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The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: a classy inductee, a commercial opportunity and lockout media politics

One of the great gentlemen of the sport of hockey is receiving a long-overdue honor today. The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to long-time Red Wings defenseman, Hockey Hall of Famer and New Jersey Devils scout Marcel Pronovost about joining the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame at the tender age of 82, and Pronovost…Well, I’ve briefly met the man, and unlike many of the Wings’ greats, he’s the quietest, least noticeable man in the room when he wants to be…But he plans on enjoying every moment of a brief return to marquee status tonight:

“I’ll be there with my wife and sons and grandchildren,” Pronovost said Wednesday. “It’s going to be a great day.”

Pronovost, 82, played for the Wings in 1950-65, winning his first of four Stanley Cups with the team at 19 in 1950 after being called up to replace Red Kelly on defense in the playoffs. Kelly was moved to forward as a countermeasure against an injury to Gordie Howe. Pronovost became a regular with Detroit the following season, and was part of ‘52, ‘54 and ‘55 championships.

“It goes back a long ways,” he said of his career, which includes winning a fifth Cup with the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs. “I can’t even remember everything. I know we had a pretty good hockey club, with Ted Lindsay, with Gordie Howe.”

Pronovost was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978. His class for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame includes former Tiger Willie Hernandez, and ex-Pistons Ralph Simpson, Earl Lloyd and the late Dan Roundfield.

“It’s a privilege,” Pronovost said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

 

 

Shifting gears in a big way as today is a “light” news day, the Red Wings tossed off an intriguing Tweet on Wednesday evening, and it involves fan participation if you find yourself in Metro Detroit next Tuesday, August 21st:

And if you were wondering:

 

 

 

In charitable news of a sort, Red Wings radio play-by-play man Ken Kal and Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association president Bill Harrington spoke to the Dearborn Kiwanis Club about their backgrounds, jobs, etc., and who knew that the Dearborn Kiwanis Club had a Vimeo channel?

 

Kiwanitlak - Sports Broadcasters Association with Ken Kal & Bill Harrington from Kiwanitalk on Vimeo.

 

 

Does this count as alumni news? Given that, as NHL.com’s 30 in 30 series conveniently ignored the fact that Brian Lashoff and Adam Almqvist may very well be the Wings’ #7 and #8 defensemen, I suppose it’s noteworthy that Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien reports that Lashoff’s more accomplished brother, Matt, is heading to Switzerland to play for Marc Crawford’s Zurich ZSC Lions...

 

 

And, well, given yesterday’s CBA bluster, I suppose it is not exactly eyebrow-raising that the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan suggested the following:

 

I’m not a complete pessimist right now, but after having to man the website for the past two days and having to more or less serve as a grief support leader on the blog and Twitter while reading the comments of media members more intrigued by the “theatre” portion of this business than anything else, and given the accuracy of Aaron Ward’s statement about how things will shake out given that Donald Fehr won’t return from his North American players’ CBA update meetings until next Wednesday…

 

And having read the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein’s take, as well as the Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski’s take (I respect the hell out of Sportsnet’s Michael Grange, but I’m expecting something similarly designed to his “NHLPA’s CBA is a wolf in sheep’s clothing” article to hit Thursday morning to provoke discussion, if not provoke both sides…

As well as having read Winging it in Motown’s Graham Hathaway’s take on Mike Ilitch possibly raising his voice for fans’ sakes in his guest column for the Free Press, and knowing that, last time around, Jimmy Devellano claimed that he cast the Wings’ vote of support behind Gary Bettman and a full-season lockout to be a “good citizen”...

I’m pissed off. So pissed off that what will follow is going to sound forced because I’m forcing myself to hold my tongue:

I don’t know about you, but I wish I could tell you that we’re at a point that the likelihood of the prospect tournament which helps subsidize Centre Ice Arena’s hockey programs taking place in September was 50/50, and that an NHL training camp would soon follow. I also wish I could be a total *#$%@& and tell you that there’s no way, no how, that there will be any hockey until the Winter Classic takes place.

I can’t do either, however, not in good conscience. I understand that much of this minutiae is painful to follow, if not incredibly, ridiculously tedious given that we’re talking about millionaires and billionaires trying to divvy up percentages of our discretionary income, but if I also come from a family with over one hundred years of service to the Chrysler Corporation, and I have an uncle who was literally beaten up by the Purple Gang on Grosse Isle when they were doing union-busting back in the late 30’s, so even though we’re talking about rich people bickering about fans’ dollars, I see no reason to look away. Especially given that I had no voice or platform save a message board and close friends the last time we had a lockout.

Lockout. That seems to be the operative word, and it seems more likely than not that the NHL intended to take this CBA dispute to a lockout as a matter of course, regardless of whether negotiations started in January or July.

With the owners suggesting that the simplest and most prudent way to fix the system is to simply engage in another player-sponsored bailout of small-market owners and an increase in the profits for big-market owners who can’t stomach the current system, but will agree to continue shoveling chunks of money at their weaker sisters via an ineffective revenue-sharing program if their labor costs go down, and with the players suggesting that, should the current system “work” in any way, shape, or form, any givebacks should be temporary, there’s doubtlessly a huge “gulf” to bridge here.

