Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

The Production Line’s Michael Petrella examines Detroit’s hockey media atmosphere

The Production Line's Michael Petrella informed Winging it in Motown's JJ From Kansas, DetroitHockey.net's Clark Rasmussen and myself that TPL was working on an investigative article discussing Detroit's hockey media atmosphere.

In light of the Daniel Cleary signing, Petrella believed that perusing inside-the-market and outside-the-market sources might provide a better understanding of the peramaters under which the Wings' media corps operate.

We agreed to publish whatever Michael wrote as-is and to publish it as closely-timed as possible to reach as many of you as we can.

What follows is presented without comment, and what follows encourages you to reach your own conclusions. As they say in the TV business, the following article does not necessarily reflect those of this blogger or The Malik Report (regarding the first subject in particular, I've had the opposite experience, but, "It is what it is").

My name is Michael Petrella. I’m not a journalist by trade. As you may know, I had -- for several years -- a blog called The Production Line, with a pair of partners. We found ourselves being able to spend less and less time writing on the site, or running the podcast, so we’ve let the domain expire, but I’m very grateful that Clark Rasmussen from DetroitHockey.net has offered to host an archive, so that it lives on.

If you’re familiar with TPL’s work, you’ll know that MOST of it was silly. Perhaps you recall Operation Curly Fries - our efforts working with Fox Sports Detroit and Arby’s to re-ignite the curly fry giveaway when a Red Wing scores a hat trick. We created a phenomenon called the Shirtuzzi. And there were more Whitney Houston-themed posts that I care to count.

But not everything was ridiculous -- some of it was conscientious and thoughtful. Please don’t forget the several H2H gatherings, where we raised over $20,000 for Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Or my trip on Red Bird II, joining the team on a weekend home-and-home with the Nashville Predators. Or the series I did about playing collegiate hockey and the prevalence of painkillers and head injuries, and what it’s like to be a role-player compared to the responsibilities of top-end talent.

Once upon a time, I had a good relationship with the Detroit Red Wings. I had a two hour breakfast with Ken Holland, where he was very open and never once asked me NOT to print something. I had an open invitation to sit in the press box if ever I was around for a game (I no longer live in Michigan, and haven’t since I graduated high school). I was briefly credentialed by the NHL, and had the opportunity to interview Red Wings draft picks in Los Angeles at the 2010 Draft.  I was even approached by the Red Wings to publish some information about a move that didn’t get a lot of positive publicity, though I was asked not to say where the information came from.

But all of that stopped. I can’t explain why -- or what happened. But it was abrupt. I’m pretty sure that it’s based in The Production Line’s increasingly critical tone about Red Wings management and on-ice product. All I know is that one day e-mails stopped being responded to, the press releases stopped coming into my inbox, and things I’d discussed doing with the Red Wings were being done by other people.

***

This summer has been a bad one for Detroit Red Wings fans. It’s become obvious that it’s no longer a destination for free agents, and another July full of panic moves has been underway for a few weeks now. But this piece isn’t about that. At least not directly. It’s about the local media’s handling of the organization -- and vice versa.

When news breaks -- like the Dan Cleary signing, for example -- it’s announced practically verbatim by several writers. Every article is nearly identical, but not identical enough to just be the press release, and is published at precisely the same time. It’s the hockey equivalent of state-run media. It seems as though the only information that’s released by the allegedly-independent media is the information that the organization wants to be released. Is it that anyone that isn’t willing to toe that line -- bloggers, included -- are excluded from access to the team, its players, or members of the front office?

No one seems to have a problem with that. No one has the guts to question it. No one is willing to rock the boat or burn whatever bridges they perceive they may have.

So I figured… I’ve already been blackballed, what do I care? The mainstream media -- or diggers, as they’re passionately known by the Red Wings community -- doesn’t care, presumably because any deviation from the company line will cost them their access. So, instead of doing what they’ve committed to doing -- reporting, asking tough questions, and making good on their journalism degrees -- they do nothing. They refuse to criticize, and happily post the exact same thing that all of the other writers in the area do. Pretty groundbreaking stuff.

I reached out to quite a few people to talk about it. Former members of the Detroit Red Wings media departments, current and former Detroit Red Wings beat writers, as well as national hockey media. Will there be any effect? Probably not. This seems like it’s become accepted practice, but I couldn’t sit by any longer, only reading what the North Korea of NHL teams wants its citizens to believe. But it’s worth a shot -- and if I learned anything from my time running TPL, it was that no one answers if you don’t ask.

And, usually, the only question that needs to be be asked -- and no one ever seems to ask -- is “why?”

***

“[John] Hahn was a vindictive man who enforced codes of conduct through threats, intimidation, revoking of credentials, and out-and-out bullying. That’s not just personal dealings, that comes from hearing more than a few similarly-credentialed outlets vent aloud. Before he departed the organization, Hahn taught Todd Beam everything he knows, including simply ignoring those who the team doesn’t want to deal with, and Kyle Kujawa has been a quick study.”

That quote is from an anonymous source with access to the team.

John Hahn was -- for sixteen years -- the senior director of communications for the Red Wings. He left those responsibilities behind in September of last year, and handed the reigns to Todd Beam, the current director of communications. I found Mr. Beam to be a very kind and engaging man when I traveled with the team in 2011, but he didn’t yet hold that title.

