignity like the one that's stained the reputation of pro baseball and all who prosper from it. But as long as journalists continue asking questions, we avoid complacency.
And so long as we're not complacent, we'll have a better shot in the long run at writing the right stories.
Adam Proteau's Screen Shots appears every Monday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at email@example.com.Material from The Hockey News.
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