The dressing room is supposed to be a safe place for players. That is said time and again between coaches and players. Things that are said or happen between those walls stay between those walls.
Joe Thornton is making headlines today, for a comment he directed in a humorous way at a scrum of reporters that were interviewing another player. He was not being interviewed himself. He said something sarcastic about scoring four goals in one game and what he would do to celebrate.
““I’d have my c*** out, if I scored four goals. I’d have my c*** out, stroking it.”
There is no actual line or set rule between media and players of what is and isn’t on the record. As a player there is just an understanding and trust that if someone asks you for an interview or if you can chat with a microphone in your face, that is when it’s on the record.
Generally media members show the respect and know that chatter throughout the locker room amongst teammates and off the cuff jokes at reporters are not considered on the record.
The fact that there is no actual rule unfortunately leaves Joe with no one to blame but himself. He now has to live with the comment and every player in the league is now more aware that there are a few amongst the media they cannot trust.
The man who published those comments about Joe was Jason Botchford, who can be found on TSN discussing STUDS & DUDS each week.
He had this to say on TSN’s That’s Hockey! show when asked why he published the quote.
“Frankly, it was a pretty easy decision for me. It’s nonsense that this is off the record. Joe interrupted, with insolence another scrum to tell a reporter, Farhan Lalji of TSN, to ‘shut up.’ Twenty reporters turned to Joe, he said his joke, and a joke that really made the whole Hertl discussion seem ridiculous. I think it was appropriate to go forward with publishing the quote, for a lot of reasons.
First and foremost, because I work for a publication that asks me to think, write and report with edge, and that’s what I think I did today.” “The problem here for Joe is that he said the comment to about 20 reporters. I looked around, about half of them had cameras. If any of them had reported it, and I had not, I would have been called to the carpet by my boss and asked why I didn’t publish one of the quotes of the year.”
Fair enough, in all likelihood he would have been called to the red carpet by his boss, but I only saw one of the 20 reporters actually publish the quotes. They most likely have bosses too and I’d bet every reporter around the league could do this daily if they chose to.
If Joe Thornton was not directly in a media scrum with 20 microphones in his face or in a one on one with someone, then I don’t know why this is something that is being published.
If it was something that Jason Botchford thought was on the record, the polite thing to do would be to ask Joe if that was ‘on the record’ or a useable quote.
Everyone knows the obvious answer.
Ultimately the people that may be affected by this action are other media members trying cozy up and earn the trust of players so that in time they can snag a juicer quote. Over the years I considered many media members my friends and I assume vice versa.
Most hockey players are a difficult quote. The trickle down is potentially less comfort from the players and an even more watered down version of your token cliché from players to the fans.
Now some people will say “well just don’t say anything while the media is there”
What usually happens for players is you come off the ice and many times you are getting undressed and the locker room is filled with media. Media members come in every morning and post game to get their quotes. Some stay to shoot the breeze and as players you develop great trust with these guys and can eventually talk about certain things that maybe aren’t things you want made public.
It’s not like players can hide, some media stick around for 20 minutes or more. Asking players to not speak across their own dressing room is not the solution.
STUDS & DUDS
Should Joe Thornton have been more careful with what he said? Sure.
Should Jason Botchford have been more thoughtful with what he published? Yes.
If it was up to me, the media wouldn’t be allowed in the actual dressing room anymore. Players would be brought to a specific media room when requested by the media. Eliminate that invisible line for everyone.
For the respectful ones in the media and the fans it would be unfortunate but I could eventually see this happen.
Mr. Botchford, you sir are a DUD.