Stink in Motown

stink

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.

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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.

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SCRIBBLING FOOL

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?

THE HOUSEMEN

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.

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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.

TOUGH GIG

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.

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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.


  • pmg2

    klowe wrote:

    I won six Stanley Cups.
    I think I know a thing or two about custom made suits.
    We stay at the Hyatt in Detroit.
    I wish there was a Ritz in Minnisota.
    Bucky found a great place for wings yesterday, man crispy and hot.
    Last night I ordered a pizza and put all my rings on. ALL SIX RINGS.
    I sat there thinking about my rings.
    Those guys in Springfield don’t have any rings, but there is a Hyatt in Springfield.
    Today I’m going to put my rings on and order a Little Caesars pizza.
    Caesar doesn’t have no six rings I can tell you that much.
    I like expensive red wine with my wings and pizza, it gives me class.
    Sometimes I think about hockey.
    I look great in my new suit.
    My hair looks great.
    It’s hard to show off hockey genius when I don’t have my SIX RINGS on.
    How can I show the hockey world how smart I am without ALL SIX RINGS on MY BOTH HANDS.
    I’m glad Tambellini is here, now me and MacT can go shopping for ties.
    Sometimes I think about Hockey and you just can’t teach that.

    klowe — nice man ! nice ! I needed a chuckle on a dreary Sunday morning. Cheer is good medicine for us that are suffering.
    But,…..gotta admit, it's not actual reality. I don't like some of Klowe's decisions, and I DO think he's got to get some aspects in order within his own house. Like overpaying "some" guys too much based on their output for "too little" a timeframe. That's my biggest beef.

    hope you enjoy watching them lose today,….again ! Luckliy I can't watch due to work commitments. My good luck I guess.
    pmg2

  • Milli

    RobinB wrote:

    Milli wrote:
    Do you think if Klo or Katz thought this team was gonna be this BRUTAL, they would have promoted MacT to a safe position last summer to spare him from the enevitable axe if this continues?
    That’s kind of a bizarre take, isn’t it? First, do you think the team has been “BRUTAL?” I see them right about where they I thought they would be — hanging around 6th-10th and teasing everybody right until the 82nd game.

    Robin, Let me rephrase. They (mac and Klo) hyped this team up big time in the summer, did they believe (along with alot of others) that this group really would contend? And, if they thought that there was a chance of a season like this, would they have parachuted MacT into a safe position so as to avoid the embarassement of him having to resign or get axed?

  • Robin – nice article; I for one had no idea that the game story had to be filed so quickly.

    Which of the four defensemen do you move, Robin? Personally, I think Gilbert's the guy I'd be looking at (and I like Gilbert) if Grebeshkov can be locked up at a lower rate, just to save a little cap space.

    Everybody else – what's with the "Gagners a bum, this team stinks" nonsense? Yes, this team is not doing well, but they're in that spread of teams from 5th-13th separated by 6 points total.

    As for Gagner, he's 19. Look up Olli Jokinen's career stats (for example) sometime and check out what he was doing at 22.

  • rindog

    @ RobinB:

    I hear ya!

    That is why Iwrote:

    rindog wrote:

    I am thinking it would take about $5 million per year to get him though. Even if we get rid of Grebs, can we really afford that much on our D and still get the top line forward that we DESPERATELY need?
    I have resigned myself to the fact that we might have to go the way of a Marik Malik or a Paul Ranger to fill the need that RB talks about???

  • RobinB

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    I think it's laughable some people are willing to give up on a 19-year-old or point the finger at him as a key reason why the team as struggled so badly at times. If a teenager makes your top five list of reasons why things are going badly, the team isn't very good.

    Like you, I move Gilbert. I'm not as impressed by him as many, although I'll certainly concede he has some attributes that give him market value and, thus, might get the Oilers something. There's got to be a GM out there who loves all those second assists, right?

    I don't think most people realize (or care) about the hair-on-fire existence of a beat writer. It's not difficult to produce witty prose when you've got time to sit back, contemplate and actually craft a 700-word story. It's another world to hit deadline when a game has turned completely in the last five or 10 minutes and you're staring at a blank screen.
    Fans and readers want accuracy, insight and great quotes in stories, and they should, but that's easier said than done sometimes.
    When you get it right, it's a great rush. Then again, there are many times when the best thing about the story is that it's done and on time.

