Monday, October 20, 2008

We love too much: Why no one wants to play in Canada

Why can't a Canadian team win the Stanley Cup?

Why are the Leafs soooooo especially far from winning a Stanley Cup?

These are very important questions to Canadian hockey fans, and Cam Cole addresses them in "Stanley, come home" a somewhat self-loathing assessment of why Canadian teams have a hard time of signing the best players and an even harder time of bringing home hockey's biggest prize.
"Why don't more big-name free agents want to play in Canadian cities? Because we strangle them with our passion, cover their every twitch and misstep, examine their private lives, call in to talk shows to discuss ad nauseam every minute happening in their season."
Then he gets all economic...
"In the States, with the newspaper industry in free-fall and reporting staffs being stripped to the bone, the hockey beat is among the first to be sacrificed. Which means that as thin a slice of newspaper space as hockey used to get, it's a whole lot thinner now. In many markets, hockey is a "starter" beat for interns or fresh-from-journalism-school kids, so the level of analysis is understandably superficial, and TV reporting on hockey has to fit into such a tiny hole, it barely scratches the surface.

The newspaper business isn't any healthier here, the difference being that papers in Canada will cut anything but hockey coverage because survey after survey of readership tastes keep coming back with the same results: give us more hockey, we'll live without the rest. And radio and television have all kinds of time, and staff, to devote to hockey."

So the question that follows is: Are the teams that are most successful in other professional leagues also the least followed? Answer: Hell no! The New England Pariots have a rabid fanbase, incredible scrutiny, and the paparazzi follow around Tom Brady like he's a movie star.

So why are hockey players so damn whiny sometimes? Take Joe Corvo from last year as an example, he couldn't take the scrutiny of 3 or 4 beat reporters, four TV channels, and being asked politely for an autographs at the grocery store.

To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of the Mr. Nice Guy hockey player. Sean Avery speaks his mind about how the NHL is failing to properly market its players, and it gets all over TSN. He may not be the most articulate guy in the NHL, but he's right. The NHL needs better media training for its players in order for them to make the Sportscenter (or Sportscentre) highlights and to get headlines in the US -- to say something real without being a jackass. Instead, we've got players that shy away from the spotlight and only give the "110%" answer -- and those that move away from the a little criticism. There's got to be more to Jerome Igninla than the smile and forehead wrinkle, but he, and the rest of the NHL, is afraid to reveal it because they're not given the tools to deal with the pressure.

This might be costing Canadian teams their best players, because in Tampa, you don't have to answer tough questions, and no one cares if you make it on Sportcenter, and no one cares if you win the Stanley Cup.

Props to Cole for saying what's on the tip of the media's tongue, but combine it with a Sean Avery rant, and you've got the real answer to why the Cup hasn't reached Canada in 15 years.
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