Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Will Thrashers have more class than 'Yotes?

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To be completely honest, my initial thought when I heard that the Phoenix Coyotes bailout had suddenly transitioned to the Atlanta Thrashers clearing house sweepstakes was whether we should brace ourselves and start digging fox holes before the next volley of insolent player remarks start raining down on us again.

In case you missed it, not too long ago when we were falling all over ourselves and waiting with bated breath over how the final chapter of the Phoenix Coyotes would play out, a number of Coyotes players turned their brains off and expressed their lack of enthusiasm and downright indignation about potentially having to live here and earn their seven figure salaries in Manitoba.

It became crystal clear that a number of them couldn't care less about working in an environment that not only understands the game and is passionate about it, but is a center of popularity for it.

We sat here and listened to pretentious millionaires who play a game for a living whine about their hard knock lives and how they would have to uproot their families and kids, and how Phoenix has such great weather and schools. We even had an up and coming goaltender threaten to return and play hockey in Russia rather than re-sign with a team that was destined to return to Winnipeg.

Well, that storm cloud has seemingly passed over and there are a couple of obvious lessons for the Trashers. First and foremost, is that the public relations departments working for these teams may no longer be protecting these players from themselves.

Apparently in Phoenix, no alarm bells went off when the PR department was or was not informed that members of the media wanted to discuss matters of relocation with members of their hockey team.

Either that is not the way they do business down in the sunny state or it was strategic negligence as they figured that without filters or coaching up their players could decimate an entire season ticket base and ruin all public goodwill before they even moved, and thereby remove the need to relocate in the first place.

Which actually makes sense because if the Coyotes had relocated here, what are the odds that any of their sales, marketing, and or public relations staff would have been travelling with them?

But even without a filter or an expert whispering what is prudent and appropriate into the ears of young hockey starlets, you would assume they would have enough common sense to keep their limited perspectives and selfish opinions to themselves. After all, their future bosses and fan base are tuned in to everything they are saying and nothing says first impression like, "I don't want to go play there because it's cold."

Having grown up in Vancouver and lived and worked in Washington, D.C., the merits or detractions of where I would next get paid to play a game never came up in 2001 when Winnipeg came calling. I was more concerned with continuing my career than wondering whether Manitoba had enough perks and parks. Sure it took me a few seasons before I appreciated all that Winnipeg had to offer, but where I would work next in my professional football career was never anywhere as important as the work itself.

The NHL pays significantly more than the CFL and is significantly less perilous over the long haul, so you would think that the players would be even more gracious and aware of how fortunate and blessed they are to be playing a game for a living no matter where it may be or how inconvenient they may perceive it.

For an athlete, who is making millions in a game that many of us grew up playing on the street in front of our houses, to even contemplate publicly complaining or being critical of where their next temporary stop over may be because their kids may have to go to a new school and it's cold on Portage and Main is the epitome of short-sightedness, detachment from reality, and unapproachable, pompous, entitlement.

This may not be the perceived No.1 destination to play professional hockey in, but prospective players better have enough tact to not tell us about it and throw up their thoughts to the media if they one day wish to have our support. It makes you wonder whether there is a cause and effect relationship between income and diva-ness when it pertains to the realm of professional sports.

 

Doug Brown, a hard-hitting defensive tackle and even harder-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2011 C3

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