Yes, between David Poile having a guilt-ridden dream about leaving Jack Johnson off the team, and Brian Burke waking up in a sweat over a Seth Jones turnover, it was quite the selection process. I know the US men’s basketball team has had success at the Olympics after putting together a dream team, but I don’t think this is what they had in mind…
In what was purely a PR move, USA Hockey decided to allow two reporters to sit in on the meetings and conference calls that were part of the selection process for the men’s Olympic hockey team. The stories from the two reporters "embedded" in the process, Scott Burnside for ESPN.com and Kevin Allen for USA Today, were to be part of a coordinated reveal on, sadly, the biggest night of the NHL season in the United States: January 1.
bad hockey spectacle that is the Winter Classic is bigger than the Stanley Cup final. I’m not really sure why we keep lying to ourselves every New Year’s Day, but we do:
But I digress.
How do I know that it was all a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt? Well, there’s the fact they gave access to two reporters and embargoed the stories to come out at exactly the same time. And then there’s this:
final note from USA Hockey conference call: players who made team weren’t told because USAH/NBC wanted drama for TV.
— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) January 3, 2014
That’s right. They didn’t even give players the courtesy of letting them know they did or didn’t make the team just to create a little extra drama for television. Nice.
Sorry, but these guys deserve all the scorn they’re getting for being "taken out of context."
As was pointed out on Twitter, these guys were a bad head of hair away from turning the whole thing into a reality show:
— Bryan F. (@kesrows) January 3, 2014
They should have realized that when it comes to reality TV, it’s all about the editing.
The irony in all of this, of course, is that instead of creating a lot of buzz about the Olympic team and their prospects for Sochi, it has become a story about the players that didn’t make it. Chief among them is Bobby Ryan, one of the few pure goal scorers the Americans had to choose from. In a strange twist of logic, however, this innate goal scoring ability is actually a negative quality because it was unlikely that Ryan would crack the top six. I mean, God forbid you have somebody that’s a threat to score on your fourth line, I guess.
But that wasn’t the only knock on Ryan. There were plenty of others, and the discussion about whether to include him got pretty
intence intenths incense intents fierce at times:
Damn. Guess I’m not cut out for the US Olympic team either.
I do have to say that I didn’t think the stuff about Ryan was even close to the worst thing said about a player. In a hilarious structuring of his piece on the deliberations, Kevin Allen leads into this quote on Dustin Byfuglien by Stan Bowman with an explanation that the selection committee was concerned about his sometimes ginormous proporptions:
"Guys gravitate toward him," Bowman said. "Guys like him and he can play hockey and he can play at a (weight) number that would surprise you."
That’s some (inter)stellar writing, right there!
The other interesting thing that stands out to me from the much more detailed Burnside article is that Burke came across as constantly throwing out quip after quip. Now, that’s an interesting approach, because it allows Burke to then claim that he was just joking, if and when he gets called on it. So the "nightmare" about Seth Jones coughing up the puck was clearly said in jest, but there was a real sentiment behind it. The same is true about Ryan not being able to spell "intense". Clearly Burke doesn’t really mean that, but it’s a jab at Ryan’s character and ability nonetheless.
This tactic is most apparent, and most telling, in the constant "quips", as Burnside describes them, that Burke makes about the extensive, and presumably fact based, report that Los Angeles GM, Dean Lombardi, put together on Keith Yandle:
Poile reminds those in attendance of a detailed report prepared by Lombardi looking at the bubble defensemen and specifically a case to be made for including Keith Yandle on the 25-man roster.
Glancing at the voluminous report, Burke quips, "Why don’t we read the New Testament instead?"
"You guys I totally respect," Lombardi adds, finishing his presentation. "There are some holes in [Keith Yandle’s] game, but can we afford to pass on the highest-scoring American in the last four years?"
There is some good-natured joshing of Lombardi for the report.
"I thought it was ‘Gone With The Wind,’" Burke says.
Poile jokes that he feels better knowing they’ve sent him away with a split vote on the [Jack Johnson and Cam Fowler].
"I really appreciate that four-four vote. That’s really helpful," he says and the group breaks into laughter.
"Dean, can you prepare a brief on these two defensemen," Burke jokes.
It should be noted that these anecdotes took place over successive meetings and conference calls. The net effect of these types of comments is to undermine and denigrate the fact based analysis that Lombardi put together. Sure, I wasn’t in the room, so I have no idea. But boy does it come across like Burke didn’t even read it and kept making light of it in the same way you would of something that you don’t take at all seriously.
Call it a hunch, but I think those exchanges are some of the most telling in that entire piece:
Anyway, in the aftermath of the Burke quotes on Ryan, there has been much hand wringing. There was, of course, the response from Bobby Ryan:
Ryan said he felt what Burke had to say about his intensity was "gutless." #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) January 2, 2014
Then came the excuses for Burke:
David Poile says Brian Burke had Bobby Ryan on his team when management team each submitted their own final Olympic rosters.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) January 3, 2014
Poile: Brian Burke was absolutely the biggest supporter of Bobby Ryan on our staff and it didn’t show that.
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 3, 2014
Yeesh. I’d hate to see what Burke says about guys he doesn’t like. Oh, yeah.
And of course, blood is thicker than PR spin:
@captain_kirk87 My point is no one on the group voted to take Ryan, but Pops being quotable makes it seem like it’s his fault.
— Patrick Burke (@BurkieYCP) January 3, 2014
Yes. Being quotable is the problem. Sheesh.
At the risk of repeating myself:
Maybe Burke should have just whacked the bugger and sat down.
Inevitably, we got to the apologies, but along the way there was all kinds of inanity on Twitter, like this:
— Carl (@CarlGoodToCU) January 2, 2014
I’m just going to set aside the rather obvious problem with the second half of that tweet. But the first half got me to thinking, if we can have too much scoring on a hockey team, can we also have too much leadership and intangibles? I mean, at what point do we have, er, too many captains and not enough wingers:
Anyway, the point is from a PR standpoint, this entire excercise was an abject failure. I’m pretty sure the casual hockey fan is far better able to name a few of the players that didn’t make the team than they are to name all the guys that are actually on the roster.
Or maybe this was part of Burke’s grand plan all along to take the media heat off the roster players and put it squarely on the management team and the guys that aren’t going to be there.
Either way, I have to go now. Need to make a deal to try and get Ryan on my fantasy team. I have a feeling he’s going to Samuelsson the next couple of months.
By the way, if once again you’ve found yourself in January and in need of a new calendar, I would like to remind you that the Graphic Comments 2014 Wall Calendar is still available from lulu.com. Order one today and you’ll still get a good 90% use out of it. Plus you can tell all your hipster friends that it’s big in Europe:
— Daniel Weinberger (@DanielT_W) December 30, 2013