Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear Internet instead?
There is always that debate about hockey players and the quotes they give.
"Oh y'know, I just uhh went hard to the net and fortunately my linemates were able to get me the puck so I was just glad to be rewarded for sticking to my game. Tip your hat to him, he's a great goalie, and they're tough to play against, but we're just trying to take it one game at a time, and we were the better team tonight."
And so forth. Boring. Tells you nothing.
We wonder why the media even bother talking to them, other than the fact that they had the game-winner or the shutout or scored a hat trick. We opine that guys aren't better quotes, and revere those who will be honest about themselves and their games. It's great to hear a guy say, "We just flat-out sucked tonight," because it likely validates what we were also thinking about their game.
But alas, hockey players, like most professional athletes, make a habit of saying nothing at all, and that's by design.
The reason is obvious: The way things are these days, the slightest controversial statement gets blown up in the media, and especially on Twitter. Statements are examined endlessly, and oftentimes, the guy will be condemned by whomever, even if they were just expressing their opinion. How dare Alex Semin, just as a for instance, say that he thinks Patrick Kane is better than Sidney Crosby?
At the end of the day, having an opinion and saying interesting things isn't as important as having the right opinion and saying interesting things about yourself only.
It was, in a word, revolting.
Among the list of public relations mistakes Janssen made throughout the interview was dropping a few dozen F-bombs (which I'm fine with, but team officials likely are not), mentioning, "fat broads that you regret bangin'," talking about how he openly tells guys on other teams that he will attempt to hurt them if they chirp him or do not play in a manner that is to his liking, saying that he hits with the intent to injure, and noting that if he knows another player is gay — which he addressed in the most vulgar terms possible — he will definitely try to kick his ass.
It can be pretty easy to explain away a lot of this stuff. It's an uncensored radio show and Janssen seems to have a preexisting relationship with the hosts, so he is comfortable around them and feels more at ease in talking about whatever comes into his mind. The hosts also asked him a number of very leading questions, including the one that directly prompted the gross homophobic remark.
Sports talk radio is supposed to be very focused on What Regular Guys Wanna Hear. So the hosts and guests talk about things in the crassest terms possible; Janssen was likely trying to fit in with the vibe of the room, where he knew the hosts anyway.
But the problem with what Janssen did is not that he spoke his mind. It's that what's on his mind flies in the face of what the NHL wants to be these days.
With all the attention being paid to concussions, and the gigantic suspensions being handed out to the players who cause them, maybe — and this is just speculation on my part — talking about actively trying to hurt your opponents isn't the brightest idea. It's 2012. Attitudes are starting to change about the role of tough guys whose only job is to punch and hit people (and Janssen, with 11 points in 308 career games in which he averaged 4:48 on the ice, is just such a guy), and he's doing little to help push the argument that players like that don't deserve to share NHL rinks with people who are actually good at hockey.
"OK, I'm gonna hurt somebody on this [expletive]ing team," Janssen said he tells opponents who chirp him from the bench. "Whoever's gots the puck with their head down, I'll [expletive]in' hurt ya."
How unfortunately neanderthalic, and counter to everything the league has said — OK, paid lip service to — about the importance of player safety.
A lot has been discussed in terms of how the league can better protect players. And despite Brian Burke's protestations back in January when he had to waive Colton Orr, ridding the league of guys who have only three more career NHL goals than the average Puck Daddy reader is, at its core, a good thing. Especially if they say that go around trying to hurt people.
You can say what you want about the role a guy like Raffi Torres plays, but he provides value to the hockey teams that employ him. He scored 15 goals last season. He's good defensively. He also tries to hurt people, but it's tough to argue that he doesn't belong on an NHL roster based on his abilities. That's why the Coyotes used him for the first three games in the playoffs until the Marian Hossa hit.
Cam Janssen saw exactly zero seconds in the postseason, and the reason is that he isn't good at any aspect of hockey not directly related to punching someone in the face or hitting them when they're not looking directly at him. In the playoffs, that doesn't put "the fear of God," as Janssen says, into anybody. And it doesn't have a place in today's NHL.
Then, of course, there was the mind-boggling bout of homophobia that spewed from both one of the hosts and Janssen's mouths around 12 minutes into the interview, when the topic turned to trash-talk.
"But if the guy was sucking [expletive] four weeks ago, you're gonna let him know about it," one of the hosts half-asked, half-suggested.
Janssen upped the ante for him. "If he's sucking [expletive], he's getting his ass kicked," he replied with a laugh, to an uproarious response.
Now granted, as far as I can tell, there are only about three dozen NHLers involved with the You Can Play Project, and that's not, on the surface, a particularly big number given that there are 600-plus players leaguewide. But it's a lot for about half a season, and this is a program that has garnered a significant amount of goodwill for the league. However, it's not unreasonable to assume that most hockey players, even if they're not as outwardly homophobic as Janssen was in his disgusting, if off-the-cuff, statement, have a very casual attitude toward that kind of talk.
While guys like Andy Greene and Mark Fayne, Janssen's teammates in New Jersey and two of the players who have recorded videos of support for You Can Play, might not like it, that's almost certainly how players talk in the room. Not that it's right — and again, Janssen took it a step further by saying he would beat up a gay player — but that's how it is. It's the saying it out loud and in public that makes him look remarkably stupid, and was only ever going to lead to outrage.
You can say that the hosts led him along, lobbing him softballs that would lead to indefensible and controversial statements such as these, but there's no denying that Janssen turned on every one and crushed them into the cheap seats like 2001 Barry Bonds. He didn't see one pitch he didn't like, and every one was in his wheelhouse.
It's not as though he's not responsible for his comments just because the hosts are homophobic shock jocks.
The obvious joke about all this is that the movement Greene, Fayne, and many other NHLers support has the motto, "If you can play, you can play," and Janssen, based on all this, might find out if the opposite is true. History tells us he sure as hell can't play.
So yes, Cam Janssen, you can speak your mind and I hope that you, and all other players, continue to do so in the future. But you can't be surprised when everyone thinks you're a dumbass bigot who doesn't belong in the league.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on handling criticism: "Everytime I think I'm getting a lot of hate on Twitter I go look at Nickelback's iTunes page and read the comments. Things aren't so bad."
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- Cam Janssen