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Clearing the air over the Richards kerfuffle

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The THN mailbag received a good number of queries on the same subject this week. And since the answer to that topic is going to need some extended elaboration, it will be our lone subject until next Friday.

Hey Adam, it looks like your recent cover story on Mike Richards really struck a nerve in Philadelphia. I haven’t seen you write about it since the story hit newsstands and wanted to know your thoughts on (a) Mike’s reaction, and (b) the outcry in the Philly media. Thanks for your time and keep up the great job!

Jeff Ferrara, Springfield, Pa.

Hey Jeff,

You can say (and type) that again. When I woke up this past Monday morning and found out what had transpired between Richards and the local press the night before, I had to go back to my story and try and understand what was so contentious.

I’m still trying. Now, I can see where a reporter might read a quote like “…all of a sudden when we’re losing, the media starts throwing us under the bus and bringing up things from the past that aren’t true” and become a little defensive.

But here’s the thing: if you read the entire piece and not just an excerpted quote from it, I would argue it becomes clear Richards was talking about the press and public together when he said what he said.

Like it or not, I believe, in the minds of many NHLers and league executives, the Internet media and their mainstream counterparts have been lumped into the same category. (Richards admitted as much when he said, “It's not just the writers. It's people online.”)

Unless veteran reporters go out of their way to refute some of the outrageous and unverified rumors that seem to plague one franchise every year – the Ottawa Senators were the victims a couple years ago – I think players feel slighted by the public, and the press that ostensibly represents the public.

It is within the rights of every reporter to question that kind of cynical philosophy, but personally, I would feel thin-skinned if I engaged in a heated war of words with someone as headstrong as Richards – especially if I wasn’t specifically named in the disputed volley of vitriol.

For example, because The Hockey News’ headquarters are in the capital of Ontario, we’re technically part of the “Toronto Media” that takes a whole lot of heat from fans and NHL types. But I never take personally any broadside against that label, because ultimately, I’m comfortable with the veracity of my work.

Without a doubt, there are some fantastic writers working in the Philadelphia market – THN correspondent Wayne Fish chief among them – but I think the most recent blowup between Richards and the Philly media only proves a point Richards made in a quote I didn’t use for the story.

“Sometimes the media there is a little bit frustrating to play in front of,” Richards said. “But I think you’ve got to have an understanding of where you’re playing and an understanding of the media we have there, and deal with it in your own way.”

I’m sure he’s got a better understanding of the media than ever.

That said, it was intriguing to see the broken telephone effect and runaway speculation the Richards story triggered. Here’s a quick rundown (and straightening-out) of some of the odd questions and erroneous statements that came out in its wake:

Did Richards raise the topic of the Philadelphia media during the interview? No, I did, because I chose to frame the story as a half-season retrospective on him and therefore wouldn’t have been doing my job if we didn’t broach the subject.

When did the interview take place? Not six weeks ago, as Richards guessed. It went down the afternoon following the Winter Classic in Boston, just after the Flyers captain had stepped off a plane in Ottawa.

How was the interview performed? Certainly not by text message as Richards initially hinted at, but rather, by telephone. He accurately remembered texting me something, but that something was his parents’ address in Kenora, Ont., so I could mail them a few copies once the issue came in from the printers.

I wouldn’t presume Richards intentionally threw those details out there to make excuses for himself or to mislead. With the number of interviews he has to conduct on a weekly basis, he likely lost track of the chronology and has more pressing matters with which to concern himself.

I’m sure someone will read this explanation of the Richards saga and attempt to fisk the dickens out of it.

That’s fine; it won’t be the first time my writing has been misunderstood or misappropriated and it isn’t going to be the last. If you can’t take heat in this industry – as a player, coach, GM or writer – this is the last kitchen you want to be in.

But it sure is fascinating to see the molehill you created made into a mountain.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on Proteau also answers readers' questions in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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