Monday, January 28, 2008

Post on hockey: The hopeful and the disappointing

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how disappointing the Washington Post's hockey coverage was. At the All-Star break, I figured it was time for a follow-up. Unfortunately, as the Caps have rocketed to within one point of first place in the last month, the Post seems to have taken one step forward and two steps back.

First, I must praise the Post for actually having a columnist, Mike Wise, write a column on the Caps! It had only been about a year or so--at least--since any of the Post columnists (Wilbon, Wise, Jenkins or Boswell) had written anything on the professional hockey team in town. And Wise's column was pretty good and even made some news. Surprisingly, it wasn't about how well the team was playing, but he did get Olie Kolzig to speculate on the possibility of retirement and say a couple things about new coach Bruce Boudreau that raised some eyebrows (complaining about how Boudreau doesn't handle goalies as well as previous coach Glen Hanlon, although I think they came out worse than Olie intended.)

I also will say that the Caps have been getting more prominent play in the sports section, with game articles often appearing on the front page in recent weeks. That's nice, and I know it makes some people feel good, but I care less about whether the announcement of Alexander Ovechkin's 13 year, $124 million contract gets a prominent layout on the front of the sports page (which it should and did) and more about the coverage of that contract. And that's where the Post's coverage has been puzzlingly lacking.

Ovechkin signed the biggest contract in the history of the NHL. It was huge news throughout the hockey world. ESPN.com had at least two of its writers pen pieces analyzing the contract, whether it makes sense, what it means to the future of hockey in Washington, etc. SI.com has one of their writers opine on the same subject. The wisdom of Ovechkin's contract was even a topic for discussion last Sunday at the first period break on the first NBC telecast of the NHL season.

But in the Post, there was the article the day after the contract reporting on its details and the press conference announcing it, written by Caps beat writer Tarik El-Bashir. And El-Bashir wrote a note the next day about how Ovechkin's teammates were teasing him about the contract. And that was about it.

OK, George Solomon, in his weekly Sunday column, did include a paragraph about it. But not one of the Post's superstar columnists wrote anything about the deal. Was it a good move for the Caps? A bad move? What kind of vote of confidence for hockey in Washington is this by Caps owner Ted Leonsis? You didn't hear any of that from anyone at the Post. How about an examination of whether the deal makes business sense for the Caps and Leonsis? When the Post has made its rare forays into writing about the NHL in the last couple years, all it has seemingly written about is how the league's TV ratings are bad, it's tough for teams to make money, etc. How can a team that loses money afford this deal? Seems like an interesting idea for a story--but not at the Post. (The paper, somewhat remarkably, doesn't even have a reporter covering sports business and media, a hugely important beat in this day and age and a beat even the Washington Times has assigned a reporter.)

So a huge national hockey story which involves the hockey team in Washington gets no commentary and analysis from the local paper. It's virtually ignored. And I'm not even angry more, just kind of sad. I hope if the Caps make the playoffs, someone alerts sports editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz. Maybe he'll send a columnist--although it may not be unless they make the finals.

(By the way, as they neglect the Caps and other local teams, the Post did add a THIRD beat reporter to the Redskins beat for next season--because who doesn't pick up the paper and say, "Wow, not enough Redskins articles today." But I'll get to that in a future post.)

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24 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

Excellent article. Actually, since you wrote about the lack of coverage, I've noticed how little there really is. I too was surprised one of the big guns didn't do anything at all about the new contract. Leonsis is a major player in DC so I figured someone would at least write something about how he must have a lot of faith in the sport to do this contract at all.

1/29/08, 11:58 AM  
Anonymous On Frozen Blog said...

Amen, brother!

1/29/08, 1:35 PM  
Blogger Spank That Donkey said...

the post is a dinosaur...

1/29/08, 11:38 PM  
Anonymous The Deuce said...

Actually, I heard Steve Czaban complaining on the radio earlier this week that the Post did not have enough Redskins' "coaching search" coverage. He was furious. I almost spit out my coffee. That guy's an idiot.

1/30/08, 8:51 AM  
Blogger Eric Fingerhut said...

I do find the Redskins coaching search fascinating, but Czaban thinks there hasn't been enough coverage! There were four straight days with columns on it!

1/30/08, 12:28 PM  
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