Game day interviews with NHL players are a boring waste of time, rarely providing noteworthy insight.
One of my pet peeves when watching NHL telecasts are player interviews, because rarely do the subjects provide any useful insight.
The interviewer asks a series of predictable questions to fit the occasion, usually about what the team needs to do to snap out of its slump, or to keep its winning streak going, or how they intend to play against their upcoming opponent, then veering toward how the player is doing with their game, what they hope to accomplish tonight, and so on.
I don’t fault the reporters. They’re only doing their jobs, asking the questions which they believe their readers or viewers would be most interested in, which of course is team or individual performances, and hoping to get an honest response from their subjects.
Perhaps they could ask more thought-provoking questions, but their limited interview segments (usually 30 seconds) provides little time to ask them, let alone get an adequate response.
And let’s face it, the players aren’t exactly keen or willing interview subjects.
There’s a stereotype of hockey players as “Big Bobby Clobber” types; good-natured dimwits with only rudimentary schooling, leaving reporters little option but to keep their questions dumbed-down for their subjects to better understand them.
No doubt a few players are about as sharp as a bag of wet mice. Most, however, are more intelligent and articulate than they’re given credit. The problem is they’re used to giving stock answers to reporters, treating the media as a nuisance that won’t go away until provided a standard answer to their standard question.
Outspoken players, like former stars Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Jeremy Roenick and Georges Laraque, or current players Chris Pronger, Sean Avery or Paul Bissonnette, are rare birds.
Fans judge the players personalities by their interview responses, assuming they’re all the same boring, colorless robots.
A good number tend to be soft-spoken. Many, however, are as personable as the average joe, but put up their automaton front because the last thing they want is for a comment to be blown out of proportion, perhaps resulting in more probing, personal questions, potentially threatening team chemistry.
So many players probably keep their opinions and personalities hidden from the public because of the nature of the sport, where teamwork is prized above all, and while players with great individual talent may stand out by their performance, it is generally frowned upon to stand out away from the ice with an colorful, outspoken personality.
So, it’s the usual stock answers and soundbites, revealing almost nothing, over and over again, becoming little more than filler during game stoppages to provide the play-by-play commentators and analysts a chance for a quick break.
During game warm-ups, a stoppage in play, or between periods, the last thing a player wants is a microphone in his face.
He’s focused on the game at hand, and when one of those interviews are conducted, the player looks uncomfortable, as though he’d rather be somewhere else. They spit out stock answers rapid-fire to bring the interview to an end as quickly as possible to return to the warm-up, regain their focus on the game, or hurry back to the dressing room for that much-needed rest before the next period begins.
Thus, the player responds by saying the team just needs to keep working hard. Everyone has to give 110 percent. Keep skating hard. The bounces will go their way, though they didn’t go their way tonight. Everyone has to be on the same page, and that’s why they’re doing so well right now. They’re just squeezing their sticks right now, but everything’s firing on all cylinders. The key to their game is they’ve been playing hard at both ends of the rink but they need to do more at both ends. They’re taking care of the little things. Their goaltending has been solid. They all need to get better. It’s time for everyone to put on their work boots. They execute the game plan. They’re missing their best scorer to injury, but everyone’s stepped up, and they hope he’ll come back soon. The fans have been great, but they don’t want to talk about their contract right now because that’s in their agents hands, and they hope to get something done soon, but they’re just going to focus on hockey and give 110 percent, and they love playing for their new team but it takes time to adjust to new teammates and surroundings but they’ve had no trouble fitting in or feeling welcome, and they’re not going to use that nagging injury as an excuse for their poor performance but they hope to see more ice time and prove age hasn’t become a factor. They’re taking the demotion to the third line in stride while looking forward to making the most of their opportunity on the top line/defense pairing/starting goalie role, and are looking forward to the challenge of playing one of the top teams in the league, but the challenge is to stay focused tonight against the struggling team because they won’t take them for granted even though they’re now leading by five goals heading into the third. The key tonight was everyone played their best but they could’ve played better and its something they gotta work on for next game, where the key is to keep playing as well as they have and not get out-hustled, and everyone just needs to pick up their checks, lay on the body, not get caught in the trolley tracks, and find the back of the net.
Certainly runs together, doesn’t it? A commercial for erectile dysfunction would make more compelling TV.
Reporters should certainly continue interviewing players, but save it for post-game or practices. Granted, they’re probably not going to get much more than those standard cliches, but at least there’s more time to ask better questions, and a better chance of getting a genuine response.
Nothing of any real interest is to be gleaned from interviewing players during warm-ups, during breaks in the game action, or between periods. If the NHL wants to highlight what’s best about their players, focus on the actual highlights, where the players say more with their on-ice performance than in those interviews.