Can it be done in a month? Sure, stranger things have happened, and if we’re talking about two sides who can agree that the bar can be subtly re-set in favor of the owners if the owners are willing to stomach the kind of revenue-sharing that only players are willing to suggest the league needs for everybody to survive, it could happen. I appreciated the *#$%@& out of the fact that, even after countering Bettman’s reference to the NFL and NBA models (which he’s always aspired to emulate) with some MLB talk, Donald Fehr made sure to point out that every sport’s economics are unique, and if I may put it bluntly:

If we’re talking about rooting for a band that won’t play concerts until it gets its dispute with its record label over how much of its concert proceeds it can retain, and what working conditions, let’s say a group of 30 bands are going to work under, or rooting for the record labels that, until the digital music era, anyway, set the rules and restricted wages, proceeds, mobility, etc. as they saw fit, my support would be weighted toward the people who provide me with the actual product as opposed to those who present the framework and venues which deliver said product. And I feel the same way about the sides in this CBA dispute, regardless of the fact that it is both a kids’ game and that it involves fans paying significant chunks of their time, energy and money to follow millionaires paid to play said kids’ game and billionaires who also have businesses to run like anyone else.

Especially given the track record of the “record labels” here, I have no reason to suggest that the gentleman who represents Mike Ilitch’s interests is less likely to have any concept of me as anything other than a walking dollar sign than the “bands” might.

But I am also a fan whose livelihood involves covering the team I cheer for, and I am too scared to put up a Kickstarter account or Paypal button to raise funds for a prospect tournament and main camp I cannot afford to attend on my own because I don’t know what’s going to happen; I am too concerned about the fact that so many other fans spend significant chunks of their money and vacation time trying to make trips to training camp work; I’m worried about Centre Ice Arena, I’m worried about the ushers, concessions workers, ticket-takers, security and everybody who works at the Joe on game nights and gets by because of the money they earn during their 41 home dates…

And I am very, very angry at the media reaction to today’s posturing and grandstanding.

If there is a gulf between this member of the media and the MSM’ers, or even the Twitter-literate, online generation, it is that I am beholden to a team and to fellow fans, not journalistic integrity or telling a “story,” and I find none of this entertaining.

Too many of the people covering this, and especially those who’ve clucked their tongues at the fans and the semi-professional fans, shaking their heads and patting us on the head like children too young and stupid to know better than to assume that we would not miss prospect tournaments, training camps and games as the NHL and NHLPA fight over our money. Too many of those people weighed in today with nothing less than glee at the rancor between Bettman and Fehr, ready to sit down and cover, or at least be entertained by, great theatre, a great “story” to follow and report upon, because they’ve been bred and trained to not give two shits about what the plebeians who pay their salaries might care about or be angered by.

That is my greatest warning for you today: if you think that my suggestions that fans can do little more than literally congregate in Toronto and New York and make themselves seen, heard, and annoying by the sides involved if there is a lockout (if you’ve got any better ideas, I’d sure as hell love to brainstorm them with you) given that the vast majority of us will not take the “brave” step of walking away from the game, teams, players, and yes, owners we care for far too much to walk away from, if you think all of that is stupid…

Don’t expect for a moment to elicit any sympathy whatsoever from the media regarding the course of events that are likely to break our hearts and leave us feeling used, abused and toyed with over the next however long it takes for a new CBA to be hammered out. With every twist and turn that makes it more and more uncomfortable for you and me, the vast majority of the press will respond gleefully, enjoying the show with the kind of bizarre giddiness that group of people who tend to believe that the show is held for their entertainment alone tend to celebrate strife and discord, and they’re going to engage in feats of rhetoric, “guess the temperature in the room,” “guess what both sides are thinking” and “guess the score” that those of you who interact with media types on Twitter have learned matter to them more than who wins and who loses. If you think that fans get a little obsessed about, “I don’t care who won or lost, I guessed the score and game-winning goal-scorer!” the media takes it to an entirely different level, with beat writers at least theoretically rooting against the team they cover simply because they feel like picking a team that intrigues them or offers them a potentially compelling “story” might deliver more entertainment value for their press pass and time.

Long story long, I know that in times like these, we tend to turn toward people whose voices are authoritative and who are “in the know” to make sense of our teams’ wins and losses, and sometimes for answers that give us something or someone to believe in.

As asking those kinds of questions pertains to the lockout, the angry fan in me this morning will tell you a simple truth—it’s not that the MSM’s a bunch of assholes or a lazy sorts. They’re generally not the former and are certainly not the latter. But they are wired differently than you and me, and for some of them, the twists, turns and dramatics of a long, protracted and vicious lockout represent an entertaining diversion and a welcome break from the grind of covering a team, a division or the NHL for a full 82-game season. This is short-attention span threatre for our athletically journalistic friends, and if we are to expect anything other than being patted on the head from them…

This dispute is not the media’s fault, nor are they at fault for approaching sports the way that they do. But as often as we fans tend to disparage the mainstream media, we also look up to them, and look toward them for perspective, support, guidance and reasons to believe, and in this more-likely-to-be-a-lockout-than-not CBA battle, we fans can only expect to garner sympathy and support from each other.

