Friday, November 30, 2007

Putting The Canadiens Media Circus Into Perspective

Robert L Note: Over the years, Hall Of Fame journalist Bertrand Raymond has written some incredibly insightful pieces. Everytime I transcribe one of his more potent ones, I feel saddened that he is not read by English Canada. For those unfamiliar with Raymond's work, suffice to say that he is by far the most credible and studious of journalists in charge of covering the Canadiens. He is revered in much the same way as Red Fisher, not so much for his longevity, but for his sound ability to place things into a proper and sensible perspective.

In this piece run earlier this week, Raymond turns the focus onto the media from which he has long been employed. This article is in a sence a reaction to comments made earlier in the week by former Habs coach Jacques Lemaire about the media circus surrounding the Canadiens and how it affects a coach's daily state of mind. What Raymond's words suggest, is that Canadiens fans as a whole ought to be more discriminating in listening to what they are hearing from the media, given that the majority of it is speculative.

The article made me think about what it is I do here, with this blog. The points made by Raymond about accountability and credibility raise some pretty solid questions. I quickly understood that what I do isn't all that disimilar than those media of which he speaks. I offer an opinion (I attempt to offer more balance to it), present news and views, and then allow readers to form their opinions.

The best compliments I have received are from readers who suggest I made them think, perhaps even learning some things in a historical context. I've had some complaints, mainly when my articles have been hijacked to fan board chat rooms. I've had my credibility questioned - funny, in an odd kind of way - and I have rarely sought to defend it, as I truly did not know I had any cred! I'm simply one more Habs fan, amongst a throng, voicing my opinion's and feelings. The difference between a reader and myself, other than some minimal coaching work, is that I have set up a blog as my forum for discussion.

Still, Raymond's piece is essential reading for no other reason than, as Habs fans, we all must deal with the media onslought that whacks things out of proportion on a daily basis. I hope you enjoy reading it, and that it does make you think about the warped realities involved in being a Habs faithful follower.

Here is Raymond's piece:

For those of you caught up in the daily goings on of the Montreal Canadiens, what is your prefered level of media coverage?

Would it be the more civilized and down to earth level of years past, one still complained about recently bu Jacques Lemaire, or would it be the current one in which Guillaume Latendresse is thrust onto the front pages of Le Journal De Montreal and becomes the fodder for ten straight hours of talk radio at CKAC for the incredible alteration to his life that is a promotion to the first line?

In light of Lemaire's declarations, and following Guy Carbonneau's decision to bump Latendresse up a few notches, we have been given some clear examples to show the difference between what went on then and the outrageous circus of today.

If Lemaire found it too much during the 18 months he spent while being a sly and intelligent strategist behind the Habs bench then, he'd lose it on a daily basis these days.

Hockey analysts grow like dandelions in the Montreal media. It is insane how many people are employed to cover the Canadiens.

Among them, there are former coaches and career journalists. Some are relatively well known, while others aren't known at all, but they will lead you to believe that they know absolutely everything there is to know about what goes on within the team.

Just as in Lemaire's era, everyone critiques Carbonneau's moves while offering what they would have done in his place.

It would be insightful for everyone to know that 75% of the media representatives who analyse and pronounce themselves on the Habs every breath are never at practice, never speak directly with the players, and of course never make it inside the Canadiens dressing room. What's more is that the majority of them are never even seen in the press box.

I'm not pointing to anyone in particular.Allow me only to say that if coverage of the Canadiens seems disproportionate at certain times, much of it has to with the fact that the quality does not equal the quantity.

The beat writers are on the job everyday. They scramble for stories and news, and talk with the players and coaching staff. They examine the smallest of details looking for fresh ways to present different stories.

After all, they do not know all that goes on with the teams as the Canadiens do their best to make them work for their pieces.

What is oddly striking, is that those who are never there claim to know as much as those who practically live and travel with the team.

Lemaire made some good points. It is not the writers questioning the coaches daily who blow things out of proportion. It is the ones who are never seen that ramble on about everything and nothing at once.

Lemaire admits that none of it was fun. He asks whether Carbonneau is actually enjoying the life as well.

Of course Carbonneau is - no one tires of coaching the Canadiens after one season. It is a job one seeks to hold onto for as long as possible.

Go and ask Jean Perron, or Jacques Demers, or Mario Tremblay, or Alain Vigneault, or Michel Therrien and Claude Julien what they initially felt upon being told they were out of a job. Ask them how much time it took them to get over it.

One day Carbonneau will pass through the same ringer, and there will numerous candidates in his wake wishing they get the call.

That in a nutshell, is the Canadiens. Lemaire who coached them for the last time 22 seasons ago, is still visibly marked by the experience. He would have wished for the best of both worlds: coach the team of his dreams and then leave for home without having to explain his decisions.

Trouble is, it just doesn't work that way.

Lemaire is from the breed of those true Habs to which he gave everything he had to the team. In his case moreso than others, having coached them after helping them win on the ice.

Career Canadiens such as him never forget what the team has represented for them in their lifetimes. Whether traded as players, or fired as coaches, they remain profoundly attached to the team.

What else would explain why Guy Lafleur speaks out so frank and candidly about the organization? It is because he suffers from not seeing the team win any longer and because he would suffer even more with the benefit of some avenue for expressing such thoughts.

There are numerous Canadiens oldertimers who presently do not enjoy what they currently see happening on the ice. It agitates them to see a jersey once so proudly worn by them. worn with less conviction today. Lafleur is the only one able to vent publicly.

Surely the Canadiens brass won't appreciate Lafleur's one line zingers being that he is a paid ambassador for the team - but what can they do?

In Montreal, the words from a legend will always carry more weight amongst the public opinion than those of the team owner or president.

No comments: