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The PHWA Voting Boycott & “The Little Things”

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New Puck Daddy: I broke down “the little things” from last night’s Bruins/Rangers game and the San Jose Sharks/LA Kings game.  I think I did a nice job, actually.  It kind of reads like what being in a video session feels like, please check this one out.

*****

Roots go deep.

A disclaimer: everyone knows the Islanders are “my” team.  My dad and father-in-law won cups there, I tried out there….I root for them.  I want to stay in their good graces, but I have to think that’s probably getting less and less likely.

Point is, I love the team, but I refuse to sprinkle sugar on things when I think they’ve done something wrong – hopefully that lets you better trust that when it’s your team getting fired upon, it’s not some inherent bias against them.  I try to be even-handed with everyone.

Anyway, I’ll stick with the team through thick, thin, and this anorexia we’re dealing with lately, but man… they gotta clean it up out there on the Island.  Just trying to be fair.

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Awhile back the New York Islanders pulled the credential of Chris Botta – the same Chris Botta who was their VP of media relations at one point, and the same Chris Botta that ran Islanders Point Blank, a blog the team themselves sponsored (and incidentally, the first place to ever run my work outside of this site).

Botta....in less frustrating times, I assume.

They pulled it because “he went from reporting the news to making the news,” which everybody around the situation understood actually meant “he really doesn’t say anything nice about us and we don’t really get along.” 

He may not have, but he ran that blog (as well as wrote for AOL Fanhouse) over the past few years where the Isles finished with a lottery pick every time.  So…. he’s supposed to lie?  Say the team was doing great?  You can only talk about the future so much.

Anyway, as a result of this action, three chapters of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association - the group of people who vote on the end-of-season individual awards like the Hart, Norris, Selke and more - are boycotting the vote this year (the chapters are the Rangers, Isles and Devils writers).

It’s become a bit of a thing.

My boss, Greg Wyshynski wrote about it this morning over at Puck Daddy, and did a nice job explaining why he’s still going to vote, despite supporting those who choose to boycott.

Wang: "Damnnn, she *is* cute." Snow: "I know, right?"

Here’s my take:  the writers who chose to boycott have already accomplished something worthwhile, and kudos to them for that.  They may not have got Botta his credential back (yet), but they have brought more attention to what was really an egregious overreaction by a team that was trying to control the message, a massive sin when it comes to dealing with the media that reports on your team, in this writer’s opinion. 

The boycotting PHWA members have accomplished a public shaming of a professional sports franchise, as we all seem to be taking turns (justifiably) wagging our finger at the Islanders decision pull Botta’s credential.

Could you imagine if, say, the Seattle Seahawks did what they did?  Fans would still have sackfuls of other blogs to read, as well as other opinions from people with access.  Islanders fans needed Botta and valued his insight, so in a way, a knuckle or two of the backhand they threw at Chris caught them on the cheek too

Plenty of potential on the Island.

I don’t envy the team’s PR department these days, which is a shame, because there is more bright young talent on that roster to sell to fans than I can remember (with another top pick to come!).  They even slashed season ticket prices which should have garnered them great PR, only they don’t get to reap the rewards because, as Wysh put it, they went the nuclear route with Botta, and now they’re buried under the rubble from their own bomb.

If I were a member of the PHWA, I think I’d be on that same page as Wysh, if for no other reason than you’d still want to keep the right to vote – it’s a transparent process right now, voting is a bit of an honor, and if you let the league pick the winners in-house, they can use it as another promotional tool.  Crosby wins the Hart! Oh wait, his career is over due to concussion?  Create a new star, Stamkos wins the Hart! (Not that they’d ever do that, it’s just nice to keep accusations like this from fans out of the discussion.)

I think the boycott has already been a good thing (they’ve surely raised enough eyebrows to be granted an audience by Mr. Bettman about this situation some time in the future, I would think), and the PHWA should carry on as usual from here.

What comes of Chris Botta’s situation is yet to fully unfold, but hopefully things get ironed out in a positive way for him as well.  He deserves it.

Comments

11 Responses to “The PHWA Voting Boycott & “The Little Things””
  1. Erin says:

    Thanks for the blog post–I was hoping you’d weigh in on this one. I know you probably feel both solidarity with and gratitude to Botta, but is he blameless in this matter? Is it possible he (as the Islanders seem to feel he did) crossed the line? As a Caps fan, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do think it is an interesting case of and I have been following it since it went national.

  2. Sean Boulton says:

    Small update, Justin – the Columbus chapter has also chosen to boycott the voting.

    I’m on the side of the boycott. The NHL should have dealt with this situation when it first happened and, for that matter, the PHWA should have also spoken up much more strongly than they did at the time. The reality is that they have very little direct leverage, so what they do have, they need to use.

  3. Ron says:

    I feel there has to be something more underneath the surface here. I love CB’s writing and insight, and I hope that in the future he does get his credentials back so he can do what he does best for the team he wants to cover.

    That said, IPB has been generally quite favorable to a team who has been a perennial bottom-dweller, and possibly even more generous with praise towards both Snow and Wang, so I find it tough to swallow the notion that they pulled his creds because he was too critical. That said, this is a team that rejected Jaffe for that reason, so perhaps there is something to it.

    I think that the PHWA is doing itself a dis-service with the decision by 4 chapters (NY, LI, NJ and Columbus). I get wanting to support one of their own, but honestly the Islanders are within their right to deny him access, PHWA membership or not. It’s happened in other arenas with bloggers who happened not to be PHWA members – where was the outrage then?

    There’s too much butt-hurt going around these days, and organized attempts to damage entity’s reputations because you don’t like how they handled something. Sorry, but you (PHWA members) have been granted a priveledge to be able to help decide these award winners… it’s akin to the NFLPA asking the college kids not to show up at the draft in order to hurt the NFL. OK, it brings publicity to their POV, but it makes them look like jerks for it.

    It’s bullying, and in this case for certain it could have been handled less publicly in a manner that would have left all parties looking better in the long run.

  4. PotvinRocks says:

    The “proposed” boycott is a wonderful thing because it brings attention to something that MY franchise thought that they swept under the carpet a long time ago. Now the boycott has not happen yet, and hopefully this will be resolved before the voting occurs. But what will be the first question CB asks Snow and what will be his reaction? Oh to be a fly on the wall.
    It’s Ok to disagree with someone but what Snow and Wang did is really unforgivable. I mean they are trying to take bread right out of the mouth of a blue collar journalist. This is why a union or orginization like the PHWA needs to stick by each other, in case this happens to another one of them.

  5. Pep says:

    Nice work on the PD Breaking it down write up Greg..ummm..Jason…Pete?…Joe??? Who are you again?:))

  6. Derek says:

    Two things

    1) The Columbus Blue Jackets have joined in with the Islanders, Rangers and Devils in the boycott.

    2) Love love loved the post today. As a former video guy, it brought back some pretty sweet memories. Posts like that are the kind of thing you can do that no other writer out there can. Little stuff like that is usually missed by the most fans, and can make a huge difference. Great work.

  7. Simon says:

    I think it’s a great thing that the PHWA are doing, the thing that seems to be the main issue here for PHWA is not that Botta specifically had his credentials removed, it was the way it was handled by NYI, and the name of the journalist isn’t the important issue.
    As an example, when Brooksie had his awesome tussle with Tortorella, he basically made the news himself. Although it was hilarious, that’s the kind of thing that I would suspect could make the NYI pull his credentials because of. But the NYR didn’t, I don’t know why, but probably because NYR are a lot more secure in their media relations.

    Journalists writing about the NHL shouldn’t just write positive things about the teams (we have NHL.com for that), there needs to be the entire spectrum. And the NHL needs to be written about in order to grow as a business. There will always be negative things written, but if the NHL or a team handles those articles in the right way, they will basically gain more attention but not that much negativity.

    Take Coyotes for an example, mort fans are probably aware of them now for 2 reasons, Biznasty2point0 and the mess with their ownership. While Biz is just an awesome way for the Coyotes to gain attention, the ownership is a bad thing. But it gets them attention (which they badly need) and if they manage to stay in Phoenix, it will probably be a good thing in the long run.

    Good article btw =)

  8. KForbes says:

    Thanks bud,

    I thought the comment in the PD article about how once upon a time Botta was the guy to say no to other writers wanting to get access to the Isles was rather perceptive. Also gotta agree with the fact that the Isles response to the boycott sounds a lot like just cheerleading for their players.

    With Katie Strang’s coverage at Newsday now behind a pay wall, the people who really lost out here when Botta’s credentials were yanked were the Isles fans.

  9. NewtownJack says:

    It’s not much of a boycott with only 4 chapters participating. With the number of total ballots, the (obvious) favorites will still win the awards. If they really wanted to grab attention, every PHWA chapter would boycott.

  10. Blake says:

    Justin, that PD article was probably my favorite of any that you’ve done to date. You should think about making that a regular segment SOMEwhere that you write, whether it be here, HPT, Puck Daddy. That’s some great (and enjoyably entertaining) insight.

  11. Simone says:

    Good to read your take on this.
    I still wonder what happened – was it a case of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”?
    I support the boycott because differing opinions are important to growth and change.

    One blog I used to read often was Rich Hammond’s on the Kings, “LA Kings Insider”. He used to have good insight and his opinion when he wrote under the employ of the LA Daily News.
    Now that he’s on the team’s payroll, there isn’t as much true scoop. Despite the fact that it states on the blog site, “Its content and reader comments are not subject to approval or review by team personnel.”, it’s only the readers comments that come across unfiltered. The content now mostly reads like carefully fed info through the guise of a blog. It lacks the raw freshness it once had. And, often when breaking news happens with the Kings that blog site seems to be the last to report it – not the first, like it used to be.

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