One thing that’s clear is that bloggers still aren’t given access -- though that’s not the aim of this article. We’ll touch on that more in a few minutes. More evidence from our unnamed friend, and some more regarding Hahn:

Hahn established the protocol by which the diggers operate during his nearly 20 years with the team, and the concept of a hierarchy of access is always in evidence. Whether it’s seating assignments, who can speak to whom, whether people have to “check” certain stories or subjects with the team before publishing them, which topics are off-limits, and which diggers get more access based upon their preferred status thanks to “playing well with others,” it feels like you’re dealing with high school cliques, and their strata are all but set in stone.

When I dealt with the team, John Hahn had a league-wide reputation as a dictatorial jerk, and according to people I spoke with who were intimate with the team’s situation, they insisted that the Red Wings’ status as an incredible pain in the real to deal with was one of the reasons we kept reading the outside media so gleefully wish to see the Big Red Machine fail (when it was the Big Red Machine).

Personally, I only encountered Mr. Hahn one time -- when I was credentialed by the League to cover the 2010 Draft in Los Angeles. I didn’t have to interact with him, since I wasn’t representing the team, nor did I need anything from the Red WIngs to do what I was there to do, but he absolutely was an intimidating man that everyone -- and I mean everyone -- steered well clear of.

More confirmation, however, that the team’s principals aren’t the responsible parties for the lack of information coming from the team to the people who care about it most:

Talking about getting straight answers, minus the occasional lies that GMs and coaches tell everyone, I have never had any trouble asking questions to Ken Holland, when he was with the team Jim Nill, nor Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, any of the Griffins coaches, or even Mike Babcock.

When they want to talk to you, they’re incredibly accommodating in terms of their time, energy, and honesty. I’ve never had any indication that they’re somehow bad human beings who want to screw over the media or make their jobs harder than they already are (or vice versa).

The coaches and management obviously have an agenda with their information, they have an agenda as to how they want the team to be perceived, but even Babcock, testosterone included, is the most honest coach I’ve met. He spars with you, but he doesn’t screw around with you for the sake of being a more gigantic jerk than he already can be.

Every experience I’ve had suggests that PR or ownership… were the ones who wanted to make dealing with the team something of a shake-down.

So, the team’s media and public relations are to blame? About that…

***

“It’s a third-world media town. Let’s just say that the organization won’t be winning the Dick Dillman Award anytime soon.”

I asked the above-quoted former DRW media department employee, and everyone else, if the Red Wings threaten -- explicitly or implicitly -- to revoke their access to the team, its players or staff if they refuse to push the party line… and he makes it sound like the writers are more to blame than the team for pushing narratives:

The verbatim articles are a product of the writers, not the team. They’re all chatty, friendly, with few rivalries amongst them. They are very much ‘Super Friends’ on the beat and are given limited crumbs in media availability, or on conference calls, etc. Unlike many [Original Six] markets, Detroit’s media doesn't feast off of rumors, off-ice antics, or running players out of town. It is very much old school… this is the story… these are the quotes… this is the narrative I’ve weaved around it.

You could look at markets like Montreal and Boston, where the media will literally carve up and eat the players alive (Tyler Seguin, Tim Thomas) and say that what happens in Detroit is a good thing (or a bad thing), that’s the way it is.

He even touches on some experiences with the team that I can absolutely confirm -- like the aforementioned Ken Holland conversation. That’s evident when he says that “Babs will say no to a lot of things… Kenny won’t turn down a reporter’s phone call… and it’s the only place where the ‘Super Friends’ do well.”

Perhaps things will change if the Wings fail to make the playoffs and are forced to re-brand a bit… and also, start accepting bloggers into the fraternity:

...Two organizations that do it right were once in the Red Wings position (long playoff streaks and a perceived organizational arrogance about opening the gates and fans flying through). But when the Bruins and Blackhawks became non-factors in their city (2006, 2007)... both had to go back to the PR drawing board. When the Red Wings miss the playoffs for two or three seasons and are playing at 50 percent capacity, the media relations strategy will change.

It is impossible to compare Detroit and the five people who cover the team on a regular basis to the other five Original Six markets. The Bruins have six or seven George Malik equivalents who work for online outlets, just churning out content. It is actually pathetic how high quality their work is compared to those on the Detroit beat… yet they’re doing it for $10 an hour, while [the beat writers are likely making] 60K a year. It makes me violently ill.

Of the Detroit media, only Helene [St. James] could survive in another Original Six market. She’s the alpha female. The Regina George. Everyone follows her lead.

I reached out to Ms. St. James, as well as many others listed below, but as of this writing, she had not returned my inquiries.

Continuing down the blogger path, he offers me a very kind compliment and discussing how allowing someone to break through the barrier might have made a difference to the team’s coverage as a whole -- even from the professional outlets.

If you were local, it would have been a game changer. So few of the Red Wings bloggers with some credentials [are not in] Michigan. To have someone who knew how to channel the emotion of the fans, to do so in an entertaining way… it would have been a blast to see how it would have played out IF they were ever credentialed.

As some of you grew a spine or two to ask the tough question after a game… and risked pissing off the ‘Super Friends’ in the process, it would have forced them to adapt.

An independent writer points to the team. A (former) team employee points to the writers. What does a mainstream media writer with access to the team think?

***

“I can only speak for myself. As a beat writer, I report the news and keep opinions to a minimum -- with the exception of reader Q and A. Opinion pieces are best left to columnists.”

