Last night the Sportsnet panel took some time out of its busy schedule (not even during an Oiler game) to mock Ryan Smyth and his tearful goodbye to the city of Edmonton, the city that he adopted and whose citizens treated him like one of their own. It was a touching moment to remind you that Sportsnet doesn’t even have the decency to treat your emotions with a modicum of respect.
To many Oiler fans under the age of 30, Smyth’s departure is one of their saddest hockey memories. It signalled the death of hope. It was over money and pride and, in the end, everybody was worse off for it. This very website was born out of the frustration, sadness, and anger that Smyth was traded. For me personally, I remember that day vividly even still.
The exchange can be seen on the video below or, if you prefer, via the transcript below that I’ve provided.
Colby Armstrong never stuck anywhere long enough for people to care when he got traded. -bm pic.twitter.com/OQN6FqJ3t4
— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) March 3, 2017
Armstrong: He leaves and goes from Edmonton to the Islanders
the year before. I’m with Atlanta, now play him the next year. He’s in Colorado
and we’re all sitting on the bench and he lines up for the faceoff in front of
us and the whole bench at the same time: [whimpers]. SIXTEEN GUYS! We’re making
him [inaudible] and crying. Then one guy goes [Voice strained as if crying] “Bringin
the Cup back to Edmonton”
Marek: No! That’s relentless. This is the video that Colby
was referencing of Trade Deadline 2007. [Video of Smyth press conference plays]
Whitney: [Guffaws] Bring the Cup back to Edmonton? What did
he think, Dennis Potvin and Billy Smith were still there? The Islanders were
gonna win the Cup? [Mocking Smyth and Gretzky’s crying] I told Horcoff I wouldn’t
Look. I’m no choir boy when it comes to Hockey opinions. I have some strong ones. I’m loud about them, and I don’t typically feel bad about expressing them. However, this story and the insistence that it was in any way, shape, or form “funny” bothers me. This isn’t funny. This was one of the most singularly painful days in Oiler history over the last 25 years.
I understand that Colby Armstrong and Ryan Whitney lack the empathy, intelligence, and general human decency to recognize that for a great number of Edmontonians, Oiler fans, and ultimately Sportsnet viewers (because let’s face it, the goons at Corporate don’t give a squat about anything else), carry strong emotions about both that moment in their history and that player in particular. These guys have shown absolutely nothing in their professional careers as players or as broadcasters that would suggest that they have an ounce of class.
I mean, if it wasn’t bad enough that Whitney’s unreliable feet caused me grief as I powered through the tail end of his forgettable NHL career, now I have to listen to him mock not just Ryan Smyth, but also in the same breath Wayne Gretzky’s farewell as well? At least his highlight reel isn’t all just being walked by an ancient Jaromir Jagr and standing there like a pylon, powerless to do anything about it. And if it was actually funny you can laugh and have a good time, but it wasn’t funny at all. It was just mocking an Oiler legend for the sake of being mean.
We can only assume that the mockery wasn’t born out of some intention to make a hilarious addition to Armstrong’s anecdote, but rather was an extension of his jealousy over Smyth’s eventual return and reception in Edmonton. I mean, Smyth returned to the Oilers in 2011-2012, that’s the year Whitney returned from his major injury and was never the same. Smyth was welcomed back with open arms while Whitney became increasingly useless. Smyth was the hero and Whitney was the goat. Yeah, it’s as petty as it is pathetic, but can there be another reading into this?
The two both finished their NHL careers in 2013-2014, but while Whitney’s career sadly whimpered out in Florida then the American Hockey League like the fake cries he used to mock Smyth, Edmonton’s favourite son played 72 NHL games and finally got to wear the C on his sweater that fans knew had always been on his heart.
As for Whitney’s display of classlessness, that wasn’t a joke gone awry. That’s just his trashy character peeking out from behind his ears. And Armstrong’s decision to take a mean-spirited run at an Oiler legend and a painful memory for one of Sportsnet’s least cared for markets just shows he has very little between his ears.
At least we know where we stand with Sportsnet. Your most painful memories serve as nothing but the punchline of jokes made by former players who are too unqualified to do anything else in their lives but relive the glory of openly mocking players who they could only have called their peers by reasons of technicality.
***Gregor had Ryan Smyth on his show to discuss his thoughts on Armstrong and Whitney. Gregor also asked him about going into the Moose Jaw Warriors Hall of Fame with his brother Kevin this weekend.