Generally, Hockey Wilderness is a site to come to for discussion revolving around the Minnesota Wild. The banter and fun between the fans is one of the top reasons why we do this, since, lord knows, it doesn't pay very well. We have features like The Walk, the Wild Stock Market Report, JS' Thought Bubble, CircularTheory's Prospect Reports, and everything that pops into our heads along the way.
One of the other fixtures here has been a strong disdain for media who go off the track. Whether it be David Shoalts up in Toronto, some nutball blogger who is writing about the Wild despite never having even been to Wild.com, an NHL.com staff writer, or a local media member who can't figure out the difference between an UFA and and RFA. We don't take on the role of media critic because it is fun (it is), but because the fans deserve the best reporting, the best opinion pieces, and the best information possible.
With that, I will kindly re-introduce Mr. Tom Powers from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Make the jump for more.
In today's paper, we are treated to one of those media members that likes to show up for two games a year, pass themselves off as experts, and pass judgment on the team and its fans. These "columnists" tend to pay closer attention to "real" sports like football and baseball, and will occasionally use some facts to justify their opinions on those sports. However, when it comes to hockey, they simply render opinion, ignore what the facts may be and move on.
Mr. Powers has obviously worked in the field long enough to be respected enough to be paid for his opinion, even if that opinion is misguided. His job is to create controversy, which he does, and which he has done here. The problem I have is when he belittles people to accomplish that goal. There is no constructive criticism in his article, it is simply drivel intended to be ignorant and create a response. He got one.
He deserves the click, and the read, if nothing else because it will help the paper generate revenue and keep people employed, so go over and read his piece.
All this hard work from the Wild stinks. Too easy to win against.
Let's get started.
The Wild don't have a team personality. They don't have an identity. Someday, one will emerge. The Wild brass, specifically general manager Chuck Fletcher and coach Todd Richards, say they know what they want that identity to be. They want the Wild to be known as a "hardworking team." The inference there seems to be that the rest of us are sitting at home and eating chocolates.
"Hey, honey. I wonder what the common folks are doing tonight. Let's go watch some people work hard. I'll call and have the car brought around."
In reality, most Minnesotans need only to look in the mirror to see someone who works hard. Besides, I always thought "hardworking'' was a given considering the salaries these guys get. If they don't work hard, don't hustle, then that should be the noteworthy exception.
Right away, he starts out by insulting the fan base. Well done, sir. In the first three paragraphs, Mr. Powers has shown just how little he understands hockey and its fans.
"Hey honey. I wonder what the common folks are doing tonight." Simple, sir. Watching, and cheering for, a team that fits their hardworking personality. Why do you think Mikko Koivu is the most popular player in team history? Why did Koivu get a seven year contract extension? His stunning offensive ability? No. It is because of his... wait for it... hard work.
"The inference there seems to be that the rest of us are sitting at home and eating chocolates." Indeed, you would understand this more than most, right? I'm not going to pretend that being a sports writer is a love fest of joy and entertainment, but try not pretend it compares to factory work or swinging a hammer all day, OK? You, quite literally, sit around for the bulk of your day and type things into a computer. As do I, but I'm not the one pretending this is monumentally difficult work. The beat writers have one of the most brutal schedules of anyone I have ever met, yet I don't think any of them would pretend it is the most difficult job they have ever had.
As I was told once, we work in the toy department of the real world. Is it work? Sure it is. Is it hard work? Eh... maybe sometimes, but most of the time, I don't think a sportswriter is going to trade places with a carpenter.
You always thought that hardworking was a given considering the salaries they make? Really? Are you not a sports writer? You've never met players who half-ass it and collect their check? The examples abound. Anyone from Randy Moss in football, who "plays when he wants to," to guys like CC Sabathia who looks like he ate a Yugo. Hard workers, both of them right? Tons of success, still not working as hard as they could, or should for that matter.
Hockey tends to be more difficult on the players that don't work hard, though they are still out there, depending on your definition of hard work. Marian Gaborik is criticized for his lack of defense, as is Ilya Kovlachuk. Are they lazy? Nah, but they certainly don't work as hard as John Madden does all game long. They make millions more. The prime examples of not working hard enough are guys like Benoit Pouliot and Alexandre Daigle. Both huge busts who still got their pay days despite doing nothing with their chances.
So, no, sir. It is not a given. No where close.
Thank you for throwing us little people a bone though. The line about looking in the mirror was nice of you. You patronizing... I digress.
I swear, if you took my chocolates...
