Watching the NHL’s Stanley Cup Media Day today at the Prudential Center led me to a single conclusion: hockey interviews are boring as hell. It’s not exactly groundbreaking news, its fairly widely known that those in the hockey industry provide some of the most generic and cliched interviews in all of professional sports, but it’s never really bothered me.
Until this season.I’m not sure why the sudden change of heart, maybe because I’m embarking on a career in sports journalism and I could be doing these interviews for the rest of my life, but I find it hard to even listen to much of what players and coaches have to say nowadays. If their team is losing we’re blessed with gems like “we need to win more battles” or “we came out flat, we need to get out legs moving”, and if their team is winning we get essentially the same answers but with a positive spin placed on them. I understand that what the players and coaches are saying in interviews may in fact be true, and I know they need to be careful not to give the opposing team any ‘bulletin board material’, but it doesn’t make the interviews any easier to sit through. The whole purpose of having media members interview players is to allow fans to connect with their favourite team and gain some insight into what the team is experiencing on the ice. Maybe I’m alone here but I can’t remember the last time I got much insight from a Darryl Sutter press conference.
So who’s to blame here? In reality, the answer is probably everyone involved. Players and coaches aren’t exactly willing participants in most interviews, it’s a part of the job description that you can tell they aren’t overly fond of. But modern day journalists are as much to blame for the current state of things. Sure there are the good guys out there, like Greg Wyshynski, Elliot Friedman, and James Duthie, who are still writing engaging stuff and avoid asking questions that everyone already knows the answer to. But so much of the industry is stuck in the rut of producing the same cookie-cutter material, attending media availability just so they can get a specific quote for a story they’ve already written. There’s no originality, and people wonder why the print journalism industry is in trouble.
As I eluded to earlier, players and coaches certainly aren’t off the hook in this sorry situation either. For the most part it’s pretty obvious that they don’t enjoy being interviewed and they think a lot of the questions they are asked are idiotic (which in their defense, they usually are), but a little personality or an upbeat attitude would sure go a long way. Look at guys like Chris Pronger, Shane Doan, or Willie Mitchell, all three do interviews with smiles on their faces and make and effort to provide some original answers and get a laugh or two out of their audience in the process. I’m sure they don’t like speaking to the media any more than the guy sitting in the stall next to them, but at least they do their best to get through it and provide a palatable product for the fans.
As far as a solution to the problem, to be honest I don’t know that there’s one readily available. Players and coaches are wary for a reason, too often they get fined or blasted in the media for saying anything even remotely original or controversial, and the worst-case scenario is that they fire up their opponent with some comments made in a pregame media scrum. But it’s the job of the media to get the story no matter what the circumstances and it pains me to say that parts of the industry are failing in this area. The days of game summaries and box scores being enough to satisfy the avid hockey fan are long gone, the new generation of hockey journalists has to find a way to break through the serious and reserved exterior of today’s NHLer and provide fans with the funny, engaging, and personal stories that they’re looking for.
After all the game is for the fans, isn’t it?