Ansar Khan, the gentleman who covers the Red Wings for MLive, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Most importantly, I tried to find out if the Red Wings threaten -- whether explicitly or implicitly -- to revoke access to the team if the local writers don’t fall in line. He says, in no uncertain circumstances, that the team does NOT dictate what’s reported, and have never threatened to deny his access.

The reason his gives for the media’s -- or, at least, his -- reluctance to criticize the team stems from the organization’s relative success the past several decades. You can debate amongst yourselves if just making the playoffs earns the team freedom from criticism. And there are plenty of people out there that defend every move that the Red Wings make (I heard from a bunch of you when I mocked the Quincey signing). There’s no arguing with them -- the Red Wings are infallible because of past success (somehow). But sometimes it’s okay to question the team you love, even if you admire a majority of the things they’ve accomplished over history.

If you think the media is not critical enough of the organization, that’s your opinion. I don’t agree with some moves the team has made (Cleary), but I’m not going to destroy them for it. Four Cups since 1997 and 23 consecutive playoff appearances doesn’t earn them a free pass but with that kind of track record I would find it difficult to call for anybody’s head.

Again, to be clear: I’m not hoping to send waves through the front office based on Dan Cleary’s contract (though, that is questionable, particularly following the last three summers). My goal here is to find out if the local media’s unwilling or unable to offer the fans anything worthwhile -- or if it’s the team driving the narrative.

So far we’ve learned those with semi-access blame the team… the team blames the writers… the writers seem to blame the fans for expecting more and defend the team because they’ve done so well in the past. Let’s take a step back… what does the national media think of Detroit’s coverage?

***

“For all of them to publish ‘Hey, cool, Cleary is back’ at the same time with no real critical look at A) how bad he is, B) what it means for younger, better players, and C) whatever the *#$%@& Holland was talking about is borderline dereliction of duty as a journalist and supposed hockey analysis. It was a move that deserves to be criticized on at least a superficial level.”

The problem is obvious not only to local Red Wings fans, who are more knowledgeable about the game and their team that they’re given credit for by the media. The above quote, and the following section are from a national hockey writer, who has asked to remain anonymous.

He points to a trend -- that no one in the local, Detroit media questioned or criticized the move, but that nearly everyone else in the hockey media world did. There are plenty of articles that ask “why” and zero of them originate from Detroit.

It is either absurdly, embarrassingly lazy, or the team is swinging the hammer. Best case scenario is that all of them tried to get away with mulligans at the same time. It’s up to readers and whoever else to judge if that’s feasible. And if that is indeed what happened, it’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of things.

It honestly probably isn’t the team calling them up and saying 'if you rip the Cleary deal, you’re out.' It sounds to me more that they continue to buy into Holland’s justification for the deal, which is… not good. For whatever reason, they are not critical of that team.

The relationship between beat writers and teams is really complicated, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it. It’s incestuous and weird by necessity. You’re going to have different writers approach it in different ways. The fact that zero turning anything approaching a critical eye toward it is a problem, though. Maybe that is none of their jobs. For some people, that is actually the case. They’re just conduits without any responsibility to do next-level shit. Maybe it’s not their job, but it should be. Every beat writer should provide actual analysis, not just act as a conduit for the team’s decision-making process.

As noted, his interaction with the team differs from those with daily access, and from those who have to live nearby and rely upon the team for the entirety of their content. He admits that he has “next-to-no experience with them,” that he’s “never heard anything terrible about” about dealing with the Wings, and that the one time he was in the locker room, “everything went fine” but agrees that, as a consumer of information, something’s not quite right.

Near the end of our conversation, I sighed and lamented that Red Wings fans deserve better. He succinctly answered “I would say so.”

***

“Some of the best journalism advice I ever received was ‘don’t stand with everybody. People don’t want the same story, they want different perspectives.’”

If you’ve been a Red Wings fan for some time, you’ll remember Bruce MacLeod. Formerly of the Macomb Daily, he was the one beat writer we could always rely on to get a different angle and present something that was engaging and insightful and he wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine and explain what it’s like on the beat, and share his experiences, as well as a few clues as to why things are the way that they are.

The best writers, professionally, don’t want to miss anything. They don’t want to be one piece out of four. One way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to stand together. Not to mention, players don’t want to do five interviews -- they’d rather do it all at once.

Imagine life as a beat writer. You’re traveling with the team, interacting with them every day. That’s what they do. This is their office. You don’t want to piss off someone in your office.

But there’s a definite need for people who are skeptical and agitating to a degree. New media, digital journalism would open everything up.

For the third time, I hear that the hockey operations people aren’t to blame, and that the general manager and former assistant GM are wonderful and never back down from a conversation, even if it’s a difficult one to have. And while Mr. MacLeod tells me that John Hahn isn’t as intimidating as we all may have felt, the team obviously wants to put the best foot forward and try to maintain that face.

From a club perspective, Ken Holland and Jim Nill give you everything you want.

The Red Wings really don’t control the media, other than who they credential. They’re one of the few teams that’s still a little backwards on new media. They view print and broadcast as the only things that really matter and are way behind on the other.

Once the team gives you contact, you’re on your own. There are no threats, but the team does control the message in that way.

So that’s where we’re left. The team has a vested interest in the information that’s exiting the locker room (obviously), but that they don’t rule with an iron fist -- straight from the horse’s mouths. Could the team benefit from someone who questions and agitates and is skeptical of the things they’re doing? Of course. Will it be one of the beat writers we currently have? It doesn’t appear to be, nor does the team seem willing to allow someone different to have the kind of access that would require. 

