The River City Renegade

I didn’t need Pokey Reddick’s pearls of wisdom to do my job, so why does the Toronto media need Phil Kessel’s quotes?

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Back in the day, when National Hockey League goaltenders weren’t the size of a Brink’s truck, tiny Pokey Reddick refused to talk to me.

Yup, he gave me the cold shoulder.

Seems ol’ Pokey was of a mind that I had displayed extremely bad manners by informing Winnipeg Sun readers that his performance level during a Winnipeg Jets training camp in the 1980s was in need of a serious pick-me-up. I submitted that, were there not an upgrade in his numbers, the other half of the Pokey and the Bandit goaltending tandem, Daniel Berthiaume, would be anointed the starter.

Thus, when I approached Pokey the following day and asked if we might have a brief chin-wag, he stomped his little feet, spat out a terse, “No!” and marched away.

I was not shocked, discouraged or upset. There were no knots in my knickers. And I surely did not view it as newsworthy. I mean, an athlete with his lower lip at half mast, acting like a sniveling, spoiled brat? Sorry, nothing to see here, folks. No film at 11.

I never attempted to have another tete-a-tete with Reddick. Didn’t matter if he allowed zero goals or 10 goals. I simply did not care what he might have to say, and I surely did not require his banal bromides to do my job. If he played well, I wrote it. If his net looked like a coal bin at the end of the night, I wrote it.

I am reminded of this because of the icy cold shoulder Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs delivered to TSN 1050’s Jonas Siegel on the weekend. I agree, the brusk brushoff can be filed under R for Rude. That is, when gab guy Siegel sought the zip-lipped Leaf to collect bons mots that might explain a mind-numbing 2-6 loss to the Buffalo McDavids on Saturday night, Kessel took the low road in hissing “Get away from me.” It was bad-mannered, with gusts up to surly.

But here’s what it wasn’t: News. At least not until Siegel took to his Twitter account and ratted out Kessel, and now he’s saddled a horse named Self Righteous and he’s riding her at full gallop. Siegel promises to engage in a one-man, non-stop, ratting-out crusade against the Leafs’ best skater. Oh, yes, each time Kessel doesn’t speak, Siegel will inform his TSN 1050 listeners in the Republic of Tranna that Kessel doesn’t speak. That is his vow. (I imagine that will score big with his boss during the next radio sweeps period.)

“It’s not up to us, I think as a media corps, to protect him,” Siegel said. “From this point, I’m not going to hide the way he acts anymore.”

Oh, so that’s what Siegel has been doing ever since Kessel’s arrival in the Big Smoke was greeted by a mainly hostile press five-plus seasons ago. He’s had his back. Lucky Phil. Had he known this, I’m guessing he wouldn’t have been so callously dismissive of Siegel on Saturday. At the very least, he would have said, “Get away from me…pretty please.”

Seriously. Siegel’s snit smacks of I’m-gonna-tell-the-teacher schoolyardism. Are we all back in Grade 5 here? So Phil Kessel doesn’t talk. Big boo freaking hoo.

I’m sorry, but Kessel isn’t wearing the black hat in this episode of Gunfight at the Not-OK Corral. Siegel is. He has gone diva (minus the feather boa and the over-the-top eye liner and big hair). He has taken a personal snub and transformed it into a sideshow at the Barnum & Brendan Circus (the next act under Toronto’s big top will feature head coach Randy Carlyle as a human cannonball). And for what purpose? To enlighten us that Phil Kessel would rather that he never saw another microphone or notebook beneath his beak?

Earth to Jonas Siegel! Earth to Jonas Siegel! We know already. It isn’t a recent discovery.

The Tranna media’s mania over Kessel’s no-speak is a peculiar bit of business. Prior to a 2013 playoff series, he was ravaged by Little Stever Blunder (Steve Simmons of Sun Media) and Damien Cox, then of the Toronto Star, for deking out on a post-practice gab session. Not more than a fortnight ago, Simmons topped his weekly 3-dot column with an anecdote about the Leafs winger that was an undisguised cheap shot, the sole purpose being to paint Kessel as every bit the boor.

This is what we call obsessing.

Another scribe, Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star, once wrote this of Kessel: “Can the Leafs win anything of significance if their pudgy designated goal scorer sports multiple chins in a league dominated by gluten-free, goji-berry-favouring fitness nuts?”

Charming. Is it any wonder he keeps his lips zipped?

Phil Kessel doesn’t need the media and they should realize they don’t need his quotes.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.

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