June 18 2009 03:16PM
Short of a Stanley Cup final, covering the NHL Entry Draft used to be the highlight of the season during my newspaper days.
Likewise, between chasing down trade rumours, trying to get the inside dope on who was talking to whom and buzz about top prospects, it was obvious fans couldn't get enough of what scribes would tap out.
Update: By popular demand, we're taking donations to fund
Brownlee's Gregor's trip... When you're donating, feel free to suggest what he should do while he's out there. Just click the orange pill thingy.
I can't imagine fan interest, particularly in puck hotbeds like Edmonton, has waned since the days when I'd jet to Toronto or Miami or Nashville, but it's getting more difficult for fans to get their fix -- at least as delivered by their local beat men, the people who cover the team on a daily basis.
Tough economic times have newspapers, like a lot of businesses, slashing budgets. Compounding matters, newspapers have been dying a slow death for years now -- the reasons are many.
The result? For the Entry Draft in Montreal, Oilers fans won't have anybody from either daily newspaper documenting the day. There won't be any inside stuff from Jim Matheson, who knows the Oilers better than anybody on the planet, unless he picks up the telephone.
Instead of Matheson's insights or the acidic sarcasm of a Rob Tychkowski over at The Sun, fans here will have to get their dope on the Oilers from the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun or the Montreal Gazette. Well, that or from TSN or Sportsnet.
There might be a local sports director from Edmonton who grabs the trip as a junket and does a few stand-ups to justify the expense -- maybe Dave Mitchell can do a piece where he pretends to be drafted -- but the newsprint guys are getting shutout as far as I know.
Because of Bob MacKenzie and Darren Dreger, national outlets like TSN are second-to-none in terms of big-picture blanket coverage, but they've got their Blackberries buzzing with 30 teams to cover. Their focus is not the Oilers.
The problem with newspapers, of course, is they don't hit the doorstep until the next morning, so everything they have to offer is old news by the time the black-and-white finds the step.
But even the dustiest old daily has one of those interweb sites now, where updates come be made within minutes of a player being selected or a trade being completed. There's value in that, no?
Wouldn't it make sense to have a beat guy there? Apparently not, because I'm hearing scribes from Vancouver aren't going, either.
You'd think with Edmonton, with the Oilers having a top-10 pick, a new GM, a new coaching staff and the team reportedly in the hunt for sulking Dany Heatley, there'd be plenty of angles worth pursuing. Anybody with half-a-brain can see that. But, nooooooooooooooo.
Instead, we get The Journal sending columnist Dan Barnes to Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, where he's expected to produce for the entire CanWest chain of newspapers. Barnes will do a helluva job, and Ethan Moreau is getting the King Clancy Memorial Award, so...
Even so, if there's a choice to be made by the bean-counters, and it's obvious there is -- Jason Gregor broke the news about Moreau and I did a follow-up piece here Tuesday, so it's old news -- isn't the Entry Draft and everything that comes with it more compelling to fans? Of course it is.
That's one of many problems with my beloved old hard copy in newsrooms across the country and the continent -- the bean-counters call the shots, not the editorial staff. Who cares if Matheson can provide the best insight? How much does it cost?
That's one of the reasons newspapers, despite some blips of recovery in a time of declining circulation, are half on the slab right now and websites like Oilersnation are making inroads.
Now, if cheap screw Wanye will only get off his wallet and provide yours truly with a travel budget, we'll really be on to something.
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.