Sportsnet Mocks Ryan Smyth


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.

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The exchange can be seen on the video below or, if you prefer, via the transcript below that I’ve provided.

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
do this!

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.

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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.  

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***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.

  • Semenko27

    Great read Matt. This got me so mad i puffed up like popeye. Now i want to smash Whitney and Armstrong in the face and send them over the horizon. I already knew Hall was a P.O.S. Thank you again Pete.

    • Austin in Costa Rica

      but isn’t Smyth a POS too because he chose 100 grand over playing for the city he loves so much? and then goes and cries about? seems like a f-ing baby to me.

  • passenger

    Seems standard for hockey players. Pretty weak chili for on-air comments though. All this controversy, however, is just more reason for SN to offer them more prominent positions, like O’Sullivan at TSN. Maybe just let it go, and then they’ll get let go when the next round of cuts come around.

  • Rob...

    This screams for a new Strudwick rebuttal article. You’d think this sort of behavior by Whitney would mean all bets are off on the ‘what happens in the locker room stays int he locker room’ front.

  • Petrolero

    To those of you saying Smyth chose to leave because he turned down the contract or wouldn’t sign, well the same argument is just a svalid for the other side of the coin: Lowe traded Smyth because he wouldn’t offer Smyth an extra 100 k because he was a terrible negotiator and had an incredible ego. Seeing how things turned out in subsequent years with Lowe and other players and the franchise in general and I would say the second scenario wad far more likely.

    • MessyEH!

      Smyth signed for 100k more a season to play in Colorado. Couldn’t even give Edmonton that much of a home town discount. The city he loved. The team he worshipped growing up. That is greed and selfishness. He didn’t give two sweet Franks about the fans while his agent was whispering in his ear.

      Trash away. But those are the facts. I assume Smyth regrets his decision. But it was his decision and we as fans are the ones that suffered the most.

      • Rob...

        My read on it was that Smyth was misled by his agent who didn’t tell him that they’d pushed as far as they could. His tearful press conference was a good indication that he had no idea what was coming.

        Ultimately he took responsibility for it, but I think stating that he personally made this about the 100k isn’t right. Knowing what we know about Kevin Lowe’s nasty side when dealing with players it seems more likely that he shares some blame as well.

  • Shameless Plugger

    Sticks and stones people sticks and stones. This world is getting soft. Oh no somebody said something not nice about somebody else. I should take offence to it even though it has absolutely nothing to do with me. Sad!

    I I love Smytty as much as the next guy. But I’m not gonna get butt hurt over it.

    • There’s a basic thing called respect that transcends generations and ‘the world getting soft’. Smyth gave his heart and soul for the team, and his trade was an emotional situation for him and the fans. I don’t see the need to mock his reaction.

      Whitney and Armstrong have no class making fun of someone who in all aspects was a superior player and obviously superior human being. Sportsnet has always been a joke compared to TSN aside from a few of the reliable reporters and insiders (Friedman for example). They are just trying to get to the American levels of sensationalized sports media – case in point hiring borderline shock-jock Ryan Whitney to do ‘analysis’.

      I’ll continue to get my hockey news from TSN – o-dog aside (he’s a loser), they are generally more unbiased and not as keen on sensationalizing stories, at least to this viewer.

  • 916oiler

    Making fun of one of the hardest working, most loyal, true to the word hockey players that’s ever been in the game?

    Keep diggin that hole for yourself Whitney…

  • Velo

    Ray retired over a sore foot. You could saw off one of Ryan’s legs and he still would have planted himself in front of the net and potted a few. And, damn you TSN for not outbidding SportsCrap.

  • McDavid's Comet

    Wasn’t Whitney one of the leadership in the locker room during the worst years in Oilers history? With a class-act like that, we wonder why everything went to hell here. Whitney and Hall are still great buds; like Ference said “he (Charelli) moves players out whom don’t buy into the team system. “, and we wonder why Hall is traded after being mentored by the likes of Ryan Whitney.

  • Gravis82


    Edit: I know why. Because its the media. Media now realizes it does not need to wait for stories to create views and clicks. They can manufacture money by stirring up emotions within sub-groups that have large numbers. Say something controversial and get 1 million people pissed off and they start clicking (or, how large is the Oilers online audience that would be triggered by this?)

    If you were in charge of a gaggle of reporters and wanted an extra million here and there for your company, why not just stir up a few harmless controversies to generate clicks?

    Although really, who knows. Could be just a couple dudes spouting hot air. Either way, doesn’t really make sense to talk about this now.

  • Bills Bills

    I could care less what they say. It doesn’t bother me at all. Really the biggest achievement of Colby Armstrong’s life is having the same last name as my favorite childhood toy. #stretcharmstrong

    • Dan 1919

      That was a cheap shot at Hall, let the hypocrisy fly.

      That’s what gets me most about this kind of garbage. Every single one of you acting so pretentious over this have made much worse comments, I promise that.

  • SweetBabyNuge

    This is how fan bases lose the plot. If this were Jerome for Calgary we’d all be laughing.

    Don’t become a parody of yourself. This is hockey, people, it’s for entertainment. Not a religion.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Ryan Smyth played with a broken jaw and would have played with one arm if he had to.

    Whitney couldn’t get over having high arches, for Chrissake. If he played with 1/2 the heart of Smyth he would have been a player. Armstrong always was a sled. Both these guys gravy-trained off Crosby for a couple years before the Pens realized they would not be meaningful parts if they were going to win a Cup and ran them out of town.

    One minute listening to Whitney spout off reveals his lack of intelligence and character.

    Truly “nothing to see here”.

    • Austin in Costa Rica

      High arches? Pes cavus can leave people in crutches for the rest of their lives. It’s not a broken bone that heals. He had two osteotomies. Whitney wasn’t soft, he has a degenerative condition that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, let alone a hockey player I don’t know. Teasing a guy for crying is wrong, but you spout off about some guy “couldn’t get over having high arches” For Chrissake indeed.

        • Austin in Costa Rica

          So you’re trivialising congenital and genetic conditions?

          Gonna bash on Pisani cause of his ulcerative colitis? Or Joey for his Down syndrome? They couldn’t help what happened to them, neither could Whitney. Guy had multiple surgeries on his feet, his knee, and then catches a rut at Rexall and dislocates a tendon, and still, tries to come back. He obviously loved playing hockey and gave it his all.

          People get all upset because a guy teases a guy for crying over leaving a team that offered him 5.4M to play hockey, and then turn around and spout a bunch of garbage like this?

          If Johnny G would have left Calgary over 100K this summer and cried about it, it would be the most popular .gif here. Damn, head to HF and try to get through three pages of a thread without seeing the crybaby jpeg.

          This is better than talking about a draft in March though. So pumped for playoffs baby!

          • Arod

            Conditions aside, could you even imagine Pisani saying something like this on television let alone in the privacy of his own bathroom? I could not. Some people lack decency, and Armstrong and Whitney fit into that group. Its insane a couple of low class bullies like them get paid for it!!

          • Himynameistaylor

            Yes, social justice warrior Steve, my comment was a generalization of people who suffer with mental health issues.

            Signed, a childhood ADD/Anxiety case.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            You say social justice warrior like it’s a bad thIng. Only sad and scared little men use that term as a derogatory term.

            Keep that sexist garbage off our Oilers blog please.

            From someone proud if you call him a social justice warrior.

  • Connor McFly

    Armstrong started out as a figure skater. That pretty much sums up his career in hockey. How butch of you Colby!
    Whitney was a major fail as an Oiler. He was a ‘kankle-skating’ stumble bum wanna-be.
    I have nothing good to say about S-net and their choice of Quinn-Remenda calling Oiler games. Louie Debrusk is the best of the lot. S-Net is scraping the bottom of the sports broadcasting barrel. I wish they would go away.

  • Bucknuck

    My company phones are with Rogers. It’s really gonna be a pain in the backside to have to switch over… but if they don’t issue an apology it’s gonna happen.

  • Himynameistaylor

    It’s not JUST Edmonton that supported Ryan Smyth.

    Everyone you ask had nothing but respect for him, he was/is probably one of the hardest working NHL’ers of all time, let’s not forget his last game, when the losing Canucks came out and each shook his hand.

    Edmonton’s second worst rival, and a universally despised franchise outside of BC recognized the impact Ryan Smyth had on Hockey Canada in all facets.

    As a current hockey player, and someone who’s played the game for 20 years, this doesn’t surprise me, however the one thing that athletes don’t talk about is each others careers, everything else is fair game, but your emotional attachment to your hometown and your jersey you bust your balls for every night is off limits.

    I hope Sportsnet makes them apologize, but I doubt that would happen to any franchise unless they wear blue and white and play out east.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Armstrong is literally human NyQuil.

    He probably realized saying something moronic was the only way people would spend 2 seconds talking about him. So mission accomplished I suppose.

    One should expect more from the national rights holder, however it IS Sportsnet.

  • giddy

    Who cares. I can assure you Smytty doesn’t care about what two plumbers say on TV. What is the old saying, “a wolf never loses sleep over the opinion of a sheep?”.

    Playoffs are coming for the Oilers this year. That’s all that matters.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Guys with the most heart, cry…guys without a heart laugh at those who cry. Crying seems to be associated with the greatest players in the world because they put their blood into their profession! That’s how they achieved greatness, mediocrity is all these panelists achieved. These guys were run-of-the mill players, and now they are run-of-the mill broadcasters.

  • Jordan88

    Ryan Smyth, never a flashy guy, Just a hard worker who left his fair share of blood on the ice. He was quiet and humble. Strong and silent. He embodied what it meant to be a son from Alberta and citizen of Edmonton.

    He never gave us a cup, he never won a cup although he came close in both regards never the less he is one of Edmonton’s most beloved sons.

    He had a career send off at home that would make some of the greats who ever laced them up swell with pride and green with envy.

    Never has there been a more genuine and heartfelt player who loved this city. And to me those emotions are stronger than words.