  • Deno

    Why do the Oilers continue to not show up. Its one thing to get beaten by a better team but when there is no effort, no attempt to even try, thats diconcerting. Something needs to change. What exactly I don't know.

  • Rick

    RobinB wrote:

    First, do you think the team has been “BRUTAL?” I see them right about where they I thought they would be — hanging around 6th-10th and teasing everybody right until the 82nd game.

    Their position in the standings may not be too much of a surprise, it's how they got there that is. There is no cohesiveness or consistancy and that is a bigger disappointment than anything else.

    No one enjoys losing but there are ways to lose well, this team hasn't even figured out how to win well.

    Hands up by everyone who has been following how this team has played this year that finds the number of losses they have to be less surprising than the number of wins they have. Actually reverse that, there would be less counting on the tally.

  • Rick

    Rick wrote:

    No one enjoys losing but there are ways to lose well, this team hasn’t even figured out how to win well.

    oops that should have said;

    … this team hasn’t even figured out how to lose well nevermind win well.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Great job Robin….re: the TV guys (I only caught part of the game on the tube, but that was enough).

    I understand their job, and who (at least in part) pays them.

    But does it really do justice to the fans, who (you would think there would be some) stuck through this debacle of mediocre proportions to insult their intelligence? And/or to look like complete morons with stupid grins on their faces.

    The sighs on the radio were DEAFENING – why can't the TV guys call a spade a spade? [Though I guess the obvious answer is the TV crew the oilers get has gotta be among the worst anywhere.]

  • APE

    Great article Robin. I also listened to you and Gregor talk with Hitch on coaching 101 and I must say that I could listen to him explain coaching for hours. I found myself sitting in my running car in my parkade for a good 20 mins. Listening to the way Hitch explains things compared to Mac T dancing around questions and making intelligent yet smart ass remarks was a breath of fresh air.

  • Colin

    Great article Robin, an interesting (if small) look at sports journalism. I'd like to see more little snippets like that, its always been something I've been interested in.

  • @ RobinB:

    It's good to be reminded from time to time of the realities facing a beat writer – you've commented on it before, but the exact details help drive the point home. I suppose afternoon games must be a welcome change for folks in your profession, yes?

  • Zamboni Driver wrote:

    Though I guess the obvious answer is the TV crew the oilers get has gotta be among the worst anywhere.

    I don't know – as a guy who watches most of his games online (because you can't watch Oilers games in BC most of the time) I'd say the Oilers broadcast crew is middle of the pack. Some of the American cities are great, while others are ridiculous.

  • RobinB

    Zamboni Driver wrote:

    [Though I guess the obvious answer is the TV crew the oilers get has gotta be among the worst anywhere.]

    Not even close in terms of being, to use your term, "the worst."
    First, you have to accept and understand what their job is. It's easy to criticize team broadcasters and rightsholders as homers, but they aren't trying to sell themselves as a critical voice or objective observers. They are helping to deliver and sell a product — the Oilers. Rightsholders will always lean toward the positive. That's what's expected of them.

    To get all over them for not "telling it like it is" is no different than criticizing a newspaper beat guy for not being positive enough (although there's people out there who believe we're too positive as it is). Everybody has a different job to do.

  • RobinB

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Yes, they are, although if there's a game in another city the next day, the bus still leaves within that time frame.
    The good thing about that is that if it's early enough, you can actually fly to the next city and be at the hotel in time to phone back to Edmonton and make any changes or correct errors in the gamer that appears the next day — NEVER assume your desk will catch an error.

    Once (no lie), I caught a typo on a flight from Montreal to Detroit and phoned the desk as soon as the plane landed and before we even got on the bus to go to the hotel.
    I'd written something along the lines of "Weight found Guerin at the top of the circle and hit him with a perfectly placed pass. Guerin cut to the middle and buried it from high in the slut."
    The story was on the page and ready to go because the desk hadn't caught it. "Slot" read much better.