If we behave otherwise, and we try to pin our hopes upon the seasoned perspective of a MSM member who we tend to lean upon when our team’s and favorite players’ times are rough, we are likely to be so sorely disappointed in their, “Let me grab more popcorn, this is great!” reaction that we’re likely to villainize them.

Regardless of how much their eagerness to watch what they hope will be a Bettman vs. Fehr cage match might disturb us, and regardless of how antithetical their comments and analysis may be as compared to our subjective, team and player-supporting natures will steer our emotions in completely different directions over the course of what is to come, I can tell you that I’ve spent the past twelve hours wasting my time and energy being angry at the wrong people.*

Fan sympathy and support will come from fellow fans, not members of the media. That’s okay, because we help each other get through the ups and downs of our Wings’ collective and individual play already, and it’s okay because we already know who’s really to blame for all of this mess taking place.

In my subjective opinion, even in a CBA battle royale between parties big enough that each and every one of their constituents bears blame and culpability for not giving us a proper full season’s return on an investment we desperately want to give them in terms of emotions, time and money, I’m pinning the tail on the Bettman. But that’s just one man’s opinion, and I don’t expect it to be yours.

 

*Update: I think there’s another way to put all of the above: if one is not beholden to anything but “the story,” a lockout is exciting and entertaining; if one is a fan of teams and players, this is traumatic and painful business, and anything but “fun.”

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Comments

Avatar

The greed on display, from both owners and players, is disgusting.

The NHL should cut or relocate the garbage teams who can’t even give tickets away (Phoenix, Columbus etc) and we have 2 conferences of 13 or 14, saving millions and allowing the owners of teams in places where a market actually exists to keep the money they make, rather than giving it away to the charity cases (I’m looking at you Atlanta. oh wait…)

Posted by Reddy on 08/16/12 at 07:02 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, two things:

First, I stopped “looking up to” the MSM long ago - in news and politics as well as sports.  I certainly do NOT “look toward them for perspective, support, guidance and reasons to believe…” In the highly competitive, ratings driven, corporate profits-oriented world in which they operate, only the sensational headline matters.  This is why I read blogs like yours - you are motivated by a sincere love for the game and our team.

Second, I believe Bettman went into these “negotiations” fully intending to lock the players out, because, in his little brain, it worked in the NFL and NBA.  I love reading that many players already plan to go over to Europe to play in the event of a lock out.

It’s a damned shame, but I don’t see this getting resolved in the near future.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 08/16/12 at 09:26 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Posted by MsRedWinger from Homer’s Office on 08/16/12 at 08:26 AM ET

All the stuff she said ^^^^

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 08/16/12 at 10:46 AM ET

Winged20Wheel's avatar

I’m done with his silliness.  If I don’t see hockey in October. I’ll find another and put my money there. Cya

Posted by Winged20Wheel on 08/16/12 at 12:16 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I don’t read so much glee into the way the MSM is covering this.

Ok, maybe right now there is because it’s a lot of people paying more attention to hockey right now than they otherwise would be, but the MSM, especially many of the sportswriters in Canada make their livelihood by bringing entertaining coverage of the NHL to the fans. 

What happens to that glee when those prospect tournaments and training camps don’t happen? I’m sure they’re thrilled about the prospect of making a livelihood by covering a big lot of nothing while both sides wait for the other to sweat… the same as the rest of their profession is, looking for an angle that’s actually going to make fans who are growing increasingly frustrated an apathetic about the entire process take notice.

There are more than enough national reporters and local guys to cover all of the teams doing all of the stuff teams normally do when hockey is going on.  There’s simply way too many of them to cover all the teams essentially doing nothing while nothing is going on.  As much as they’re rubbing their evil hands together in glee at the thought of riling up us fans, there’s a race to become the reporters people will still be listening to when people stop listening so much. It’s a funny cycle with election-race politics (which is a concept taken from sports, turned to politics, and now naturally finds its bastardized cousin covering the politics of sports in a political manner borrowing from the soul of sports)

Treating the media as a faceless conglomerate where they can’t possibly be fans or have interests other than having fun at our expense is kind of the same as treading every NHL owner like he’s Ed Snider and that they’re all more than willing to just throw hockey away because that happens to be how they vote (without a single shred of investigative reporting as to how governors meetings actually go because I’ll bet you anything that the “puppet” Bettman people keep referring to as a pawn made of socks is more than happy to remind everybody in that room that those who step out of line will be dealt with and that they’ve all very likely signed an agreement that not only gives the majority of the governors the right to levy punishment against minority rabblerousers, but also creates a financial liability if any of them give the public even a whiff about how that system works.)

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/12 at 12:41 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

I’d love to be a fly on the wall for Bettman vs. Fehr 2012.

George - I think you’re spot on in your “Update”/summary.  I hate the NBA, but I was loving it while they were locked out.  Now I’m on the other side of things…

Posted by TreKronor on 08/16/12 at 06:19 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.