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THN.com Blog: Athletes need to tread carefully in information age

Jiri Tlusty has nine goals and 25 points in 37 games for the American League's Toronto Marlies this season. (Getty Images)

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Jiri Tlusty has nine goals and 25 points in 37 games for the American League's Toronto Marlies this season. (Getty Images)

To err is human. To err in front of a camera is just plain stupid.

That’s an altered-cliché caveat U.S. phenom swimmer Michael Phelps forgot or foolishly ignored after a picture of him smoking marijuana appeared in a British tabloid Sunday.

While the repercussions from an American society that, at least from its political front, shows no tolerance for illegal drugs appears to be strangely negligible (I guess 14 Olympic titles makes you a really Golden Boy), it is yet another lesson for young athletes to draw from.

Observers sometimes forget that NHLers are subject to the same desires and vices of mortal men, putting them upon an unrealistic pedestal. I’ve certainly been known to enjoy the occasional snifter and, after attending the evening soirees during the Montreal all-star weekend, I know some prominent players certainly do, too.

These athletes have as much right to enjoy themselves as you or I, but as public figures that young, impressionable fans and (gasp!) sponsors depend on, they must guard mightily against being shown in an unflattering light.

Some certainly get it: A number of players turned down requests for photos from fans at the All-Star Game parties, sighting a team policy, and several clubs have instituted a no-digital camera rule in the dressing room following games. Smart.

Others don’t: See Tlusty, Jiri and the plethora of young players with questionable Facebook pages. Not smart.

Only Luddites are oblivious to this new age of dissemination and ignorance can’t provide absolution. Players would be wise to take heed.

EURO TRASH
I’ve never been a proponent of NHL games in Europe and I’m glad to see some players don’t think they’re worth the hassle, either.

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"I probably could go without it,” Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic told the San Jose Mercury News. “I've never been to Europe, but it means camp opens two weeks earlier. We should cover North America first. Let's go to cities like Kansas City, Portland and Seattle where we don't have teams."

Add Hartford, Winnipeg and Quebec City and you’ve got a deal.

One good thing about the European games is it’s opened the door for discussion on the number of pre-season games. The teams headed overseas are rumored to have theirs cut, but this reduction should be something that is instituted league wide.

Players come into camp in shape, the salary cap world provides little room for newcomers to impress enough to crack a lineup and the games are often an affront to fans, providing little more entertainment and passion than an All-Star Game.

Former Lightning captain Tim Taylor once told me the one thing he’d change if he was NHL commissioner would be to cut the length of training camp and the number of pre-season games.

It’d be pretty high on my to-do list, too.

THE NATURAL
Tomas Vanek’s hat trick Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs was the fifth of his career and his fourth straight of the natural variety, a feat accomplished only once before, in 1923 through 1924 by Cy Denneny of the Ottawa Senators.

The Austrian’s barrage pulls him into a second-place tie with Jeff Carter in the goal-scoring race with 32, four behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

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

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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