  • Deep Oil

    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:

    This team is a joke.The EIG sold them at the right time they must be laughung all the way to the bank.Does Daryl Katz even exist? he had one press conference and since then he has been the invisable man,maybe he will start listing when Rexall place is half full.Has kevin Lowe given up, know that he is President and does not have to be held accountable? Can someone, anyone with in the Oilers organization explain to us fans what the hell is going on and when are they going to do something or are we expected to pay and watch this sad excuse for a hockey team?

    EIG sold the property prior to the September meltdown,
    if they stayed in cash – hooray…. Katz is even with the falling of the team value and increase of the American dollar it is a net financial wash…

    Daryl Katz is not Gene Melnyk – this is Kevin Lowe's
    Kingdom with DK checking in on his cross branding takeover…. business as usual

    (edited by WG)

    The true test of Oilers season ticketholders and sell outs (a Canadian given until recently – Ottawa)… will be next year with Alberta finally catching the economic cold from the mortgage meltdown of American banks lending money to anyone with or without a pulse….

    Maybe they will have to hire Eric Upton back for SALES,
    a term that LaForge has not needed to understand as he has focusses more on marketing with a full house…

    LaForge has added responsibilities to keep him on now that he has the CrackerKatz to manage – maybe a lateral move when his Oil contract is up….. hoping.

    KLowe has done whatever executive has desired – insulate yourself from blame in case of disaster – hired Tambo to deflect and look after his mistakes.
    DK is too much in love with his man crush from the 80's
    to let KLOWE go – result: gravy train for 1.5mm per season with a raise in the future….

    Oilers are arrogant when it comes to selling tickets,
    question is what is Katz' business plan when there are 7000 people in the building after not wanting to put up with this crap…. with companies looking at their bottom line at the end of this quarter – things will be much different and the Oil will have to start accomodating the customer – three bags full sir.

    Question is if the fans are not paying for the arena – it probably wont get built – this means the team must be a winning proposition to maintain the demand for sold out NHL hockey and transfer this demand into monies (PERSONAL SEAT LICENSES) when the RX2 is constructed under the MANDEL watch (lobbying) to various parking lot factions that have positioned themselves based on relationships and back room
    deals. In some USA cases the personal seat license is renewable after 10 – 12 years – providing a re-occurring revenue stream that only succeeds if the team is a winner….

  • Deep Oil

    RobinB wrote:

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Yes, they are, although if there’s a game in another city the next day, the bus still leaves within that time frame.
    The good thing about that is that if it’s early enough, you can actually fly to the next city and be at the hotel in time to phone back to Edmonton and make any changes or correct errors in the gamer that appears the next day — NEVER assume your desk will catch an error.
    Once (no lie), I caught a typo on a flight from Montreal to Detroit and phoned the desk as soon as the plane landed and before we even got on the bus to go to the hotel.
    I’d written something along the lines of “Weight found Guerin at the top of the circle and hit him with a perfectly placed pass. Guerin cut to the middle and buried it from high in the slut.”
    The story was on the page and ready to go because the desk hadn’t caught it. “Slot” read much better.

    I was reading the 10 ten sex scandals in the sun today…speaking of sluts…. maybe the team needs to hit a massage parlor like all the NBA teams do… when the Vikings held the LOVE Boat – they went onto win the next 7 of 9………….

  • Deep Oil

    APE wrote:

    Game day b!tches!

    1) Afternoon game
    2) Against the Wild
    3) Blown out last game – unprepared again

    Add all this up and hope for an overtime time win or loss and give the badly needed points to a division rival – with MACT saying that they tried hard.

  • Deep Oil

    RobinB wrote:

    Zamboni Driver wrote:
    [Though I guess the obvious answer is the TV crew the oilers get has gotta be among the worst anywhere.]
    Not even close in terms of being, to use your term, “the worst.”
    First, you have to accept and understand what their job is. It’s easy to criticize team broadcasters and rightsholders as homers, but they aren’t trying to sell themselves as a critical voice or objective observers. They are helping to deliver and sell a product — the Oilers. Rightsholders will always lean toward the positive. That’s what’s expected of them.
    To get all over them for not “telling it like it is” is no different than criticizing a newspaper beat guy for not being positive enough (although there’s people out there who believe we’re too positive as it is). Everybody has a different job to do.