***

Like I mentioned at the very top, I’m not a journalist. It is not my intention to become a journalist. My goal with this project was to shed some light on what is very obviously a problem for Red Wings -- and hockey -- fans.

For casual hockey fans, who only read one of the local papers, the coverage is “good enough.” They get the facts, they get a quote here and there, and they can keep up with what the current roster looks like. For the bulk of us, who are rabid hockey fans and consider ourselves to be relatively knowledgeable when it comes to things like this, it’s shabby. Whether it’s because the team’s media department is strict and intimidating, or the writers are lazy and unwilling to ask tough questions and be critical of anything the organization does, we all lose.

What we’re left with is people who would be willing rock the boat being frozen out, people with access unwilling to deliver anything of value to those who consume it, and a team that doesn’t seem to care to rectify that -- or change the way information is disseminated to the public based on some perceived sense of untouchability.

What it boils down to is a team that limits access to those that don’t care very much… and those that don’t care very much, don’t care very much. Everyone has a little bit of blame in this matter.

Whoever you feel is most to blame, one thing is clear: we deserve better.

***

Full Disclosure: I reached out to the Free Press’ Helene St. James, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, MLive’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan. Mr. Kulfan responded, saying that he was on vacation and that he’d get back to me but hasn’t yet. Mr. Khan is quoted above. The others have not responded to my requests.

I also reached out to multiple people who could speak about the environment within the media department at the Red Wings. Some respectfully declined to talk, and I won’t name them here.

A very special thank you to Bruce MacLeod, Ansar Khan, and a trio of people who requested anonymity. That will be honored. I would also like to thank George Malik, of the Malik Report, JJ from Kansas, of Winging it in Motown, and Clark Rasmussen, of DetroitHockey.net, for agreeing to post this piece sight unseen. You’re a nice gang of fellas.

You can follow me on Twitter @TPLhockey, or e-mail me at michael.petrella@gmail.com.

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Comments

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For instance, you point out trading a #1 for Q and appear to imply that was a bad thing to do

I was not implying it was a bad thing to do. I am stating a fact. We traded first round draft pick (who ended up being a very good goaltender prospect) for an average dman. The question I am asking, did it work out? The answer to this question is no.
Same with a lot of other points of my post. I was all for signing Weiss for example, but did it work out? Howard seemed like an OK signing after he year he had and now even you kind of sort of question it. Obviously cannot blame KH if a player got injured, but there could be tons of reasons the deal did not work out (luck, timing, injury) and some of the deals were just bad from the getgo. So, I am not analyzing any of the deals, just presenting a list of KH work in the past 3-4 years and asking if that body of work is not reason enough to be concerned and for the media to start questioning him.
And again, I do not want to hear that other GMs are even worse. I do not want to compare our great franchise to the likes of Florida or Islanders. I do not want to accept mediocrity.

Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 04:18 PM ET

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And from there it ratchets up to a whole ‘nother level when you start dropping f-bombs, calling people out by name, and other shenanigans.

Do people get fired up and unprofessional around these parts? Sure, but isn’t there some culpability here?

truth bombs have just been dropped

Posted by incompetent GM on 07/15/14 at 04:18 PM ET

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As for Eric, a.k.a. HockeyinHD, Eric, we’ve had our disagreements, but if all you’re going to do is insult me and insult anyone who disagrees with you

Oh please.  Try not to drive yourself nuts racing to be insulted George.  Specific to you I pointed out you lost your mind and went after the organization over the Cleary and Quincey deals, which you did.

I went on from speaking about you, with a period a paragraph break and all, to talking about blogging in general.  If that was insulting to you, as a blogger, that I would make general observations about blogging, then you’re just trying to find something else to be pissed about.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 07/15/14 at 03:31 PM ET

For what it’s worth, HiHD, I have found you to be a valuable contributor on occasion. That said, it seems like you’ve taken to inflammatory commentary at a much higher intensity lately. You’re entitled to your opinion, but be respectful. Do you express yourself in that way in person to people? If so, do you have any friends? Seriously. Speak to people in a respectful way. No one goes out of their way to be condescending and inflammatory to you - extend that same courtesy to others.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 07/15/14 at 04:18 PM ET

Laran's avatar

Geroge I just think it’s hypocritical that a site that got famous off it’s against the grain, abrasive, borderline offensive (i mean that in a good way) Blog entries(Chief), is now surprised it’s developed a fan-base of similar taste.

Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 04:19 PM ET

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and there are many more people who are shaking their heads and not clicking on this blog because of the content of the comments below any entry that’s posted here.

Sometimes it’s the actual blog posts too George, like this one.

This is a private organization with a PR team isn’t going to let some bloggers harp on the man pulling the stings because that man isn’t accountable to anybody but the president and owner of the team. This is professional sports, not a government organization. They don’t owe you or any of us anything.

Posted by weswolverine on 07/15/14 at 04:20 PM ET

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So if you knew your employer was illegally polluting a local river and a reporter asked you about it, then you would tell the reporter everything you know and let him use your name, right? You wouldn’t be worried about losing your job, paying your rent/mortgage, feeding your family, etc. because your employer is not going to fire you, right?

There is a MASSIVE difference in using unnamed sources to back up indisputable FACTS versus using unnamed sources to slander people (John Hahn) and back up one person’s OPINION (this writer).  A journalist would not slander someone.  A journalist VERIFIES his unnamed sources’ statements with hard FACTS that can be indisputably PROVEN.