Don't misunderstand. Hard work is a good thing. But watching Mikko Koivu dig out the puck from along the boards is not my idea of a good time. At least, it's not something I'd pay $50 to watch. There has to be more. Working hard is a characteristic, not an identity.
Incorrect, on all accounts. Minnesotans love paying money to watch hard work. Especially on an ice rink. It may not be your idea of a good time, which is fine. To each their own. It is, however, the idea of a good time for at least 18,449 people last night, and for a sell out crowd for every regular season game thus far. Hockey fans will pay to watch hard work, I promise you that. Never once I have I heard a hockey fan say "I would watch this team if they were a run and gun, shoot first ask questions later type of team." I have heard, and written, "I would watch this team everyday if they would just come out and work hard." Yes, those exact words.
Hockey fans want to be entertained. Hard work, in sports, is entertaining. At least to hockey fans it is. The two minute long five-on-three penalty kill without the defenders being able to change lines for the length of the PK. The battle in the corner with Koivu coming out with the puck, yet again. These are, indeed, the things that hockey fans pay to see. To be sure, the casual fan may not understand what this means to the game, but surely the season ticket holders, the die-hards at home, and the media should understand, right? Well... two out of three isn't bad, I guess.
Finally on this point, when was the last time you actually paid to attend a game, Mr. Powers? Don't fool yourself. You get in for free, and pretending like you are upset that people have to pay to get in is disingenuous. You get paid to watch hockey. They pay to watch hockey. Thanks for your attempt to stick up for the poor, beleaguered fan, but they don't need your help. If they feel the ticket price is too much for the on ice product, they will make it known. They don't need you, and your patronizing wit, to do it for them.
Whoa guys... you're working too hard. No one enjoys that. Take it easy, now.
From a spectator's standpoint, intensive labor is not the key element to a grand night of entertainment. If it were, I'd be mesmerized by the guys putting in a sidewalk across the street. That would be a lot cheaper than attending a Wild game, too. No, the Wild have to be hardworking AND something else.
The reason why people do not pay to watch the sidewalk get made is because it isn't exciting. Hard work on an ice sheet creates scoring chances. It creates opportunities, and it puts butts in the seats, whether you like it or not. Watching a sidewalk get made would be cheaper than attending a Wild game, for the people who pay to do so. Again, save your faux anger for another time and another topic.
Why do they have to be hard working AND something else? To suit you? I bet when Chuck Fletcher put together his plan for the year, and when Todd Richards is out coaching, they both have Tom Powers' entertainment value right at the top of their priority list. They obviously understand the game better than you do, sir, and they understand that hard work is exactly what their fans want to see.
The fans last night certainly seemed bored. The four power play goals were a real snore fest. The two in 52 seconds created largely by Mikko Koivu's... wait for it again... hard work really had them snoozing. The fans were eerily silent for most of the game, not appreciating for a second the hard work the team was putting in or the chances that hard work was creating. Yes, sir. What a boring game.
They beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Thursday night. There was plenty of hard work involved. Other than that ... Well, the boys didn't get crazy and run all over the ice, which was good. They also made good decisions. But in terms of a style or a personality, nothing jumped out at me.
Nothing jumped out at you, huh? Were you actually watching the game, or only watching for examples that would suit your preconceived notion of what your article was about? Because what I saw was something different. I saw a team that forechecked hard (an identity), a team that played solid defensively (an identity), a team that collapsed well in front of both nets (an identity), and a team that... wait for it... worked hard.
Any one of these make for a team identity. Together, they form a team personality.
"I think that, right now, it's going to have to be seen," said Andrew Brunette, who set up two goals. "We haven't really got an identity right now."
Context is important here. Did you ask the question of Bruno on a practice day, when his mind was fresh, his view more big picture? Or did did you ask the question before the game, and catch him off guard with something that has nothing to do with what his entire being was prepared for? Perhaps the question was asked of him after a 2 1/2 hour battle against a tough NHL hockey team, and after being dumped on his head during a collision at center ice?
Context, sir. Context. Why is it that the blogger with three games worth of access understands this, and not the guy with an entire career behind him? Don't answer that, I think we all know the answer.
It will be interesting to see what develops. But something has to develop. Just what are we watching here? What are these Wild supposed to be? Even they aren't sure.
Will it be interesting to see what develops? Or will you simply wait until December to attend another game, make another ill-informed decision and push it off as an expert opinion?
One last thing. The coach gave you an answer for what the team identity is. I have given you a justification for that answer. Keep in mind that just because you don't understand the answer, that doesn't mean it isn't an answer.