Cody Hodgson’s Camp Pushes Back

When Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis, a former player agent, went whole hog and essentially bashed Cody Hodgson for being a handful to deal with in his season ending press conference – it was jarring. Gillis has been an advocate for players rights his entire career, just ask Alan Eagleson, and it was surprising to hear him paint a talented young player as something of a prima donna. You knew that Cody Hodgson’s camp was going to respond somehow, and they found an ingenious vessel to do so in Hodgson’s well respected personal trainer: Gary Roberts.

Gary Roberts was the definition of a "playoff warrior" during his NHL career, and since retiring he’s become one of the leagues most well respected trainers, obsessed with diet and a unique mantra: "Train, refuel, recover, perform." Roberts has trained the likes of Chris Tanev and Steven Stamkos, and based on his work rebuilding Hodgson’s core strength and durability over the past couple of seasons, he knows what he’s doing. Roberts has got an inscrutable record, so, who cares that he would have been far removed from the issues with Hodgson that Gillis was talking about – he’s the right guy to go to bat for Cody Hodgson.

The Spin

And go to bat he did. While talking to John Vogl, a sports reporter for the Buffalo News, Roberts cited Hodgson’s relationship with his four year old son, his work ethic and his being extremely coachable as reasons Mike Gillis was full of it. Here’s the prime snippet:

"I talked to Cody after this came out with Gillis," Roberts said. "I know he’s on vacation, and I said, ‘Hey, I know you went through a lot of stress. How are you feeling about some of those comments?’ He said, ‘Gary, I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff there in the last three years, and I’m just going to take the high road.’

"For me, I’d like to be the guy that looks at Mike Gillis and says, ‘You’re a moron.’ It doesn’t really do anybody any good other than the fact that Mike Gillis looks like, as they say on TSN, a dud."

The article itself reads like an advertorial. It excoriates Alain Vigneault’s "mocking" and "disparaging" remarks in 2009 following Hodgson’s misdiagnosed bulging disc issues. The take doesn’t mention Rich Winter, it doesn’t mention Hodgson going through three player agents in three seasons, and it doesn’t deal at all with whether or not Hodgson asked for more ice-time, or asked for a trade (as he reportedly did in June 2011, and again in the winter of 2012). It’s a treacly defense of the young Sabres centreman and paints the portrait of a hard-working, talented player who is eager to make the most of his fresh start.

Gillis, of course, never questioned Hodgson’s ability to take instruction, or Hodgson’s work-ethic publicly. He did, however, go out of his way to paint Cody as a handful to deal with, and a guy with something of a "diva" complex. Whether or not those charges are fair, what we do know after today is that Hodgson’s camp has a good handle on how to deploy their public relations assets to tell their own story – call in the Gary Roberts cavalry to tell Gillis off as "a moron," and find a water-carrying sports reporter at the local paper to tell the story (while working in details about Hodgson getting along swimmingly with children) and presto: you’ve got your push back story. 

Forget Hodgson’s trade requests, his long-winded player agent or his issues with his ice-time in Vancouver; a young player with a smart PR team…now that’s a handful to deal with.

  • The press loves it when players, coaches and general managers speak truthfully. Gilles comments created work for the hockey reporters in Buffalo, at a time when there is nothing to report on the Sabres. The “response” from Hodgson’s “camp” is hardly a suprise, as Gilles comments were not necessary. THe hocky insiders may have known of Hodgson’s issues, but the average fan in Buffalo didn’t. My guess is that the episode harms the Canucks in the short run. In the long run much will depend on the respective performance of Hodgson and Kassian.

  • Speaking of reputation, the Canuck organization has a great reputation of not winning anything in 40 years. Look at their player jerseys they’ve retired..not one has won anything for the organization. no wonder Messier said it was like a country club when he came….and it still is. From head to toe, the team, the management, the fans like to believe in soething that will never achieve.

  • But what about what Gillis said about Hodgson was so controversial anyway? I thought given the probably circumstances surrounding the whole past 3 years Gillis was pretty circumspect. And since when do players need “camps” anyway? Especially rookies. As Harrison Mooney of PITB said, In Hodgson’s case, since he excels at getting people to speak abrasively for him, you had to know that someone would be easy to find)

  • MG’s comments were petty for sure. My basic belief is that he was tired of the Hodgson hero worship in Vancouver, and aware that the deal was seen as a “loser” deal for VAN. By dropping Hodgson’s complaints + the “pumped up his value” advanced stats angle – Gillis saves some face on that front.

  • My guess is that Gary Roberts was genuinely offended by Mike Gillis airing these things out. This is not to contradict Thom’s argument that Roberts is responding for Hodgson and Winters, which I find compelling. But why would Gary Roberts risk future work with Canucks players unless he actually thought MG was a bit of a dick in publicly deriding Hodgson?

    For the record, there’s one thing I kinda agree with Roberts on. (Not the moron part.) I still don’t know what MG gained by making those comments, except maybe to strengthen the narrative that Hodgson wanted out, or to help mitigate the disappointment with Kassian. Maybe MG is feeling the heat from the Aquilinis? Maybe he felt Darcy Regier had cheated him a bit, and this was a way to knock the Buffalo GM? Maybe he was just tired, and stress out, and now wishes he kept his mouth shut?

    But isn’t Roberts right when he says that MG’s comments don’t do anybody any good?

  • His agent and handlers should be commended if so.

    One thing I’ve noticed since I started seriously analyzing hockey is how much your reputation and standing in the hockey community matters for players. A bad rep can limit your options as a free agent, lower your future earnings and even get you punted out of the league if you have a bad run one year.

    If you come with a solid hockey reputation, however, it’s a lot easier to get and keep work.

    • Kinda like a guy named Ethan Moreau huh Kent? I remember you saying once that there wasnt another player in the league that managed to find work year after year solely based on their perception around the NHL more than Ethan Moreau. You cited his “two way game” and gritty style as 2 of the prime reasons why teams still look to him for veteran leadership.

    • Graphic Comments

      Yes, his handlers definitely deserve some commendation for what they’ve done for Cody. They’ve been doing as masterful a job at sheltering and staging him as Mike Gillis did…

  • Mantastic

    How do we know this was all made and pressed by Cody’s team? It seems like a stretch? Are we just assuming that this article was Cody’s camp’s idea?