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Is it wrong for the media to contact a player’s family? I don’t think so

The Senators have certainly given the Leafs more fits than a lot of us expected before there season began. I still see Ottawa as a team filled with holes that good teams can take advantage of, but they were full measure for their win Saturday night.

I thought Scrivens did some really good things but overall, as Wilson said after the game, you wonder why they lost their mojo after the first period.  They picked it up in the last five minutes, but that's human nature, eh? You're down late and suddenly the intensity level rises.  You get a goal and you're pushing for that next one.  But it would have been good to see that determination a lot earlier.

I will say this:  people who follow this site know I'm a Kulemin guy, and he's been "OK" for the most part this season.  But just like they used to say about Frank Mahovlich ("The Big M") back in the early '60s, he didn't really get going most years until it was cold enough that he had to tuck his feet under the blanket at bedtime.

In other words, hockey players like to play hockey when it's hockey weather, in wintertime.  But whatever it is, it's time for our man Kulemin to get going, to start making things happen.  His career arc in his first few seasons has been tremendous, but its time to take it to that next step.  It's not just him, of course.  His line mates need to be better and more consistent to.  And it's OK to expect them to be.  That's their job.

Good, though, to see Bozak get one. That has to help going forward.


I think we all understand that NHL coaches are generally pretty stressed individuals.  While professional sport is far from being on the same level as much more important life issues, it can be a stressful job.

Coaching the Leafs falls into the higher end of that "sports" stress category.  Lots of local media.  Tons of fans.  People care, so if the team does well, it’s truly the best place in the world to be—and to play.

If you’re losing, well, it’s tough.  It just is.  Some coaches and players handle it better than others, as with most things in life.

We all know that Ron Wilson has his way of “dealing” with the local press corps.  He is often clipped, acerbic, sarcastic too often for my liking- though some fans don’t care about that, as long as he “wins”.  I prefer a guy who is direct, sure, but I can live without the constant sense that he is being put upon when it’s part of his very, very well-paid job—and the job of the media folks to ask questions.  It’s what they have to do, win or lose.  (Most mod the questions are puff-ball questions, anyway...)

In fairness, we also all know that Wilson is actually an engaging, funny guy at times.  I recently referenced one of my earlier posts on the coach, citing an interview he gave this past summer.  It was great stuff.  He shared a bit of himself, seemed quite open and honest and it was just good stuff.  No big deal or anything, but it was good to hear.

What I don’t understand is why he was seemingly so ticked that a local Toronto columnist (Feschuk at the Star, I think it was) had the temerity to contact James Reimer’s mother to a) get some information on her son’s medical condition and b) see what her views were about how the organization was handling this apparently sensitive and delicate situation.

I’m not quite certain why it is all so delicate.  He’s a professional athlete, and there is a very public element to his job.  Along with the million dollar contracts and the accolades go an expectation that the athletes will make themselves available to the media, be part of the Leaf community and so on.  It seems like the least they can do.

And by all accounts, Reimer has done that wonderfully well.  He is one of the genuinely nicest guys to grace the Toronto sports season in a long while, for sure.

But because we’re talking about an injury and the Leafs are chronically mysterious about such things, they obviously feel the rest of us in Leafworld—those not fortunate enough to be on the so-called “inside”, the inner sanctum, as it were—have no business asking questions they don’t want to answer.

But I pose the question seriously:  Why would Wilson—and by extension, we can assume pretty accurately the entire Leaf organization—seem so upset over a media person doing something that was actually quite smart:  call on the family of the athlete in question?

I mean, it’s not like the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence was about to be revealed and the news got scooped prematurely or that world peace was somehow threatened by the phone call.  No false information was being spread.  This was simply a reporter doing his job, trying to determine the status of an injured NHL player, when the organization was not exactly being forthcoming.  (Heck, as everyone knows, in the NFL, they are obliged to provide daily updates, and be very specific about injury status reports.)

Don't fans, who pay an awful lot to see the team's "stars" perform, have some right to know when such a player is injured?  Of course an athlete has a right to some privacy, but there are limits to their  privacy in that line of work.  I can understand a team not wanting the opposition to know about a tender ankle at playoff time.  I get that.  But this isn't a twisted knee.  Everyone knows it's serious, so why the reaction?  Not to invoke Watergate or the current Penn State mess (those were serious "cover-ups"- the one at Penn State still in the "alleged" stage) but whenever institutions or organizations sound like they are hiding something or clamming up, people naturally wonder what's going on.

