Print Edition: May 23, 2012
At press time, the Phoenix Coyotes are still hanging on. The Kings have a 3-1 lead in the series – this should look familiar to Vancouver fans. It’s no fun to watch history repeating itself, so my focus has been pretty zeroed in on the Eastern conference. Currently, the Rangers and Devils series sits at 3-2, and it’s garnered plenty to talk about.
This is ironic, as a game four shutout for the Rangers led Devils captain Zach Parise to an uncharacteristic silence. The 27-year-old was raised in a hockey household: his older brother is a former NHL goalie who spent time in the Devils organization, and his father played over 900 NHL games and coached as well. After his NHL coaching career, Parisé senior worked for Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, a boarding school that boasts alumni including Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Oh, and Zach Parise. So yes, the New Jersey captain has some impressive pedigree.
This comprehensive hockey background means that Parise is not only skilled, but typically fastidious in his public habits. Thus, his refusal to make himself available to the media after the team’s second shutout has caused some sensation. The thing is, there’s no actual rule that states players need to be available after every game. Parise was well within his rights to skip the media scrum – so what’s with the sense of entitlement from hockey fans?
Since the Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in 2005, the media has had fairly extensive access to players and coaches. Guaranteed access to the locker room, between-period interviews, interviews with coaches – these measures have brought the fans closer to the game overall. The thing is, it’s also spoiled us – but for what?
Coach Vigneault unwittingly addressed the problem fairly succinctly to a media scrum when Daniel Sedin was out at the beginning of this year’s playoffs. “He has a concussion and when we have something more to say, we’ll share it with you. I’m not going to address this every day.” Unfortunately, he’s absolutely right. Increased access means that Coach V, captain Henrik, and Mike Gillis’ water boy can be asked the same question ad infinitum and theoretically they need to come up with some sort of answer. Guess what, fans – we don’t need it. Just like we knew Daniel had a concussion and would be back as soon as he was physically able, we know that Zach Parise was frustrated with the team’s second loss in a row. Do we really need to see his face, crestfallen, when the reporters ask him what went wrong? If he knew, he likely would have fixed it during the game. And guess what? The clips would likely have been interchangeable with those from the previous game. This isn’t something fans need to have mandated access to.
We saw the ugly results of this media guaranteed access in November of 2011. After a good-natured comment from Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov praising his iPhone Compass for helping him actually win a game, the Flyers organization unilaterally soiled itself in terror and announced that Bryzgalov would now only be available for interviews following games that he had started. The league said nuh-uh, because that doesn’t make for good TV. Now, we all love a good quote from an NHL player – but they are in uncharted territory for a reason. Organizations are terrified to give a bunch of jocks free reign to the media. Eventually, someone’s going to do something terrible like call their actress ex-girlfriend sloppy seconds – oh, wait, that already happened. Again, it makes for good TV, but it debases the player, the coach, the team, and the organization in its entirety.
So, the media access rules are there. They don’t prevent players from skipping a post-game once in a blue moon, and that’s a good thing. We don’t need to see Zach Parise repeat himself word for word. While it would be nice to live in a world where organizations let their players have free reign, it isn’t going to happen (thank you Sean Avery, et al). In what may be the most hypocritical article ending of all time, it’s time to lay off the players and focus on the game.