Canucks and Beyond

Media Matters

06/21/2008 at 4:21pm EDT

The coverage of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft has featured a small nightmare for those media members covering it for newspapers and the internet. And that would be most of them.

With the exception of the Movie People*—who are no doubt thrilled to have zero problems getting uninterrupted shots of Sara Orlesky on the air—everything else broadcasting out of Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place has run into the brick wall of the building’s badass, non-existent wifi signal.

Hockey coverage in 1998 must have sucked, because this has been a massive pain in the a$$.

George Richards at On Frozen Blog in the Miami Herald was feeling pretty gracious about it this morning when he remarked, “I know a lot of people out there don’t want to read about stuff like this, but it’s really hard to do your job when tools you’ve been promised cannot be delivered.”

Well, I think people do care, actually, because it affects everyone. Hockey fans most of all.

See, I have a theory about the NHL Entry Draft and it goes something like this. The event is about two things:

Invite a bunch of teenagers, a thousand guys in overpriced suits, and a lot of coffee vendors into one great big building, and expect the suit-guys to pick their favorite teen-guys and dress them in their local hockey jerseys.

Tell everyone about it.

That’s pretty much it. Invite everyone, set up some tables and then make sure the media can report what happens.

Draft day is like a million dollar game of “dress-up” with your favorite Barbie doll. (Sorry, boys, but that’s the flashback I get every time I watch it.) Career Barbie gets to wear a Blue Jackets jersey(!) a Panthers jersey(!) a Capitals jersey(!)... and so on.

And the Movie People play the game as “He’s going to be great playing for [insert NHL team name here]!” while the rest of us watch these future NHLers posing in their future paycheques.

It’s fun and I enjoy it. But geezus… this is 2008 and I want to read about it, too. As soon as it happens.

“Tell everyone about it” is not just about television or radio or newspapers or the internet—it’s about all of those things, and from journalists from all over North America. It was Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune that had my favorite line on this fustercluck today:

Sorry about the lack of posts last night, the wireless internet here inside Scotiabank Place worked about as well as a squirrel running a car engine on one of those exercise wheels - it showed signs of life, but in the end it just didn’t have enough in the tank to get the car moving.

And today isn’t much better for anyone, either.

Last night the KK Liveblog of the Draft was a bit of fun, and the total website stats for the day were substantial—some 528,897 page views, to be exact. Those are some decent numbers in the NHL’s off-season, but the point here is that such traffic on just one hockey blog demonstrates a serious interest in news being told beyond the television screens.**

So: Who’s to blame?

Most would say the NHL, I suppose, though maybe that’s not entirely fair. For one thing, technical glitches happen and none of us can escape them. But, wow… a major media event where 95% of the media (just a guess) can’t do their job properly is a pretty big “glitch.”***

George Richards of the Miami Herald went on to say this morning that what happened was “completely unacceptable” and I can’t help but agree. But was it avoidable? You would think so. After all, when is the last time you remember the wifi access not working at some place like your local Starbucks?

Alas, maybe they can host the Draft next time. As Erin and Patrick could no doubt attest to, at least the coffee would have been better.
*Movie People is a term that I first read in a John Sanford series, describing how the St. Paul, Minnesota police would refer to the TV reporters as opposed to other journalists. The term has crossed my mind in each of the rare occasions I’ve been in the same room as the NHL’s television people. One day while bored and watching a reporter for a Canadian sports network doing her makeup and fixing herself for the camera from the waist up (she was wearing an old pair of jeans that viewers at home wouldn’t see) before a press conference, I asked her if she’d ever heard the expression before. She hadn’t but she wasn’t offended by the term, either. After all, it’s hellishly-accurate.

** I also want to apologize for letting those readers down by not being able to bring the insights of Erin Nicks and Patrick Williams who were the ones originally scheduled to liveblog the event from their seats on press row, not me. I know they were looking forward to it as much as readers were.

*** I’ve heard that the IT people at Scotiabank have been working incredibly hard trying to fix this, and are apologizing to everyone left-right-and-center. Obviously they didn’t intend for this mess to happen and they’re doing their best in bad circumstances. It’s just bloody frustrating for everyone involved.

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