You specifically mention Woodward & Bernstein.  That story, which took a year to come out after they first met with Deep Throat, would have never come to light if those initial statements were not followed by indisputable proof. They would not have printed his initial comments, because he could have been WRONG or a LUNATIC.  But they did their DUE DILIGENCE and VERIFIED the illegal/immoral activity. 

That’s what unbiased journalist do with unnamed sources, not use them to support a specific opinion/thesis (right or wrong).

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 04:23 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

I agree Detroit’s hockey reporters, the “Diggers” as they are affectionately called around here, will never be mistaken for Edward Snowden or Mike Wallace, but it is a logical fallacy to assume that the reason this is so is because of some nefarious plan put forth by the Red Wings media department.

You know what other price comes from being a “model franchise” for almost two decades? A certain level of complacency sets in, even with the media. There has been so little to question the Wings about from basically 1996-2010 (or so) that the media covering them will need more than what has transpired over the last couple years to all of the sudden become the Woodward and Bernsteins of hockey.

I’m sure most sports reporters in Detroit would love to cover the Lions, but those coveted positions are few, and will not be given up anytime soon. After that it’s probably the Tigers beat that is most coveted. The media that follow the Wings seem, at times, to simply be going through the motions, that part I can agree with. Where I feel the train goes off the tracks is in saying they are forced to be that way by the Wings media department. No, in my opinion they are that way because they are, well, that way; it’s who they are as reporters,at least now in their current roles of being on the Red Wings beat.

The last Red Wings beat writer I can remember with a set of balls to question the status quo was Keith Gave. And he worked on the Wings beat from 1985-1995. You can bet he had plenty to write about, and question, for at least the first half of his decade-long tenure at the Free Press.

We’re still in the infancy stages of this new era for the Red Wings. The last two decades have been so good that there is still a wave of goodwill, etc, that the franchise continues to enjoy with the media. This will change if the Wings keep floundering. But it’s way too early in the new era to expect the Wings media to usher in their version of the Night of the Long Knives.

Hell, it’s Detroit, home of the Lions. The current troubles the Red Wings are experiencing are but a minor scrape to a Detroit media that has had to cover the near-death experience of the Lions franchise for so long now.

It’s Detroit, the city that has been on life support for some time, and is only now beginning to try and get back up from the mat. The current ills befalling the Red Wings is child’s play in a city whose most popular franchise (Lions), plus the city itself, has been pronounced DOA multiple times.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/15/14 at 04:28 PM ET

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But why in the whole world would they ever actually want to answer them, even if there was some kind of third party forced environment where they were presented them at regular intervals?  What’s the upside there?

The upside is that sometimes I do not think KH realizes if his decision was good or bad. If nobody questions him, he thinks all he does is great. Maybe questioning him more often will at least prevent the same bad decisions from happening.

Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 04:30 PM ET

awould's avatar

That’s what unbiased journalist do with unnamed sources, not use them to support a specific opinion/thesis (right or wrong).

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 04:23 PM ET

I took the entire article as just “here’s what i heard, throwing it out there for your consideration.” The man spoke with people, got their opinions and then tossed it out there with his take on it. Not sure what else he could do… investigate whether his sources opinions are really their own? Do a deep background check to ensure his sources don’t have a secret axe to grind? Seems like he was upfront about what the article was and consistent in presenting it as nothing more. I doubt he expects a Pulitzer.

Posted by awould on 07/15/14 at 04:30 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

That’s what unbiased journalist do with unnamed sources, not use them to support a specific opinion/thesis (right or wrong).
Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 04:23 PM ET

While I agree with your opinion on journalistic duty, I disagree that what he ended up writing here supported his initial opinions.  The conlcusion to his article seemed much more soft than his initial stance, partially because of the sources, named and unnamed, that he quoted.

Posted by Hootinani on 07/15/14 at 04:31 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

There is a MASSIVE difference in using unnamed sources to back up indisputable FACTS versus using unnamed sources to slander people (John Hahn) and back up one person’s OPINION (this writer).  A journalist would not slander someone.  A journalist VERIFIES his unnamed sources’ statements with hard FACTS that can be indisputably PROVEN.
You specifically mention Woodward & Bernstein.  That story, which took a year to come out after they first met with Deep Throat, would have never come to light if those initial statements were not followed by indisputable proof. They would not have printed his initial comments, because he could have been WRONG or a LUNATIC.  But they did their DUE DILIGENCE and VERIFIED the illegal/immoral activity. 
That’s what unbiased journalist do with unnamed sources, not use them to support a specific opinion/thesis (right or wrong).
Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 04:23 PM ET

MP’s anonymous source made factual allegations about the way Hahn went about his job (“who enforced codes of conduct through threats, intimidation, revoking of credentials, and out-and-out bullying”). Perhaps you need to learn that difference between a fact and an opinion. Your arguments are the same tripe thrown about by Mitchell, Hadelman, Erlichman et al back in the day.

I did criticize MP for his “confirmation” of the quotes about Hahn not actually confirming the quotes about Hahn. But your right, where the anonymous source call Hahn vindictive, that is opinion.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 04:31 PM ET

awould's avatar

The conlcusion to his article seemed much more soft than his initial stance, partially because of the sources, named and unnamed, that he quoted.

I think his initial stance was changed by the new information he gleaned from the people he was able to speak with.

