John Tortorella won a Stanley Cup in 2003-04 as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning before joining TSN as an analyst. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
These days, very few things in the world are just one thing.
Phones take pictures; cars are part movie theatre; Pavel Datsyuk wins the Selke Trophy.
Crossover in the hockey world isn’t limited to Datsyuk’s slick two-way abilities and one of the most natural outlets for it is former players and coaches joining the ranks of the media.
Whether it be on TV, radio, or in the form of Insider Blogs on THN.com, it’s vital to give people with knowledge of what it’s actually like to be a part of an NHL game a forum for their insights.
Where else are we, whose game experience is limited to yelling at our TV, going to find out what it’s like to stand in front of a Zdeno Chara slapshot or swoop in on the stone wall known as Henrik Lundqvist?
The only problem with polling insiders for their opinions is sometimes they’re reticent to provide them. Maybe it’s fear of offending a potential employer, whether you’re a player looking for a new contract or an ex-coach looking for that next gig.
I think another aspect has to do with the fact if you’ve ever played or coached in the NHL, no matter how many TV panels you sit on, you’re going to identify yourself as a player or coach first and a media member a distant second. That, I believe, makes it easier to dismiss some of the questions media personalities exist to answer.
Take Cup-winner John Tortorella, for example. The fiery ex-bench boss is only too happy to provide his take on many issues that pop up on the always-fun TSN Quiz, but can also be dismissive of questions he doesn’t deem credible. Witty host James Duthie even plays up the fact the quiz isn’t an activity ‘Torts’ always embraces.
Personally, I’d love to hear Tortorella’s two cents on all the matters of the day – whether it be who should start in goal for Team USA in 2010 or whether he’d like to build a defense around Scott Stevens or Chris Chelios – because I’m sure given his vast experience in the game, he’s got tons of insight to offer.
If you’ve ever watched an interview of Tortorella holding court with reporters while he was still coaching the Lighting, you know he was never a real big fan of media probes to begin with. As far as working coaches go, that probably lands him in the majority.
But once your job description changes from play caller or performer to analyst, there must be an understanding that you’re in front of the camera to answer questions, whether you enjoy all of them or not. To some degree, a former player or coach who doesn’t want to perform all the aspects of their analyst job is no different than a scoring star who goes to his bench boss and says, “You know, I’m just not that crazy about backchecking.”
My guess is that player is often told, “Too bad kid, it’s part of your job.”
Many players and coaches turned talkers – from Darren Pang to Kelly Hrudey to any number of other former goalies now in front of cameras – are candid and open with their insights and embrace their current profession as one that’s born out of experience from their former vocation.
Ultimately, the more willing they are to let us into their world, the more every fan walks away with.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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