I’m writing this on THN senior writer Mike Brophy’s final day in our Toronto office. As some of you have heard, Broph is moving on to become a full-time member of the Sportsnet team. And though we’re all happy he’s headed for new challenges and opportunities, it’s sad to see him go – mainly, because it means I’m that much closer to being the oldest guy on staff.
I kid, of course. It’s tough to see him leave because Broph has been so many things to me: friend, fellow diehard music fan, fellow diehard female fan, colleague, mentor and occasionally, tormentor.
Yes, I said tormentor, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. To give you a sense of the good natured-ribbing Broph is famous for, I turn to the short piece I wrote for The Hockey News’ “Lighter Side of Hockey” collector’s edition from a few years ago:
One of my first columns for thehockeynews.com was an impassioned rant against Jeremy Jacobs, the Bruins’ notorious skinflint of an owner.
After reading it, THN senior writer Mike Brophy nonchalantly mentioned to me that Jacobs was widely known to call sportswriters and confront them about their words.
“You’ll probably get a phone call from his secretary,” Broph said. “She’ll say, ‘Please hold for Mr. Jacobs,’ then she’ll put you right through to him.”
I made a mental note, then forgot about it. A few days later, the phone rang.
“The Hockey News,” I answered.
“Please hold for Jeremy Jacobs,” replied a female voice.
My heart rate took off faster than Norm Green left Minnesota. I could feel it pounding and pulsing in my neck. Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
Then, a male voice began talking, through what sounded like a speakerphone. That’s something owners would do, I thought. I pictured Jacobs smoking a stogie, dabbing sweat from his brow with C-notes.
“This Adam Proteau?” he asked, sounding even more crotchety than I feared he would.
“It is,” I said. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
For the next 20 minutes, I got grilled, threatened, challenged and attacked. It was like being at a general membership meeting of the NHLPA. Each second felt like a week.
At one point, the voice on the other end suggested he might order the Bruins’ P.R. staff to revoke The Hockey News’ media accreditation. Ba-bump.
Finally, after defending just about every point I’d made, the call ended. When it did, I started to notice my fellow THN employees loitering behind me, their smiling faces alerting me that something was indeed up.
Turns out it wasn’t Jeremy Jacobs who had called. It was a former staffer of The Hockey News, a guy who still works in the industry, but who shall remain nameless to protect both him and the revenge I’ve got planned for him. The blue streak I proceeded to curse when I learned the truth apparently can still be seen by telescope drifting somewhere over the New Mexico desert.
Broph set up the whole thing, and set it up masterfully. He wasn’t there that day, but he didn’t have to be. He’d already laid the groundwork and was more than pleased to hear it turned out so well.
I think I’m going to name my first ulcer after him. And I’ll get him back, if it’s the last thing I do.
See what I mean? You don’t get that kind of meticulous planning from your co-workers at any job. But for Broph, that prank was more than just a hilarious way to watch the new guy sweat; it was also a subtle lesson to a young writer – a lesson that was all about being ready and able to justify your opinions to those you’re criticizing. And I took that lesson to heart.
That’s not the only lesson Broph taught me. He also demonstrated how sportswriters who don’t share all of the same views on hockey – I think it goes without saying he won’t be joining fellow THN senior writer Ken Campbell and I on one of our Hockey Peacenik Jamborees anytime soon – can still find common ground elsewhere.
One of those other areas was the use of organ music at hockey games. I still remember the first time I wrote of my fervent belief that anything coming out of an organ at arenas was preferable to the played-to-death, paint-by-numbers pop tunes played at such a deafening volume, your small intestines wind up taking the brunt of it.
After Broph read it, I’ll never forget the look of relief on his face that someone from a younger generation could appreciate and advocate for an aspect of the game that might otherwise be consigned to history’s dustbin.
Same goes for our taste in music. Although we’ve agreed to disagree on rap music being the worst plague to hit the planet since Cooperalls and turtlenecks worn under hockey jerseys, I might be Broph’s only friend in his thirties who not only can discuss the merits of ’70s-era melodic rock and the genius that is Richard Thompson, but also pinpoint exactly what songs long-gone Canadian bands such as Chilliwack and Doug & The Slugs are famous for.
So I’ll be there to carry on the tradition of listening to old tunes few people have heard of, Broph. I’ll also be there to chip in a joke, pun, or even a simple raised eyebrow when necessary, the same way you have as long as I’ve known you. And I hope to continue the long tradition of credibility, insight and good humor you’ve brought to THN in your 16 years with the magazine.
Oh, and I’ll still get you back for that Jacobs gag, you rotten so-and-so.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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