My biggest fear about the new year is that it’s now old enough to drink.
The sports media industry has evolved with amazing speed and scope over the last dozen years. Most of the resulting innovations are obvious and fully folded into America’s daily sports information feed: digital platforms largely replacing paper; social media becoming a delivery service and virtual sports bar; televised shouting matches between self-proclaimed experts snagging ratings; celebrity-driven coverage and more. But that is not all: The voice of sports media has changed as well. Increasingly, sports journalists have abandoned neutrality in favor of writing (or broadcasting, or podcasting) in the voice of the fan.
I have spent the last dozen years using this platform as the absolute advocate for the junior hockey players and coaches. The concepts of what is right and wrong were rarely disputed and it was generally easy for us to stay between the lines.
2020 wreaked havoc on all the standards, rules, principles and especially core words like normal and routine. I never wanted to find myself trying to justify questionable decisions and actions. In the last nine months I’ve been forced to do exactly that.
We always tell families that we can open the doors of opportunity and that it is up to the players themselves to skate through those doors and prove they belongs. It is especially frustrating to hear that players have paid for their opportunities, but the coaches are not really giving them.
In a normal year, we would have had more than a dozen pay-to-play clients already skating with North American Hockey League and Canadian Junior Hockey League teams. So far this season we have had none since training camps concluded.
And I completely understand why. Teams are reluctant to bring outside risks into their rooms. Isolation is the new normal but there is also tremendous fear hovering over the world of sports and hockey.
How do we objectively slide into the second half of the 2020-21 season with any sense of objectivity? Should the scope of coverage be focused exclusively on the continuance of play and not the limited developmental opportunities?
When it comes to core values and principles, the last thing you will ever see from the Dish is compromise. The only person I know how to be is me. The personal clock will rotate for the fifty-fifth time this summer with a keen eye towards a lot of beaches and sunsets. Hopefully this pandemic is in the rearview by then as well.
Here’s the New Year’s Resolution.
I’m going to try to write with more neutrality and that means opening up coverage to both sides of the sanctioned hockey spectrum. We have opened dialogue with the new commissioner of the United States Premier Hockey League who promises to deliver real opinions regarding issues. That is fair enough for me.
There is never going to be a “woke” version of me. I promise to always tell it like it is, regardless of the cost. If that is not acceptable to you, please refrain from reading on. Hockey is reality and choices have both good and bad consequences.
If you are that parent of an AA level player and looking for a hockey fairy tale that leads to raising the Stanley Cup, I am not the guy that you are going to want to talk to. We are in the reality business where hard work, discipline, and core character leads to elevated opportunities.
All others need not apply.