Oh Russians…. You’re So Enigmatic!

When they're not doing, you know, journalism, there are two things that hockey media members love to do: 1) Complain when someone doesn't immediately talk to them, and 2) bash players for not being "a leader." Usually these two things come hand-in-hand. It's a little strange that nearly every player who isn't a leader on his team is also a player who just happened to turn down a recent interview request, but that must be how things work in hockey. I don't know for sure. I've "never played the game." But that must be the way it is, because it's not like a journalist would be petty enough to attack a player in public just because said player turned down an interview request, right? After all, these people are JOURNALISTS. They've got to be above emotional feuds and name-calling and holding grudges, right? Isn't that what separates them from lonely bloggers in their basements? The fact that they hold themselves to a greater standard of ethics?

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Remember the angry media rants on Twitter when newly-hired Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle didn't immediately speak to reporters? Or when Nail Yakupov didn't talk to reporters after a game at the recent World Junior Championship? How about the poor cold reporters who stood on the street waiting for Bettman to talk? Or this most recent attack on a player for not talking that we've discussed already? There is nothing worse than failing to give a quote.

I get it. You have a story to write. And that's honestly tough. One of the benefits of being a blogger is that, in most cases, no one assigns you to write a story. You write when you want to write and you don't write when you don't. There are no word limits or people you have to talk to in order to get a story approved by an editor. In many ways, it's easier than being an actual journalist. So we all understand that it must be annoying when you're assigned to talk to Evgeni Malkin and Evgeni Malkin doesn't talk to you. We all understand that you still have to write a story on Malkin and that it's more difficult to do so without speaking to him. But we don't quite understand why that story now needs to be "This player has no leadership and he doesn't care because he didn't give me a bland 30 second quote for my story."

How many times has a soundbite from a hockey player ever been exciting or insightful? Not very often. Sure, once in a while you get a good quote, but usually it's the same bland stuff we've all heard a million times. Players now know that what they say can be used against them, so they don't say much.

What groundbreaking quote was Evgeni Malkin going to give Chris Bradford anyway? He probably would have said something like "I'm looking forward to the season" or "I think we have a good team." Maybe he'd say something really great like "I'll need to get to my game." Earth-shattering stuff. Just earth-shattering.

Or maybe he'd say it in less than perfect English and we could all point out how hilarious it is that a player who spend the vast majority of his life living on a completely different continent and speaking an entirely different language hasn't yet completely captured all of the many nuances of the English language! Wouldn't that be great! There's nothing funnier than laughing at an immigrant for every little mistake he or she makes, right? Granted, Chris Bradford points out that his attack has nothing to do with Malkin's English and we believe him. But most reporters don't do that. 

Bradford does mention "I'm score" in his piece because that's still just so hilarious. Hey guys, remember when Malkin said "I'm score" when he really meant "I scored?" IT WAS SO GREAT! It was on t-shirts within minutes! He meant to say one thing but he said something else! It's funny because the words he used are different than the words that I would have used! But that doesn't have as much to do with the media as it does with our culture, so I'm going to drop this point like the Habs dropped Gomez.

The real point is that there was about zero chance that Evgeni Malkin was going to say "You know what, Chris? I wouldn't say this to many people, but for some reason I really trust you. I think Dan Bylsma is a terrible coach and, if he puts me on a line with Tyler Kennedy, I might not re-sign with the Penguins. Also, I think my time in the KHL this year makes me so much better than everyone else on this team. Especially Sidney Crosby. He's the worst. We act like we get along, but I know I should be the real captain of this team. OH! And one more thing: I'm planning on signing with Washington as soon as I can. Alex Ovechkin and I made a plan while we were in Russia. And I really hate the city of Buffalo. I have no idea why I feel that way or why I wanted to tell you, but I really hate that city. I hope the players in Buffalo and their fans use this quote for momentum the next time we play there. Which I hope is never. Because I really hate Buffalo, as I have already stated."

Malkin was never going to say anything interesting. If Chris Bradford wanted to, he could have added "'I'm really excited for the season,' said Evgeni Malkin. 'I'm glad the NHL is back.'" to his article and no one would have guessed that anything was wrong. Malkin probably would have just assumed that he gave that quote to Bradford at some point because we doubt players remember every bland interview they give to a reporter. To his credit, Chris Bradford didn't make up a quote. Good for him.

But he also didn't write a generic "Malkin getting ready for the season" article. Why? Because writing a generic Malkin article wouldn't have brought in the OMG LINK BAIT that writing an article that questions Malkin's leadership will! And that brings us to the second thing that the media loves to do. Question leadership and/or dedication.

Whether it's Evander Kane or the previously mentioned Nail Yakupov or Evgeni Malkin himself, the media LOVES to take what players do or don't do off of the ice and take it to mean that the player in question can't lead a team or that the player isn't dedicated to hockey, his current franchise or the fans. And it's the "they owe it to the fans" argument that media members love the most. And it makes no sense.

From what we've all seen, the fans really only care if the players put in effort on the ice and if the team wins. Obviously, we don't want the players we cheer for to rob convenience stores or assault orphans when they're not playing hockey but, aside from those extremes, we don't really care. Personally I've never watched Evgeni Malkin score a beautiful goal and thought "Man, that was a nice goal. And it was the game-winner too. That's great and all, but it will only really mean something to me if he gives a great interview after the game. That interview is how I'll know that he really cares about winning and, therefore, me as a fan."

The media wants everyone to be a "good Canadian kid." They want you to be a humble guy from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan or Corner Brook, Newfoundland. They want you to throw in "fer sure" and "beauty" from time-to-time. They want you to be the nice, quiet kid who happened to make it big by playing on frozen ponds and arenas with 5am ice times. If you wouldn't appear in a Tim Hortons ad, they don't like you.

And if they don't like you the use words like "brash" and "prima donna" and "enigmatic." They say that you need a "wake-up call" or that you don't "get it." They call you "selfish." Stories come out about how you rub your teammates the wrong way and how the coaching staff doesn't know what to do with you. Soon you start reading about how this "locker room cancer" may  have to be traded for the good of the team. And for the fans, of course. It's all a downward spiral that begins with someone not saying "I'll give 110 percent" to every reporter when he gets off the ice.

This is all multiplied if you're Russian or French or any other nationality that runs counter to the "good Canadian kid" storyline. Because, apparently, it's not about playing hockey. It's about providing souless clips after each and every game. That's what REALLY makes you a leader. Not trophies and accolades and general respect from almost everyone. It's the 30 second clip that really matters. And you'd better provide it each and every time, players. Or there's gonna be trouble.

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