In today’s world of social media and widely available information, the dynamic for many professional sports franchises has drastically changed.
Such a phenomenon has obviously made its way to the sport of hockey as NHL coaches and General Managers are now expected to be the faces of their respective franchises when they speak to the media. While coaches and GMs should be expected to uphold the image of the franchises that employ them, the modern day hockey media can sometimes get beneath the skin of a big league coach or General Manager. Being a media darling in the hockey world can have its benefits, but the level of accountability for actions has increased exponentially over the last several years. Mostly everything that a hockey player, coach, or General Manager says or does has become available for public viewership at the click of a button as the twitter, facebook, and instagram world have changed the way that the public views their team and the individuals associated it.
There are undoubtedly hockey teams that receive less coverage than others because their market might not be as strong, but coaches and General Managers in the NHL are constantly under the scrutiny of the public eye and the media. Even though certain players (Patrick Kane) have been made brutally aware that most of their actions will be well documented and displayed in various forms of media, coaches and General Managers have definitely been subjected to the same criteria.
One’s image and the impressions that they give off through the media can greatly affect the public’s perception of a certain individual, especially if that person happens to be in a position of power for a professional sports franchise. The actions of coaches and General Managers in the NHL will continue to be widely available to the public because of the growth of media outlets, but one must also realize that running a professional franchise under the scrutiny of the public and the media is not a task that can merely be scoffed at.
Here’s a look at a couple of New York coaches, and a GM, who could have had their images shaped by today’s ever-evolving media platforms:
By now, most hockey fans probably know the tendencies of the New York Rangers’ bench boss and his likeliness to butt heads with
the New York media. Larry Brooks, a New York Post columnist, might have been one of the first individuals to experience the wrath of Tortorella, but there are always two sides to every story.
In a city where basketball, baseball, and football may reign supreme, the hockey media might not be the most adept at asking questions that could generate insightful comments from a head coach or General Manager. Instead, Tortorella is usually the first individual that is fervently questioned when it comes to star players not performing up to par or making a change to the lineup that does not bring the desired result. As many may remember, Tortorella’s press conference after Game two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils stirred up many emotions among hockey fans and media personnel.
Here’s a quick refresher for those that might have forgotten:
Tortorella certainly didn’t earn himself any accolades with the New York media or endear himself to anyone by answering questions with one word after the loss to the Devils. There were some that believed that Tortorella was merely trying to protect his players during the press conference, but the fallout from Torts’ lack of comments sent hockey fans and the media into a frenzy. In this day and age, players, coaches, and General Managers are expected to address the media on a more frequent basis than they were expected to in years past. While the monosyllabic and broad responses certainly did not help paint a good picture for the Rangers’ head coach, Tortorella was visibly frustrated and one could certainly deduce that much from the coach’s demeanor as soon as he entered the room.
Coaches and General Managers must be held to certain standards, but members of the media must also understand that an emotional head coach might not have the best mindset after a tough loss. Being a good PR person is definitely expected from today’s NHL coaches and GMs, but there should also be moments where the media must pick and choose their questions and commentary when dealing with a head coach that is as fiery and unpredictable as Tortorella.
Jack Capuano & Garth Snow
The New York Islanders’ bench boss could definitely be the polar opposite of John Tortorella as Capuano has been rather contained when dealing with media questions regarding the Islanders.
For the last several seasons, the Islanders have managed to keep their inner dealings and workings behind their closed doors. Hockey fans and executives haven’t really been privy to the team’s intentions and what direction the team seems to be going toward. While much hasn’t been heard from owner Charles Wang since last year’s failed referendum, Jack Capuano and Garth Snow have been keeping the organization’s development in-house for the most part.
Capuano and Snow might not be media darlings that answer every question thrown their way in great detail, but the coach and GM have certainly received their fair share of criticisms for being somewhat cryptic when answering the media’s questions. Some fans have accused Capuano of being too emotionless when answering questions during post-game conferences, but Cappy’s routine has not drawn the ire of the media just yet. While the Isles’ head coach may be vague at times and some of his press conferences may seem recycled, Capuano does do his best to answer the media’s questions without revealing too much of what the organization has planned for the future.
Even though Capuano tries to defend his players and keep his dealings with his players in-house, the coach can also defer nicely when asked about future predictions for the Isles (about :30 seconds into the clip):
Jack Capuano can be an easy head coach to talk to, but he can also be brief and secretive as well. While fans can point out Cappy’s apparent “emotionless” nature during some post-game conferences, there is no doubt that the bench boss wants his team to succeed. Being tactful and calculating with the media can have its benefits if a franchise wants to keep their dealings to themselves, but it could also irk media members and hockey fans at the same time.
New York’s General Manager, Garth Snow, has done much the same when dealing with the New York media as he has usually been tight-lipped when it comes to addressing the franchise’s direction for the future. After years of finishing in the Atlantic Division’s cellar, Garth Snow has definitely fielded a plethora of questions regarding the future of the New York Islanders and their player development during the team’s current rebuild. Draft strategies, trade scenarios, and call-ups are certainly things that a team should be allowed to deal with internally, but modern media might sometimes feel privileged to receive information that is not in the team’s interest of disclosing.
This is not to say that the media doesn’t deserve to have information shared with them, but there could also be a great advantage to a head coach or a General Manager staying mum on their future plans and dealings with their team. For a person in a position of power in the NHL, keeping one’s lips sealed can be viewed negatively by fans and members of the media, but the hockey world and its media should be glad that they don’t have to deal with hockey’s version of Bill Belichick.
Is There Such a Thing as a Media Darling?
In today’s media savvy world, many hockey personnel and players have very little room for error when it comes to upholding a clean image of themselves. While it is very hard to be the perfect human being (ala Nicklas Lidstrom), the media’s expectations can sometimes exceed what a certain team might be willing to divulge and disclose to the general public. There are obvious criteria and obligations that coaches and General Managers are expected to meet when it comes to talking to the media, but the desire for as much information as possible can put team executives in an uncomfortable position.
Coaches such as John Tortorella and Jack Capuano might not give the media the answers that they are looking for all the time, but it is as though many hockey personnel are put in a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position when speaking to the media. On the one hand, a coach or a general manager might assuage the media by answering their questions in length and detail, but might give away some knowledge that is sensitive to the team’s progress. In contrast, if a coach or General Manager doesn’t give enough information to the media and wants to protect their franchise, then they are considered as being cryptic and not satisfying the needs of the press.
While members of the media can certainly be understanding of a situation, it seems as though it is much easier to draw the ire of the press than it is to keep their love. Even though it is easy to sympathize with coaches and General Managers, one must also understand that the media’s job is not easy as they have to deal with players and executives that are usually tired, busy, and focused on other aspects of hockey. Press relations are definitely a big part of hockey, and hockey fans undoubtedly receive a lot of their information as a result of many media members battling in the trenches, but there will always be a fine line between the way a coach or a General Manager is perceived in the public eye as a result of media coverage.