I almost crapped myself outside Joe Louis Arena one time, but never inside it like the Edmonton Oilers did during the first 18 minutes of an 8-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings today.
My near-movement came several years back courtesy of a street person looking for money. With hand extended, the hulking bum sprang from behind a pillar under an overpass near The Joe as Boris Mironov and I were waiting for a taxi. He wanted Mironov’s purple snakeskin shoes.
The Oilers, meanwhile, soiled themselves good and plenty in the Murder City, spotting the Red Wings a 5-0 lead by the 18:02 mark of the opening period, making it an easy day for the newspaper guys and a tough afternoon for their broadcast buddies with Sportsnet.
Which brings me, albeit awkwardly, to some thoughts about the distinctly different roles of the many people who travel with the Oilers under the vague umbrella of “media.”
DECISIVE IS GOOD
In the decade I travelled with the team, days like today always meant an easy write and a relaxed the trip to the airport, even if the team was mad as hell and everybody had a look on their face like somebody had farted in the bus.
I never cared who won the game — really. Given that travelling writers usually had just 30 minutes from the time the dressing room doors opened after a game to get our interviews, go through our notes, write our stories, pack up and get to the bus, my only wish was that one of the teams take control of the game — the earlier, the better. Selfish? Sure.
Today’s can of corn was what we used to call a laugher. When it’s 3-0 less than six minutes in and 5-0 before the first intermission, you’ve got that baby written by the start of the second period. Leave three or four gaps for quotes, be ready to tweak a little if the game swings wildly or somebody breaks a leg and kick back. Start on that “Kevin Lowe — Dynasty Builder” feature. In a way, it’s almost too bad it was wasted on an afternoon game.
You didn’t often get a 5-0 bulge to work with like hall-of-famer Jim Matheson did today. And it’s welcome, believe me.
More games than not, you have to wait until the final 10 minutes for the game to swing one way or another, or you’re going to overtime or a shootout. Other times, you’re deleting the 500 words you wrote when it was 3-0 because it’s now 3-3 with 48 seconds to go.
That’s hair-on-fire stuff, and I don’t have any to spare after climbing aboard the bus still smoking so many times over the years, much to the amusement of Rod Phillips. And the bus doesn’t wait, like the time Kevin Lowe, sour after a loss, left me at the United Center in Chicago.
I can’t speak for Matheson or anybody else, but if the game was 2-0 for the Oilers after a period, I wanted it 3-0 or 4-0 for them as soon as possible so I could get started. If it was 2-0 for the Red Wings, well, same thing.
The “somebody decide this thing before the final 35 seconds” prayer was most needed for west coast games, where the first version of your game story is due at the buzzer. Yes, at the buzzer. What better way to come off as an illiterate buffoon?
It’s a different story for the broadcast rightsholders, and while I poke fun at them more than I should, I felt for play-by-play man Kevin Quinn and analyst Louie DeBrusk today.
A blowout is great for Quinn and DeBrusk if the right team is ahead, but if the Oilers are only blowing, like they did in the first period, it makes for a long afternoon. Today, given the Oilers have already been smoked 9-2 by Chicago and 10-2 by Buffalo this season, certainly qualifies.
It had to be tough to sound positive after Dwayne Roloson gave Dan Clearly a hack between the legs 42 seconds in, prompting the Red Wings to spend most of the rest of the day returning the favour by sacking the Oilers on the score board.
As members of the rightsholders broadcast, Quinn and DeBrusk are looking for positive spin. That’s their job. They don’t hold themselves out as objective observers. So, while the beat guys are merrily tapping away when it’s 5-0, KQ and Louie have their work cut out.
Same with Sports Central host Evanka Osmak, who said during the first intermission: “Hopefully, the Oilers can get on the board and climb out of that 5-0 deficit.” Or not.
With it 6-0 through 40 minutes, Quinn and DeBrusk didn’t have the option of lamenting yet another brutal start by the Good Guys or pointing out to Oilers defencemen that moving your feet in pursuit of an opposing forward cutting to the net is a good thing.
They’re left looking for the silver lining. That means talking about “winning” the third period. About building momentum going into Minnesota. About how good Jeff Deslauriers looked in relief of Dwayne Roloson — which he did, compared, to ahem, his last bit of mop-up duty.
At least the Oilers gave them something to worth with when Zack Stortini, Dustin Penner and Marc Pouliot narrowed it to 6-3. Quinn’s teeth were still vibrating from those goals when he said: “If you want to look at things as half full, you’ve got to look at this third period.”
Half full of what? Which brings me back to Boris and I . . .
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.