To be clear, I', not suggesting the Leafs have due anything wrong. But I do not know why the Reimer injury status is such a big deal (other than that they, as an organization- and fans- want him to get well).  I just don't understand the testiness down at the ACC.

I recognize that the NHL’s noble history is that vagueness (upper body, etc.) rules.  Fair enough.  Teams always want to keep people guessing.

But then it’s also fair for a reporter to do his or her job.  To try to “get the story”, the truth.  No one was harmed.  This was no “off-the-record” conversation that was unfairly revealed.  Reimer’s mother knew precisely what she was saying and to whom she was speaking.  She clearly has concerns and expressed them very well and very thoughtfully, without in any way criticizing the organization that her son plays for.

So why, I wonder, if this such an issue for the Leaf brass?

For me, Wilson went way over the top when he was asked about who would start the next game for the Leafs, and he essentially said, “Maybe I’ll call the goalies’ moms…”  to find out.

C’mon.  How does that make Wilson sound?  Really, that’s how he wants us to think of him—as a petty-sounding guy?

Is there some privacy code that should not be crossed? Like, we don’t know Reimer has a concussion by now and that this is taking a while?

Maybe, as someone pointed out in a comment here a few days ago, the Leafs are sensitive after the Grabbo incident last year and now this.  Maybe they feel people are questioning how they handle potentially serious injuries.  I wasn’t, but this is confusing to me.

I well recognize that some people don’t care about these little things, could care less if Wilson spouts off and I understand that position.  But for me, this is a part of the guy’s job.  People over-use the phrase “stay classy”, but it’s not a bad idea.

Think about it?  How does Reimer feel know?  Hoe does his mom feel?   It was just totally unnecessary.  And I don't mean the reporter's call- I mean how the Leafs responded.  But I suppose if the Leafs “win”, no one will care.

Right or wrong, I do.


  1. The biggest lesson we can take from this controversy is the Leafs’ management mania for information management. Trades now often come out of the blue and news announcements are actually news. Press scrums consist of, what I assume to be a Leaf employee asking the lead and majority of questions. Pity the serious journalist playing on a field tilted in favor of pr hacks. These dog and pony shows remind me of the browbeaten Washington press corps. They know the limits of what can be asked, do not dare transgress those limits. Truth suffers. It appears that this media management mania has been inappropriately applied to Dave Feschuck. I am not sure where Ron Wilson was when his players’ moms were changing diapers, but I am certain he was not changing their nappies. Obviously, players’ families have an interest in their sons’ health, especially with something as serious as a concussion. Sports teams can pay players as much as the market dictates, but they do not own them and they have not purchased their families’ consent. Mothers, fathers, and spouses can still have an opinion about their sons’ and daughters’ health. A journalist can still ask questions and family members can comment on or off the record. Good on Dave Feschuk, and good on Mrs. Reimer for going on record with a serious, insightful commentary, so lacking in cliché-ridden sports journalism. Unfortunately however, her truthful response has lead to more suspicion, accurate or inaccurate, of a cover up. We need to know if James Reimers' injury was handled appropriately. We do not need the sad buffoonery of last night’s Hot Stove. Am I alone in pining for the days of Al Strachan? Surely, he would have brought the debate back to reality? Oh, I forgot, Strachan was removed from the show and no one with his journalistic pedigree brought in to replace him. Now it is up to the Hot Stove moderator to point out that Feschuck was bringing to light to complex, serious questions about the most important hockey issue of the day. How convenient for the Leafs. How convenient for the hockey industry.

  2. Very well articulated Bobby C. Great post.

  3. I'm siding with the Leafs on this one. I don't think it's categorically wrong for a journalist to contact a player's mother to get more information on his health condition, but I do think it's inappropriate and sets a dangerous precedent. I'm sure teams are very protective of this information as to not give any advantage to any teams they'll be playing in the near future. If I was a player, even with the expectations of being under a harsher media spotlight, I would still expect some degree of privacy. Would you expect Leafs management/PR not to kick up a fuss and allow this precedent? What next, calling Uncle Tom to dig up what this player was like during high school? I'm sure this would not make players very happy and Leafs management don't need their players to be more distracted than they already are.

  4. Thanks Hogie. I respect your view on this.

  5. I can see both sides of the argument. I wonder what James Reimer thinks?