What if we had a Super Stanley Bowl Cup?
In the week leading up to the big game between the Red Wings and Senators, the radio reporter squeezes his microphone through the pack in the hotel ballroom. If he's fortunate, the station's call letters on the mike flag might show up on "SportsCenter," earning him praise from the program director. But that's just his secondary goal.
He smirks and asks Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios: "What's the stupidest question you've been asked this week?"
Chelios glares at the reporter. "That one," he says.
Nearby, a television reporter carefully positions himself to be in the shot with Detroit winger Brendan Shanahan, then grins and asks, "How're you holding up to the hype?"
Shanahan says, "As if you're not part of it?"
A couple of hours later, in another hotel in the Chicago Loop, a diminutive VJ from a music video channel asks Ottawa defenseman Zdeno Chara, "Wow, how tall are you, anyway?"
"It's in the media guide," snaps the 6-foot-9 Chara.
A minute later, undeterred, the VJ holds up a copy of the Senators' postseason media guide and smiling at the camera, says, "OK, I looked at the media guide. So now explain to me: What's the difference between Slovakia and Czechoslovakia, anyway?"
No, that didn't happen.
That didn't happen because, as in baseball and basketball, the NHL's championship is decided in a best-of-seven series that isn't as conducive for such silliness as Super Bowl week. Members of the media -- the term must be loosely applied, because that's the tack the NFL takes in issuing credentials -- spend most of the week leaning right into the punch. They are there for trivia, for overkill, for silly questions and for boondoggling that rivals a Congressional fact-finding junket to Bali. (Actually, the most ubiquitous question of the week is, "You got an extra ticket to the commissioner's party I can use?")
The media is too often there covering the coverage, rather than searching for significant angles on the game -- angles that don't necessarily have anything to do with blocking schemes or the zone blitz.
There are good stories to be told, and many of them are. Yet it requires both a willingness to wade through the silliness and, just to pick an example, to ask Seahawks defensive end Bryce Fisher what it was like to serve in the Air Force, rather than asking him what kinds of questions he has heard this week, or how often he expects the tight end to line up on his side. Of course, start that line of questioning, and someone from an all-sports station somewhere will sit down and cleverly ask Fisher, "So Bryce Fisher, which Carrie Fisher movie was the best: (a) 'Star Wars'; (b) 'The Man with One Red Shoe'; or (c) 'The Blues Brothers'?"
I've often wondered what it would be like if we had a similar phenomenon in the NHL, if the Stanley Cup was a one-and-out tournament -- now that's pressure -- with a one-week lead-in to the championship game at a preselected, neutral site.
Heck, it could even be held in a city without NHL hockey. Chicago, for example.
The folks at the William Morris Agency, which just signed on to help with NHL marketing, might even go along with this -- right after saying, "We gotta do lunch." They could even come up with revolutionary concepts, such as promoting the league's individual stars.
What might it be like?
• During the coach's interview session, a writer stands and asks Ottawa coach Bryan Murray: "At first, people said you should have stuck with being a GM ..."
Murray cuts him off.
"Who were 'people'?"
"Excuse me?" asks the flustered writer.
"You guys always ask questions about what 'people,' or, 'so-called experts,' or 'they' say. This is about the 300th time in the last three days someone has asked me a question like that. So for once, I'm asking you, who said I should stay a GM?"
"Well, I did," said the writer.
"That's what I thought," says Murray.
• Senators goalie Dominik Hasek is asked repeatedly about his days with the Red Wings, including the 2002 championship run. Finally, he says, "I think I was an important part of that."
Later in the day, reporters ask members of the Red Wings, "What do you think of Hasek saying he won the Cup single-handedly?"
• Along radio row in the media hotel, retired players and entertainment figures slide from talk show to talk show, ultimately getting around to actually talking about what might happen in the game.
Patrick Roy talks about the Quebec Remparts and major junior hockey. Mario Lemieux -- if the slots license hasn't yet been awarded and a sale hasn't gone through -- lobbies on the air for a new arena in Pittsburgh. Mark Messier discusses his night in Madison Square Garden and his future.
Michael J. Fox picks the Red Wings. Dave Coulier confesses that long before he was Nancy Kerrigan's partner on "Skating with Celebrities," he never could tell apart the Olsen twins while filming "Full House." The Barenaked Ladies, the easy choice to perform both national anthems, explain how they came up with the band's name. The members of ABBA, in addition to saying they like both Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom, brag they're at least younger than Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. They then defend increasing the break between the first and second periods to 45 minutes. Otherwise, they'd have to leave out "Waterloo."
• At the news conference unveiling of the latest NHL-endorsed video game, a 7-year-old plays a sportswriter in a simulated Red Wings-Senators matchup.
The kid's Red Wings team wins, 352-0.
The sportswriter walks away, still amazed that Gary Thorne and Bill Clement could sit down and tape seven billion hours of play-by-play.
• A Canadian tabloid reports that "a source says" the Senators and Wings "are talking about a future deal" that would send Patrick Eaves and Jason Spezza from Ottawa to Detroit for Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Of course, as the story details, it can't happen until the trading period reopens. It won't happen, period, but it's a fun dart to throw and causes a lot of discussion.
• At the "State of the Game" news conference the day before the game, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman actually fields some probing questions and the atmosphere isn't similar to being granted an audience with royalty.
Sure, as is his usual practice, Bettman adroitly reworks the questions to enable him to give preprogrammed answers, but this is no NFL-style, slow-pitch softball game.
Finally, he loses his cool.
"Now having said that," he says, "how come you don't treat me like those football writers treat Tagliabue? He's a New York lawyer, too! Didn't you have fun at my party?"
Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."
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