By Mike Harrington
As you would surmise, I have been deluged with comments/questions/criticisms/attaboys/epithets and everything in between in the wake of yesterday's Sabres season-ending press conference. I read them all and regular followers of my Twitter feed know I do my best to answer as many legitimate requests/opinions as possible.
In this case, however, that's pretty much impossible. But there have been many solid questions, many repeated times over, that it's probably best to answer them here. Some thoughts in no particular order:
---1). Ticket talk -- The No. 1 question people wanted asked was obviously the status of Darcy Regier and it was the first question asked and answered. By far the No. 2 inquiry was to demand answers about what in the world the Sabres were doing with a ticket price hike being announced in the face of a non-playoff year -- and with letters about the details arriving on Fan Appreciation Day.
After the presser, I got all kinds of crazy comments about people wanting to know why so much time was spent on tickets! Say what? The first thought is those people must not be ticket holders. The second is that Ted Black tied reasoning to the NHL CBA and the team was harshly criticized Sunday by the New York Post. We had similar concerns but held them until we could ask Black about them Monday. Black's insistence that the Sabres needed to qualify for revenue sharing brought more follow-up questions because it flew in the face of the owner's long-stated platform (since the owner doesn't speak to the media and thus the fans, I'm omitting his name here).
2). The owner's absence -- Play the audio or video. The subject took six minutes of a 46-minute event. To say it dominated the event is silly. It just produced the most dramatic video and audio that got replayed over and over again on TV and radio. The question was asked by veteran Channel 2 reporter Scott Brown and not by The Buffalo News in the wake of what happened with the owner two weeks ago at HarborCenter, nor did it receive much mention in today's paper. It got an excellent 3-minute piece or so on Channel 2. This is not a Buffalo News issue. The owner's unwillingness to speak on major topics regarding the franchise is a huge issue for all media outlets that cover the Sabres, both print and broadcast. He's heavily involved in major hockey decisions and consulted on all of them. He should speak on them.
Fans who say "Ted Black is the owner's spokesperson" had a somewhat valid point -- until yesterday. When Black said he is Darcy Regier's equal and not his boss, that really made the what-does-the-owner-think-of-Lindy question irrelevant and sent us to new territory: It showed that the owner himself was retaining Regier and thus should have been present to explain his decision. Black had no business talking about the subject since he apparently had nothing to do with it.
3). More hockey questions? -- There were plenty of them. And too many people saying, "Ask Darcy Regier why he should have a job." Silly. He has a job because the owner continues to give him one. You have not seen the hockey questions asked in the last week -- or the ones asked of Regier yesterday after the presser. We will talk to Regier again when they decide on a coach, and again in advance of the draft. Probably multiple times. There are plenty of hockey questions to come. This isn't the only 45 minutes we'll have with him. It will likely be the only 45 minutes you see start to finish.
4). Contentious nature -- Press conferences got this way all the time when my career first started before the Internet turned everything into a live-streamed, live-broadcast, live-ttweeted event and they still do. How about the one in Edmonton last week with Kevin Lowe? The Toronto media with Brian Burke? Ask Yankee writers about postgame with Joe Girardi, especially early in his career. Same thing. How about the crazy St. Bonaventure press conferences during the welding scandal of 2003? So many examples. This one was seen by so many people that it was jarring to them. It's not jarring to the media at all.
But the next person on Twitter who invokes the late great Jim Kelley or Larry Felser -- whom we just buried yesterday -- being "ashamed" of the media yesterday is getting blocked. You don't know them. We do. Do any of you know how many times Kelley and John Muckler threw down for instance? How about the haymakers Felser and Hank Bullough threw? Or the battle that ensued when Kelley showed up at the Aud for practice one day to find no team and was greeted by Scotty Bowman, informing him practice was at Sabreland? How would the vile sections of Twitter react to Kelley-Hasek today?
Kelley and Felser would have been saying the media has been too SOFT on the Sabres for too long. I knew them for over 20 years. You don't.
5). Ted Black -- He was doing his job trying to represent the team answering questions. He had no reason to apologize to me for doing his job. It was a bad day in front of the camera for Ted, one of the few he's had since he's been in his position. He's taking too many bullets for the absent owner and it's wearing on him. I have no issues with Ted whatsoever. Could sit down with him today no problem. All this "feud-feud" talk is from people who don't understand how journalists and sources interact. Did Lindy Ruff and Ron Rolston or players like Ryan Miller and Steve Ott take and answer questions with zero issue the next day from reporters they had blown up at a day before? Absolutely.
6). Final word: So you're all mad at the Sabres and the media gets harsh with them and it's the media's problem? The media hasn't missed the playoffs in 7 of 11 years, or two straight since the silent owner rode in on his white horse and cried at the sight of Gilbert Perreault. Before the presser, I got many warnings from fans along the lines of "don't be soft on them." Then afterward, it's too rude/too harsh/unprofessional. Sorry, can't have it both ways.
If there are other topics, comment here. I can always add to the post if needed.
taggedDarcy Regier | Sabres front office | Ted Black