By HOWARD BERGER
NASHVILLE (Nov. 17) – After his day-of-game session with the Toronto media this morning at Bridgestone Arena, I cautiously asked Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson to explain why he’s been so upset over an article published last week in the Toronto Star.
For those unaware, Star columnist Dave Feschuk phoned Marlene Reimer – mother of Leafs injured goalie James Reimer – and received information that her son had been concussed in Montreal during a goal-mouth collision with Brian Gionta 26 nights ago. Given Reimer’s sporadic appearances since then, it was hardly mind-boggling news, but the Leafs considered it an affront to journalism that Feschuk would seek a family member for information – even though they steadfastly refuse to discuss the nature of injuries.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to twist the Leaf coach’s arm for a reply.
“This wasn’t a story about getting background information or talking to a guy’s mom; it’s the second time the same reporter has used [a family member] to find out the specificity of an injury,” Wilson began. “It puts a player’s career at risk when you do that, which is why we don’t talk about injuries. Other [players] can target people. It’s the second time that reporter has gone with altruistic reasons in order to find the specificity of an injury. That’s it.”
RON WILSON CHATS WITH REPORTERS THIS MORNING HERE IN NASHVILLE. HE LATER TOLD ME HE IS STILL “DISTURBED” ABOUT TORONTO STAR COLUMNIST DAVE FESCHUK PHONING THE MOTHER OF LEAFS GOALIE JAMES REIMER AND REPORTING “THE SPECIFICITY OF HIS INJURY.”
When I spoke with Feschuk on Wednesday, he said he did not phone Marlene Reimer expressly to acquire information about her son’s ailment, but rather to speak with a fellow hockey parent about the angst engendered within families of players suffering from head injuries. Neither did Feschuk apologize for coming upon the news that James Reimer has been struggling with post-concussion syndrome. Wilson, however, wasn’t buying it.
“I couldn’t give a damn that [Feschuk] called her,” Wilson barked. “But, this was about digging down and hoping to catch a vulnerable parent who will disclose something that we won’t disclose.”
When I suggested to Wilson that most reporters (and Leaf fans) had likely surmised the injury to be a concussion well before Feschuk’s article, he countered, “We also had the specificity come out on the injury to [Leafs centre] Tim Connolly. There is not one industry person in hockey – I’m talking about coaches and general managers – that doesn’t think [reporting on the Reimer and Connolly injuries] was despicable… talking to a mom or a dad about their son’s injury and what’s really going on because the Leafs won’t tell us. This is all about digging for the specificity of an injury. That’s what I find disturbing.
“You tell me why [Feschuk] would call a [parent]?” Wilson continued. “The only two parents he’s called this year were [those of] players who were hurt. Tell me why?”
A media person would suggest it’s because the Leafs will not offer such information. “We’re not obligated to give the specificity of an injury,” Wilson retorted. “And, I’ve explained why we don’t.”
When asked if such concern about targeting a player doesn’t border on paranoia, Wilson said, “Paranoia? Didn’t we just see it happen [with Boston’s Milan Lucic slamming into Ryan Miller and sidelining the Buffalo goalie with a concussion]? There’s rules against doing that, but what’s the penalty [Lucic escaped a suspension]? You can have rules all you want. In society, you pay a death penalty for murdering another person, or you go to jail for the rest of your life. But, it still happens. The rules [in hockey] aren’t enough of a deterrent.”
This dispute isn’t likely to find middle-ground. Those in the media will defend the rights to freedom of speech and information, while those in the sports industry fight hard against the unveiling of what they believe is privileged or protected news. Ultimately, the public casts the final vote by choosing to pay attention.
It was a sensational, if unseasonably cool, day here in Nashville. Please enjoy my images from the Leafs morning skate and the downtown core of Music City USA:
THE SIGNATURE OF DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE IS THE 617-FOOT AT&T BUILDING (ABOVE) WHICH OPENED IN 1994.
BRIDGESTONE ARENA (FORMERLY THE GAYLORD ENTERTAINMENT CENTER AND SOMMET CENTER), HOME OF THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS, IS SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF DOWNTOWN (ABOVE), ACROSS A NARROW STREET FROM THE OPULENT HILTON HOTEL & SUITES (BELOW).
LEAF PLAYERS TAKE TO THE ICE AT BRIDGESTONE ARENA (ABOVE) FOR THEIR DAY-OF-GAME SKATE, MINUS THE INJURED CLARKE MacARTHUR AND MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI.
ALL SEATS IN BRIDGESTONE ARENA ARE THE DARK-NAVY COLOR OF THE PREDATORS’ UNIFORM; THE FRANCHISE ENTERED THE NHL FOR THE 1998-99 SEASON. THE PRESS LOCATION HERE (BELOW) ISN’T THE MOST IDEAL IN THE LEAGUE – SITUATED ABOVE THE SEATS AT ONE END OF THE RINK. BUT, THE ENVIRONMENT IS ALWAYS COOL, AND THE PREDATORS MAKE VISITING MEDIA FEEL WELCOMED.
THE “FORGOTTEN” LEAF (ABOVE) – GOALIE JONAS GUSTAVSSON – WORKS WITH THE CLUB’S GOALTENDING COACH, FRANCOIS ALLAIRE, THIS MORNING.
MEANWHILE, TONIGHT’S STARTER – BEN SCRIVENS – TAKES SHOTS AT THE OPPOSITE END OF BRIDGESTONE ARENA… HERE FROM TEAMMATE JOEY CRABB.
ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS IN HOCKEY: BARRY TROTZ, THE ONLY HEAD COACH IN PREDATORS’ HISTORY (HE PASSED THE 1,000-GAME MARK LAST WEEK). DIFFICULT TO THINK OF ANYONE OTHER THAN TROTZ AND FORMER DALLAS COWBOYS COACH TOM LANDRY WHO HELD THE POSITION QUITE SO LONG FROM A FRANCHISE’S INCEPTION.
LEAFS GM BRIAN BURKE CHATS (ABOVE) WITH COLUMNIST ROSIE DiMANNO OF THE TORONTO STAR OUTSIDE THE VISITORS’ DRESSING ROOM THIS MORNING.
BROADWAY AVENUE (ABOVE) – THE MAIN DRAG HERE IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE.
YOU’D NEVER KNOW YOU’RE IN A COUNTRY-MUSIC ENVIRONMENT HERE, HUH?
THE AT&T TOWER (ABOVE) IS ALSO KNOWN, LOCALLY, AS THE “BAT BUILDING” FOR ITS TWIN-SPIRES THAT APPARENTLY RESEMBLE THE FAMOUS “BAT-MOBILE” IN THE BATMAN TELEVISION SERIES OF THE 1960s.
SITUATED ACROSS THE CUMBERLAND RIVER – DIRECTLY OPPOSITE DOWNTOWN – IS LP FIELD, HOME OF THE NFL’s TENNESSEE TITANS (ABOVE AND BELOW).
A BRONZE STATUE (ABOVE) OUTSIDE THE HISTORIC MUSIC HALL HERE IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE.