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THN.com Blog: Media friendliness key for growth

NHL players need to realize they have to be more outgoing in order to extend the reach of the league. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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NHL players need to realize they have to be more outgoing in order to extend the reach of the league. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Coming out of the lockout, fans and media types alike were promised a new era of accessibility to NHL players.

Promises, I suppose, are meant to be broken.

Despite the fact opening up to the media is beneficial to the league, teams and players (more access equals more fans; more fans equals more revenues), the give-‘em-the-bare-minimum credo continues to rule across most league lines.

The team-first, boast-free attitude - the womb from which this issue is born - is ingrained in the vast majority of hockey people. So it’s easy to understand where the league’s seeming disdain for cameras/microphones comes from; and how it will never change organically.

Colleague and friend Jamie Hodgson, THN’s art director, attended the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta this year and just returned from the NBA’s showcase in New Orleans. He was shocked at the ballers’ level of cooperation with the media, saying the difference between hardcourt and hard ice athletes is night and day.

Basketball players are surely more inclined to sell themselves and the NBA is definitely more inclined to sell its players. But I’d like to think at least a part of the players’ willingness comes from an understanding that you have to put yourself out there in order to grow the game.

Hockey players don’t get that at all.

Heck, for one NHL photo shoot, a star Eastern Conference player couldn’t even be bothered to show up.

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And that’s far from an anomaly. Trying to get some players/management to take five minutes out of their day for an interview, or even return a call, is like pulling teeth.

(I don’t want to paint the entire league with the same brush, because some individuals and teams are very accommodating, but it happens enough that I believe it’s a fair comment.)

The league should be commended for attempting to better sell the game by increasing the entertainment value of the on-ice product, but the importance of how NHL players interact with fans – through the media and other avenues – can’t be underestimated.

I still find it hard to believe Ducks GM Brian Burke couldn’t find a team willing to part with even a low draft pick for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, considering he’s one of the NHL’s top 10 goalies.

Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.

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