Posted by awould on 07/15/14 at 04:33 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

ugh, sorry “you’re” not “your.”

Really wish we had an edit function

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 04:34 PM ET

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I just can’t believe that there are actually people who re so think skinned they can’t accept criticism of Ken Holland.  You could insult their family, defecate on their desk, anything, but once you question Ken Holland you have crossed the line.  This same attitude goes for the media as well.  It’s ok to ask the powers that be why weaknesses are not addressed, why the GM’s favorite pets get re-signed at the expense of the prospects.  Why the Wings are hot and cold towards their own prospects etc.  This is why I can’t take their articles seriously, they genuflect whenever Ken Holland comes into the room and their pro-Wings bias is obvious.  Ansar Khan is reticent to criticize the Wings because of their track record of success?  Thanks, I’ll get my Wings news from out of state media scribes and wait to get them confirmed by the Wings press releases.  Sad state of affairs when we the fans can’t question the direction of the team or management’s performance.

Posted by bababooey on 07/15/14 at 04:34 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Sad state of affairs when we the fans can’t question the direction of the team or management’s performance.

Can you point me to the post where that was said?

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/15/14 at 04:43 PM ET

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Sad state of affairs when we the fans can’t question the direction of the team or management’s performance.

That’s not the issue. The issue is how naive people are when it comes to this. A private company controls what is released… no kidding. You don’t own the Detroit Red Wings and the GM doesn’t report to you, so why would they let you lambaste him?

Posted by weswolverine on 07/15/14 at 04:48 PM ET

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That’s not the issue. The issue is how naive people are when it comes to this. A private company controls what is released… no kidding. You don’t own the Detroit Red Wings and the GM doesn’t report to you, so why would they let you lambaste him?

Posted by weswolverine on 07/15/14 at 04:48 PM ET

Because as journalists, it’s the beat reporters’ responsibility to be watchdogs. It’s their responsibility to ask the tough questions and get answers to those questions. When the diggers don’t ask WHY Dan Cleary was re-signed or WHY Kyle Quincey was re-signed, they’re not doing the job their job.

Posted by imagolddinosaur on 07/15/14 at 04:52 PM ET

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When the diggers don’t ask WHY Dan Cleary was re-signed or WHY Kyle Quincey was re-signed, they’re not doing the job their job.

That’s not for us to decide that’s for their boss to decide. If you don’t like what you are reading, stop buying the Detroit Free Press or whatever other newspaper you want. Boycott is the best way to make change. If you are truely pissed with the Dan Cleary signing, don’t buy tickets, don’t buy jerseys, don’t buy the TV package. Stop watching them! It’ll change in a hurry, i guarantee it.

This is all besides the point though, if you think the Wings or any other professional sports franchise doesn’t control the media, you’re nuts. They spend big money on this.

Posted by weswolverine on 07/15/14 at 05:06 PM ET

Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit's avatar

Geroge I just think it’s hypocritical that a site that got famous off it’s against the grain, abrasive, borderline offensive (i mean that in a good way) Blog entries(Chief), is now surprised it’s developed a fan-base of similar taste.

Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 04:19 PM ET

I read more than one publication(mainstream? legit?)that contain comments from Wings fans(Detroit News, Freep, M-live, TSN, WIIM, ect..) Most of the comments at these sites lean towards what is here. It’s not news that many other fans are upset with the direction the Organization has taken.

Looks like the average(normal)fan, (one that does not frequent KK or A2Y or The Malik Report) is feeling a bit betrayed. Similar comments at many other sites.

We’re all in the same boat. We like winning, but, have been Loyal through horrible times. All we want is some truth, not the same old Company Line. No surprises here.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 07/15/14 at 05:09 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

We’re all in the same boat. We like winning, but, have been Loyal through horrible times. All we want is some truth, not the same old Company Line. No surprises here.
Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!
Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 07/15/14 at 05:09 PM ET

Amen sista!

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 05:16 PM ET

calquake's avatar

And again, I do not want to hear that other GMs are even worse. I do not want to compare our great franchise to the likes of Florida or Islanders. I do not want to accept mediocrity.

Posted by VPalmer on 07/15/14 at 04:18 PM ET

You appear to be speaking as if you have a choice.  You or myself or anyone else inside of this blog have no power whatsoever over the Wings decisions.  They are a business.  Their job is to make money.  The only way to affect change is by not spending your dollars on their product.  No amount of complaining or gnashing of teeth will change anything.  Mediocrity may come but there is nothing you can do about it.

Posted by calquake on 07/15/14 at 05:25 PM ET

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It would be great to get the tough questions answered by people in the know.
Dont for one minute think thats going to happen for anyone who is constantly insulting the individuals or the organization.
It just dosent work that way, Im in sales and if you are rude or mean spirited I dont have to give you a better deal.
I read all of the people who were mentioned by the author and enjoy there work.
If some think its hostile here or no fun thats just the way of the blog.
There is no real accountability for the poster and many like any attention even bad attention.
Its not hard to weed out good posters and fans in fact they kind of do it themselves.
By the way great job on the coverage of the recent camp George

Posted by Fresnowingnut on 07/15/14 at 05:47 PM ET

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allegations can be false statements or perceived fact. if I say hahn is a great guy, does that make it true? could I be intentionally misleading you? could my perception be wrong based on one instance in which he had a bad day? could he treat me poorly because of something I said about him?

irresponsible blogger: The president is having an affair.

irresponsible blogger with an axe to grind: I just talked to someone who used to work in the federal government and visited the White House once. he confirmed my suspicion that the president is having an affair.

journalist: Faced with telephone tape recordings, emails, a blue dress with the president’s semen on it and other evidence, multiple unnamed senior White House officials have confirmed that the President had an affair.

