Friday, May 15, 2020

(The first ever) DGB Mailbag: Franchise downgrades, judging goalies and the worst hockey take ever

I’ve been doing this sportswriting thing for over a decade now, and I’ve covered subjects from all sorts of weird angles. But recently I realized that something was missing. I’d never broken out a gimmick that’s become a staple of the sportswriting game: The reader mailbag. Everyone else seems to have one, but not me.

I’m not quite sure why that is, although the fact that my readers occasionally make my brain implode might be part of it. But the bigger issue is probably that I’m generally pretty lazy, and curating a bunch of reader questions seems like a lot of work. Maybe I’ll get around to that someday, when the entire sports world has shut down.

Well, someday is here, and so is the mailbag. Is this a good idea? I’m not sure, let’s see where this goes.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity.

Theoretical scenario: You are out driving someday when another driver crashes into your car and you die. (From Sean – off to a great start!) God appears to you and says, “Whoops, you died too soon, I’ll let you do life all over again.” He then gives you a choice:

1) You can be reborn at any time in hockey history with the skills and good luck to be one of the best hockey players of your generation for any team you choose.


2) You can be reborn at any time in hockey history with the skills and good luck to be one of the best and well-known hockey writers/commentators of your generation for any media outlet you choose.

Which do you pick?

– Jonathan M.

Is this … is this supposed to be a hard question? I grew up in a golden era of Toronto sportswriting, reading guys like Milt Dunnell, Jim Proudfoot, Frank Orr and Shaky Hunt. I was around for the dawn of the sports radio era, hung on every word from Don Cherry, saw the birth of TSN and later Sportsnet, and then watched the internet reinvent the industry. I dreamed of being a sportswriter as a little kid, and after a few twists and turns, it actually happened. I’m not sure there’s anyone out there that loves sports media as I do.

All that said, of course, I pick being a player. I wouldn’t even have to be a star. As long as you could assure me a long career and that I’d come out of it in decent health, I’d take being a journeyman fourth-liner over being the greatest sportswriter of all time. Scoring one goal in front of 20,000 people is probably more fun than winning a Pulitzer. Get me some gear, I’m going in.

(Also, I’d be a huge jerk to the writers the whole time. No stepping on the logo, baldy!)

Who would you rather have on your team, a guy that literally can’t skate but would shoot over 90 percent, or someone that skates like McDavid but would shoot under one percent?

– Simon H.

Like he literally can’t skate at all? He just falls over every time he tries to take a step? Because that wouldn’t work – with the offside rule, you’ve got to at least get into the offensive zone (unless this guy is just bombing from the red line against goalies who can’t see the puck like Babe Dye). The guy who skates like McDavid is at least going to be useful in gaining the zone, and hopefully can pass a little bit, so he’s the easy pick.

But if the guy who “can’t skate” just can’t skate very well – like 1980s defenseman bad – then yeah, you take him. (I was going to make a note about how unrealistic the scenario is because the other team would obviously figure out that the guy was unstoppable and just put their guys on him at all times, but then I remember literally every power-play goal Alexander Ovechkin has ever scored.)

What’s the worst “take” that a published hockey journalist has written? Obviously, we need to disqualify racist, sexist and homophobic takes, but something purely hockey related. My vote would be for Dick Beddoes saying Wayne Gretzky would be a third-line center on the Leafs teams of the ’50s and ’60s.

– Steve M.

Oh man, that would be tough to beat. If you haven’t seen it, check out the interview Steve is referring to, the whole thing is fantastic.

Back in the day, Beddoes was what they would politely call a “provocateur,” which is to say that he would intentionally say things just to annoy everyone. But he was also old-school enough that he probably meant his Gretzky take just a little bit.

Other contenders: The one about how the best thing for the Caps would be Ovechkin going back to the KHL, all the stuff about how the Oilers won the Taylor Hall trade that came out right before Hall went out and won the MVP, literally everything anyone wrote about a player with a concussion before about 2010 and the guy who thought the Golden Knights had a terrible expansion draft.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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