Earlier this week, Sportsnet's Glenn Healy took it upon himself to carry the flag for the Baseless Narrative team when he offered up an answer to the question of whether or not Alex Ovechkin is coachable (transcribed by Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski):
He is NOT coachable. Here's the number that matters to me: $124 million that goes to 2021. The only one that's got a longer deal than that is Rogers, OK?
Last year, 51 goals, minus-35. He didn't listen to Hanlon. He didn't listen to Boudreau. Hunter, Oates, Trotz ... this same owner fired all those five guys, and there are three more that are going to get fired before it's over."
You know what? Call his agent. Get his agent to talk some sense into him. IT'S HIS MOM! HIS MOM'S HIS AGENT! No chance.
There are any number of ways one could respond to these vitriolic ramblings and refute them point by point (and Wyshynski does a good job of breaking it all down) - but the fact that Healy once again sounds like a raving moron, and that most of what he said doesn't have a basis in fact, isn't the biggest issue here.
The issue is that it crossed a line. The issue is that it wasn't the first time that has happened, whether from Healy or any other talking head in the hockey media. The issue is that a guy with a large megaphone is using it to hurl personal attacks - not even legitimate critiques about hockey - at someone playing in a league he allegedly supports.
This bizarre need to tear down some of the League's brightest stars rather than prop them up is something that seems to be unique to hockey. It has become part of the culture to launch attacks instead of spotlighting skill, to highlight anything about a player that can be criticized instead of identifying things about them that would make them appealing to the fans.
There aren't many who have been immune to this, either; Ovechkin certainly takes the lion's share, but most of the League's stars have been subjected to it at one time or another. Yes, even Sidney Crosby, perceived to be a media darling and one of the best players in the world has occasionally been the focus of malicious and very public floggings. No one is safe, and it makes being a hockey fan a little less fun. What is enjoyable about a sport so dedicated to consuming its own kind, so rife with personal vendettas and antiquated xenophobia that it overshadows the immense amount of talent on the ice?
The criticism lobbed at the stars is exhausting and unnecessary... but it is even worse when it crosses over into the personal side. It's wrong on so many levels, but most importantly it's wrong at a human level. Forget trying to build the NHL brand and grow the product - when the personal side of a public figure gets trolled out, when you attack his intelligence (as Nick Kypreos did in the same segment, who believe it or not was on Ovechkin's side) or his family, it's so far over the line of what should be considered okay in today's media.
Some may say that the best response to these bloviating blowhards is to simply ignore them, to not give them extra attention or a brighter spotlight - turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, and they'll stop. But that's not how the world works. For every person who is able to spot insane, baseless ramblings for what they are, and are able to dismiss the words as meaningless, there is another who takes these words to heart and uses them to form opinions and paint pictures. It's much more important that Healy and friends aren't given the stage all to themselves, that the response to each ridiculous diatribe is an opposing voice that is more grounded in truth and fact.
Because what these guys provide is not analysis or criticism; it's just mean, and mean-spirited. It adds nothing to the conversation, and speaks to a lack of respect and unprofessionalism that still runs rampant in the hockey world.
Healy should be ashamed of himself. Sportsnet should be ashamed to employ him. And we should all be embarrassed that he, and guys like him, are representing our great sport to the public on a nightly basis.