They are all correct. At what point do you become a believer? if you hate what management has been doing you probably believe the first scenerio but that does not make it true. it only serves to support your biased opinion.

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 05:56 PM ET

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Can you point me to the post where that was said?

The gist of the whole article is that you tow the company line or get ostracized, no?  So it seems that fluff pieces are put out to stay on the team’s good side.  Ansar Khan thinks that the Wings winning record the last 20+yrs shields them from taking on any criticism.  I will say this, the ONLY thing the Red Wings have going for them is the winning, because their PR and their marketing and media strategies are awful.

Posted by bababooey on 07/15/14 at 06:11 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

I will only say a couple of things.

1.)  I have met Mike Petrella several times over various Herm 2 Hockeytown events and fund raisers, he is a good dude and everyone is better off for his extensive and untiring efforts, and those of others, which have been the most innovative and comical fund raising ideas I’ve ever seen.  I still have the “Bertuzzi Cuzzi” drink holder proudly on my wet bar.

2.)  Trying to run a blog day after day is a relentless, soul-sucking wench.

Every person who comments on here has wanted to vent about something that eventually gets the best of you, and some of you go on and on frequently.  I’d take what Mike says and tuck it in a mental corner, he has more intimate knowledge and experience in this topic than probably anyone else commenting here.  Regardless, I love Babcock’s interviews (or are they Blashill’s?)

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 07/15/14 at 06:14 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

allegations can be false statements or perceived fact. if I say hahn is a great guy, does that make it true? could I be intentionally misleading you? could my perception be wrong based on one instance in which he had a bad day? could he treat me poorly because of something I said about him?

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/15/14 at 05:56 PM ET

You still can’t tell the difference between an opinion and a fact.  If you say Hahn is a great guy that is your opinion. If you then go on to say you saw Hahn help a little old lady across the street that is a fact (that needs confirmation like all facts).

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 07/15/14 at 06:24 PM ET

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I find it hard to believe that there are six or seven TMR equivalents in Boston.  That city does not lust for hockey like Detroit does. 

Cotsonika would be my guess for this dude’s “Deep throat.” Who else is a national hockey writer with former professional ties to the team?

Posted by ianfdunham on 07/15/14 at 07:09 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Geroge I just think it’s hypocritical that a site that got famous off it’s against the grain, abrasive, borderline offensive (i mean that in a good way) Blog entries(Chief), is now surprised it’s developed a fan-base of similar taste.

Posted by Laran on 07/15/14 at 04:19 PM ET

The difference is us A2Y’ers, the 19 if you will, respect the Chief and do our damnedest to respect George and Paul. And to me it’s obvious which posters are part of the 19. While yes, it’s great the Malik Report brought a multitude of new posters to the site, they apparently have no respect for anyone but themselves. I personally read every TMR post but seldom comment because of the stupidity that has become the norm here. If all of those who continuously criticize George had the stones to make their own blog, maybe they’d actually realize the error of their trolling ways but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 07/15/14 at 07:21 PM ET

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Detroit has a weak sports ‘media’, this should shock no one. All of the ‘writers’ for the big 4 are essentially on their payroll because without the team allowing access they dont get paid. In actual markets (ie New York, Boston, Philly) they have a mix of mouthpieces but also people who ask real questions beyond, ‘what do you think you need to do to turn the power play around?’ and the coach will only answer ‘score more goals’ that shit would not fly there. This article is 100% on point. As far as hurling insults in the comments section ive absorbed my share on here and absorbed my share on twitter from hockey bloggers who’ve said im vile. It’s always curious when people post in an open forum like here or on twitter, you respond with an opinion they disagree with and they treat you like garbage. Uhhhh if you dont want to have a back and forth dont post comments and dont tweet, thats the whole idea.

Posted by brians neck on 07/15/14 at 08:06 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

here’s something for mid-summer, 19:

Relax.

and ...

L.G.R.W.


Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 07/15/14 at 08:41 PM ET

Jaromir Blogger's avatar

I thought Mike’s piece was long-winded but its essential point very simple, salient and reasonable: the Detroit sports media doesn’t ask the tough questions, but it would be nice if they did. I mean, does anyone here really disagree with that?

Thanks for taking the time to write this, Mike.

Posted by Jaromir Blogger on 07/15/14 at 10:21 PM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

i love the comments section here.  I love when some of the poncy intellectuals get into a hair-splitting contest.  Of course the great humour of the real 19 is the best part, but everyone is free to drop out of the silly heated stuff when they want.  Some people only speak arrogantly, and I am definitely one of those, but I don’t find anyone’s personal style too offensive.  It’s easy to skim certain things.
  The longer I read a thread the more stoked I am at the diversity of thoughtful opinion.  I often have a response in mind that I don’t write because 10 other views have blown my mind.
  I get why George gets tired of being harped at though.  The host should be sorta off-limits right?  Much as I think politeness is overrated.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 07/15/14 at 11:04 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

The host doesn’t have to be off-limits, but the parts where people who try to weigh in on the discussion are treated like pinatas for daring to disturb the social order, that’s not so much fun.

