Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Reporters fumbled the 'Gauthier' story from the start

I want to rail against the paucity of information we receive from our sports ‘reporters’. Not that this is restricted to hockey or these fine folks who cover the Canadiens, but we were once again failed by them. We who are great consumers of the game and any information on our team, we were not told what was what. Once again, as soon as an incumbent was let go, much like in the Mike Cammalleri situation and countless others before, the dirty laundry was aired out for all to see, but too late for anyone to have benefited from it.

Over the last two years, Pierre Gauthier’s track record was discussed on multiple platforms by many analysts, some of who decried it while others gave grudging approval. He was accused of shadowy transgressions and lack of availability for the media, but that’s as far as it went.

Now that he’s gone, we get the now infamous ‘cookie rationing’ story out of Ottawa. François Gagnon revealed that all the Canadiens players operated in fear and wouldn’t talk to journalists informally or in anything other than platitudes because they didn’t want to run afoul of Mr. Gauthier. He told an anecdote of two players he was chatting with when all of a sudden one shut up and walked away when he saw that Mr. Gauthier was approaching. Also, Mario Tremblay and Benoit Brunet now pipe up and state that the Canadiens dressing room will have a much lighter tone since most of the team couldn’t stand or hated Mr. Gauthier.

Isn’t this information something that should have been shared much earlier with the public?

Of course, some will jump in and state that if any reporters ‘broke’ this news in such specific, pointed terms, they would lose their access to the team and wouldn’t be trusted with any more info in the future. Which is exactly the issue: what is the point of the access if the information isn’t shared with us? What good does it do us? Why should I buy the Globe and Mail if I’m not being told the truth? Are the journalists in the press box for kicks, to partake in the spread? What is the point of sticking a microphone in a player’s face if the unspoken agreement is that they’ll be asked softball questions and respond with platitudes?

The best part of team sports was always the camaraderie, the way we shot the breeze before and after games and practices and road trips. I’ve often thought that this atmosphere would be severely hampered if there were a bunch of strangers walking around broadcasting what we said about the opponents or the girl in the yellow tank top in the stands, how that would be a big crimp in being a professional athlete. If it was up to me, and I was the NHL commissioner, I’d immediately make the dressing room off-limits to reporters, I’d give the boys a break and some privacy when they’re headed for the showers. Nothing is being gained by anyone from this post-game kabuki, let’s do away with it.

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