Respect just a little bit

TSN hockey commentator Gord Miller was thrust into a bigger limelight than usual Saturday. The Toronto Star revealed Miller sent an e-mail to National Hockey League Vice-President Bill Daly outlining the movement to oust Ted Saskin as the head of the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

Miller identified three of the leading figures in the replacement movement: current player Chris Chelios, former player Steve Larmer and lawyer Ian Pulver.

As the Star reported, this information may have aided Saskin, as Daly promptly forwarded the e-mail to him.

“I don’t give this any credence but thought you should have it. Please don’t burn me with Miller,” Daly wrote in the e-mail.

Miller later defended his actions to the Globe and Mail’s William Houston, saying he intended the information solely for Daly, and was only trying to use it to get him to talk.

“My job is to report the news, and one of the most effective things is, if you have information, give it to someone and he might give you some back,” he said.

Miller made some errors here. He made the mistake of giving perhaps too much information to an untrustworthy source in hopes of sparking a comment. In addition, it’s not clear if the information he had should have been published or not, which may bring legal issues into the discussion.

However, as Houston pointed out, sometimes it’s necessary to give out information in the hopes of getting some back. The history of investigative reporting is filled with examples where it has worked, going all the way back to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s conversations with “Deep Throat” that helped expose the Watergate affair and end Richard Nixon’s presidency.

The real villain here isn’t Gord Miller, but Bill Daly. It’s bizarre that a key figure running a professional sports league would work together with his supposedly sworn enemy at the players’ union against the media. In a normal situation, these should be the last two people on earth to team up.

For some reason, sports executives seem to feel they have the right to do whatever they like to the press. A classic example is from last May, when Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager J.P. Ricciardi lied to the media about an injury to closer B.J. Ryan. Ricciardi originally said Ryan had back problems, but it later came out that Ryan had an elbow injury. When asked about the inconsistency, Ricciardi said, “They’re not lies if we know the truth.” Another example is the famous video clip of John Tortorella, coach of the Tampa Bay Lighting, swearing at a reporter and kicking him out of a press conference for asking a question he didn’t like.

Media of one form or another provide the best method of alerting fans to developments in the sporting world, but they can’t do that if they aren’t taken seriously. What Bill Daly and other executives should learn from this is that sports journalists deserve the same respect and treatment as media working in other areas.

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