Sometimes I don’t get why people sign up to essentially respond to everything I do with, “AAASSSSSSSHOLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEE” but I know that it comes with the territory. Some of that has morphed into the similar response whenever the same four or five people aren’t pitching the same particularly acerbic, cynical and negative party line.

For every, “Dude, it’s great the way it is,” I’m getting four or five people saying, “it’s an animal house,” “It’s the Wild West,” “It’s one thing to have un-moderated comments, but it’s gone off the rails” or, “The worst part of your blog by far.”

Comments are indeed the lifeblood of a blog, but when you’re being informed by people and people in the media that your comments section is a turn-off, well, then some of y’all might be intruding on my livelihood, and when my intrinsic desire to give people a slightly less Lord of the Flies-style voice (that’s been the biggest reference in terms of how the comments section runs) meets my extrinsic desire to not scare people the *#$%@& away from reading the entries that I write to make a living.

This discussion isn’t going to move with lightning speed given that it’s the summer, but the comments about comments have been particularly revealing over all of a six-hour period, and that tells me that the status quo isn’t working for the community at large.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/15/14 at 11:17 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Hell, it’s Detroit, home of the Lions. The current troubles the Red Wings are experiencing are but a minor scrape to a Detroit media that has had to cover the near-death experience of the Lions franchise for so long now.

Very true, and while we question some of the moves by the Red Wings, there is always the Lions. A team which never goes anywhere but down. I suppose we should count our blessings as Red Wing fans, in spite of the Quincy and Cleary signings. It could be worse, but I certainly hope not.

Posted by bigfrog on 07/15/14 at 11:20 PM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

It wouldn’t bother me at all if you just straight deleted some comments.  That’s your prerogative if your blog is turning into what you don’t want it to.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 07/15/14 at 11:23 PM ET

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I like how the ones that are always causing the drama in the comments section, also happen to be the ones getting upset at George wanting to change the culture of this blog. It’s unfortunate that a select few of the posters here try to ruin the atmosphere. It’s fine to disagree, that’s what creates interesting discussion. The problem is some people don’t seem to realize how to have a civil debate over a topic they disagree on. I love this blog, but there are three or so posters I would like to personally take the ban-hammer to.


Keep on trucking George, some of us appreciate the effort you put into this thing. The ones that don’t should *#$%@& off and go comment somewhere else.

Posted by Vedeynevin on 07/16/14 at 01:27 AM ET

aaron in phoenix's avatar

“I can only speak for myself. As a beat writer, I report the news and keep opinions to a minimum—with the exception of reader Q and A. Opinion pieces are best left to columnists.”

Ansar Khan

This is the heart of the matter. The local columnists don’t write about the Wings. Sure, you’d get an article from Albom come playoff time, but the rest of the year, nothing. The beat writers do what they do, and keep the daily info coming, but leave out the opinions on the bigger picture.


There’s no conspiracy or “rule with an iron fist” coming from the organization. The local media needs to push the columnists to write about the Wings. Is the lack of attention due to complacency stemming from the teams success? I don’t know, but I really do miss reading Bruce McLeod’s columns.

The only criticism I have of TMR related to something this article brought up. It is the reporting of the exact same info from all of the beat reporters. Each one of their pieces is from the same conference call or scrum, quoting the exact same thing. I’d put a link to each one ie:

St James, Khan, Plieness report:

As for the comments section here, while certainly far, far, better than YouTube or yahoo articles, it still warrants the same advise: reader beware.

Posted by aaron in phoenix from Section 102 on 07/16/14 at 01:53 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I think that’s a big issue as well.

The elephant in the room that nobody has talked about media-wise is the fact that the cuts to MSM outlets have yielded single beat writers, at least in hockey.

Back in the day, and in bigger U.S. and Canadian markets, there’s someone who “reports,” and there’s at least one person who writes notebooks and offers commentary and/or analysis.

To some extent, the beat writers are fulfilling their specific job description as news conduits. They’re telling us what happened and offering player and coach reaction. When there’s a transaction, they get the GM to weigh in.

The value judgments or the lack thereof aggravate us, and the lack of, “Here’s what happened, and here’s why it is good/bad/happy/sad/indifferent” coverage leaves us wanting more.

I miss Bruce’s columns, I miss Dave Waddell writing sports for the Windsor Star, I’m happy when the Star allows Bob Duff to do more than the, “He’s from Windsor!” angle or when Fox Sports Detroit pulls Dana Wakiji from the Pistons-Tigers-and-everything-else beat to do Wings stuff because she’s passionate about hockey. I wish that John Niyo, Bob Wojnowski, Pat Caputo, Evil Drew Sharp, etc. wrote more than one out of ten columns about the Red Wings, and that it wasn’t Lions-Lions-Lions on both the Flagship Station and in the papers.

The demand *is* there, but few outlets seem to care.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/16/14 at 02:07 AM ET

Jaromir Blogger's avatar

Why not delete the comments section and add a separate forum page? That way, people can only delve into discussions if they feel like it and you can have threads dedicated to specific subjects..

Posted by Jaromir Blogger on 07/16/14 at 06:55 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Can you point me to the post where that was said?

The gist of the whole article is that you tow the company line or get ostracized, no?  So it seems that fluff pieces are put out to stay on the team’s good side

That’s all well and good, but you insinuated that we, the fans, cannot speak out against the team, which is simply not true. I think just perusing A2Y or TMR shows just how untrue of a statement it is.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/16/14 at 09:14 AM ET

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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.