Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fronts: Bad craziness; fear and loathing in the Limestone City

You would never read this in any Canadian paper, but then again, it is one that once employed Hunter S. Thompson:
"Stevens' dream is to someday play in the NHL. He doubts he would have received an opportunity to play for Utah if he hadn't been traded from the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs to Barrie, located three hours north of Toronto, last December. According to Stevens, Barrie does a better job promoting players and has more 'connections.' "
The august Middletown Times-Herald Record did not actually quote much-loved former Kingston Frontenacs tough guy Peter Stevens saying he received an ECHL tryout with the New York Islanders organization in parts thanks to getting his freedom from the fun-in-dysfunctional Fronts. It's just that it's a sentence construction you would never, ever see in the Canadian media, thanks to junior hockey's culture of omertà.

As an added benefit, it's true and timely. The Springer Frontenacs are reprising the great window-dress of 2008, where they put together a few wins in low-loverage situations, demur from saying that general mangler (not a typo) Larry Mavety is might be getting a new contract, add water and stir.

It's not a commentary on anyone's professionalism, since everyone does that, but you would never read anything that frank in most smaller Canadian dailies in 10,000 years. It's probably the same Stateside, too, but typically there is a bit of self-censorship when you deal with athletes 20 and under, especially in a smaller community. Anything that you think is bulletin-board worthy is usually left out, sparing them and you the grief of a phone call from a coach, teacher or a member of the team executive the following day. Yes, you're trying to get some good clips that will help you move up to a bigger paper, but you have to live in the town, too.

It is not dishonest, just sensible. There's the whole aspect of having to go along to get along, plus the young person might realize you saved them some embarrassment and might be more open in future interviews. It doesn't take a journalism prof at Ryerson and/or Western to figure it out, although a journalism prof at Ryerson and/or Western wouldn't figure it out, which is why they ended up teaching journalism at Ryerson and/or Western. But I digress.

Frontenacs diehards will doubtless be pleased to hear that Peter Stevens, friend, fighter, humanitarian, healer is getting a shot to go to the next level. (Look at this: He pulled a punch because his helmet had come off, meaning the other guy wouldn't be able to hit him back. What a guy.)

Modestly talented players such as Stevens, as Duane touched on earlier this week, are the essence of junior hockey. They're good enough to dream, take nothing for granted and you're going to have to pry that stick out of their cold, dead hands. It's a 180 from the emerging class of NHLers who give off a sense of entitlement, since everyone has been telling them they were great since they made the Triple-A rep team at the age of nine (looking at you, Jason Spezza: When was the last time you skated on an outdoor rink without the team's PR department on hand to capture it for posterity?).

Players such as Stevens remind us of the old days when hockey was the only way out of the mines or off the farm. As an American who started late, he had bust ass to get into the OHL.

Meantime, a reporter whose beat includes portions of New Jersey, New York state and Pennsylvania ended up articulating what pretty much everyone has in Kingston for a good many years. The Frontenacs are anti-development so long as Mavety remains employed and owner Doug Springer avers that his GM-for-life is an "astute hockey man."

It is looking up with Doug Gilmour as coach, but there is no tabulating how much has squandered since 1999, mostly since Springer seems to like confrontation or admitting mistakes even less than he likes answering non-softball questions. That makes him no different from 94% of the North American male population. Thing is, precious few of them can afford to buy a major junior hockey team, have their buddy Harv (Kingston Mayor Harvey Rosen) build them a $43-million arena and than raid city reserves when few can bear to pay $15-20 to watch a struggling team in an arena that has atmosphere. It also won't change so long as Mavety, who has fewer and fewer "connections" who are still active in hockey, is steering the ship.

Mark Potter told a "classic Mav" story on CFRC 101.9 with Kinger last week. About 10 years ago, the Frontenacs drafted a player who was considering going to the NCAA. He "got a letter" from the Fronts informing him camp started Aug. 30. The team never contacted him otherwise. He reported to camp and after two days, when he had to decide whether to stay on or leave and retain his NCAA eligibility, he went by the GM's office to say, "Mav, I'm leaving." Mavety looked up, "Who are you?"

The chance that the Times-Herald Record writer read Save The Fronts before writing an article on Stevens are pretty remote, so it's amusing he could just absolutely nail how nothing changes in Kingston with the Frontenacs. Players such as Peter Stevens come and go, we cheer their successes, but at the end of the day, the astute hockey man is there, always.

It has been 491 days since Doug Springer promised to do "whatever it takes" to bring a winner to Kingston.

Chester native to play for Islanders' affiliate in Utah (Justin Rodriguez, Middletown Times-Herald Record)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I get your point, but I've seen Spezza out twice at outdoor rinks in Kanata...just media no photo opps...not that I like him or his game...He plays in real NHL games like its shinny anyways.