    Lets set the record straight here.

    Rogers is not the rightholders it is the wholesaler and provider to the Oils who schill the time on their own.
    Have you ever wondered how the flames get screwed on RSW
    with so much OIL on this channel….

    Rexall Sports buys the time and sells the ads on their own. The Oil employ Quinn and DeBrusk meaning that the company doctrine is translated directly to their paycheque – case in radioland point…. Stauffer wanted MacT fired last year – now he wants him to "TRY HARDER" direct quote – he even said the trainers have to "TRY HARDER"…. OMG.

    Everbody has a different job to do – to whom is their master is somewhat veiled in corporate blending of broadcasting and promoting – to which Allan Watt is under full control with Don Metz from Insight / Aquila.

    You want positive – WIN – otherwise you are just making excuses for incompetency, corporate incest and declining balance sheet for the King with no clothes.

  • Deep Oil

    APE wrote:

    Great article Robin. I also listened to you and Gregor talk with Hitch on coaching 101 and I must say that I could listen to him explain coaching for hours. I found myself sitting in my running car in my parkade for a good 20 mins. Listening to the way Hitch explains things compared to Mac T dancing around questions and making intelligent yet smart ass remarks was a breath of fresh air.

    note to APE – don't be a monkey, next time go to justagame.ca and listen to the podcast when it suits you better – unless of course you were drinking CROWN (DEEP OILS CHOICE) or BOMBAY (JIM ROMES CHOICE) or LIMOS (Gregors choice) in the parkade with a friend.

  • RobinB

    Deep Oil wrote:

    Lets set the record straight here.

    Already did that with: "First, you have to accept and understand what their job is. It’s easy to criticize team broadcasters and rightsholders as homers, but they aren’t trying to sell themselves as a critical voice or objective observers. They are helping to deliver and sell a product — the Oilers. Rightsholders will always lean toward the positive. That’s what’s expected of them."

    As for your details, fine, but the simple point is fans expecting rightsholders to lead the critical charge in the name of telling it like it is are barking up the wrong tree. Rightsholders, be it radio or TV, are extensions of the team and are expected to conduct themselves as such.

  • RobinB

    @ Milli:
    There are countless examples of homerism to the extreme.

    One that sticks out in my mind happened many years ago in Buffalo in the game Georges Laraque beat the snot out of Rob Ray so bad I actually felt sorry for Ray. It was, you might recall, the first game between the teams after Ray had turned down Laraque in Edmonton, saying he "just wanted to play," before he went out and roughed up Weight and Guerin.

    Anyway, I've always enjoyed the call of Buffalo's Rick Jeannerete, but if you listen to how he calls that fight (example on YouTube) compared to how Rod Phillips called it and what actually happened, it's stunning and laughable.

    Jeanneret's giving it the "And they're going at it back and fourth" routine like it was actually a fight instead of a beat down. Right, Laraque and Ray were going at it like Lee Harvey Oswald on JFK "went at it."

  • Jack Bauer

    I found that the Chicago TV crew were pretty awesome. I watched them online for our ppv game and they were knowledgeable and exciting to listen to.

    Our Sportsnet crew is pretty bad. Im not sure about other markets but the only crew ive seen that is worse in Canada is Calgary.

  • Dropping Deuces

    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:

    This team is a joke.The EIG sold them at the right time they must be laughung all the way to the bank.Does Daryl Katz even exist? he had one press conference and since then he has been the invisable man,maybe he will start listing when Rexall place is half full.Has kevin Lowe given up, know that he is President and does not have to be held accountable? Can someone, anyone with in the Oilers organization explain to us fans what the hell is going on and when are they going to do something or are we expected to pay and watch this sad excuse for a hockey team?

    What is the owner supposed to do? Start telling them whoto play and who to trade. Ask Tampa Bay how that is working out.

  • RobinB

    CURSE CONTINUES . . .
    Just a tidbit about today's loss to Minnesota. As everybody knows, it's the Oilers ninth straight loss at the Xcel Energy Center.
    The last time the Oilers won there was Jan. 16, 2007, which just happens to be the last road game I ever covered on the beat. Coincidence? You tell me.