Know who’s getting screwed by this economic crisis, and not just financially? It’s you!
Well, not you, specifically. But hockey fans and the NHL itself. Everywhere across the country, the NHL beat is getting cut from major newspapers.
In Florida, the Palm Beach Post reassigned Panthers beat writer Brian Briggane to the Miami Dolphins and will no longer staff home or away games, instead relying on those always-interesting AP stories, or worse, dumping a short write-up of the games into the briefs on the agate page.
The Los Angeles Times, of all papers, will have just one hockey beatwriter to cover both the Kings and Ducks. Helene Elliott, a Hockey Hall of Famer, will stay on to do columns, but the Times likely felt it couldn’t let her go or reassign her only because she is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and to do so would have been a travesty. The Times laid of 13 of its 135 employees off over the summer, and that included their Ducks guy.
But it’s not just the non-traditional hockey markets that are axing people. Even in Philadelphia, long-time writer at the Inquirer and a personal favorite of mine, Tim Panaccio, was strongarmed into accepting a buyout after being taken off the Flyers beat and put on the Eagles instead (which is just a despicable way to force someone out).
Panaccio says he was told by the newspaper’s sports editor, Jim Cohen, that hockey was “an irrelevant sport” and that in Philadelphia, the Eagles “far outweighed anything else.”
Panaccio was replaced on the Flyers beat by a former high school sports reporter who was the Philadelphia Phillies’ backup reporter.
A few other papers will see coverage reduced in word count or page space. What the smart papers, like the Washington Post, are doing is putting more coverage online (The Sports Bog and Tarik El Bashir’s Capitals Insider are also favorites of mine). This is a good idea and what every paper in the UNIVERSE should be doing.
And yeah, what the hell, this affects me too. I used to be the Bruins/pro hockey writer (closest thing they had anyway) for a medium-sized paper in Massachusetts and I got laid off a while ago too. Now, as I understand it, the paper will have minimal (if any) Bruins coverage until late in the season, save for the aforementioned AP stories. This blog was originally intended as a supplement to my coverage in that paper, but I saw the writing on the wall and went with anonymity for a few weeks while the paper slowly moved closer to axing a whole mess of people. I’ve debated continuing to keep my name out of all this, but I frankly don’t see the point any more. This whole industry’s a mess, and we as fans of the sport are just lucky the NHL has been so quick to embrace New Media.
So yeah, I used to be a hockey writer. What’s going on?