Bloodlust and Headlines

Habs flag on a car
My car sports its Habs flag all season long!

Last night, the Ottawa Senators faced our Montreal Canadiens for the first game of the first round of the first playoffs we have been in since 2011. We were all talking, in this city, about how friendly this rivalry has been (and would be) as compared to a Toronto or Boston match-up. We haven’t played Ottawa in recent times, so this was something we all looked forward to enjoying.

I won’t post about the game. That isn’t the intent of this entry. By now, you’re all aware of the score and how the game went, and that their goaltending was the reason it wasn’t a blow-out for the Habs. And I am one of those die-hard, true-to-the-bone Habs fans who believes that one game won’t decide the Series, nor does it portend our demise.

I won’t post about the Hit on Lars Eller, though my stomach has been churning the same way it did when Max Pacioretty was hit by Zdeno Chara in March of 2011. But the feeling is different from when I wrote about that Hit… 

This post is about journalism. Or lack thereof.

Within hours of Lars Eller being stretchered off the ice, the blood cleaned from where he hit and the shakiness of the crowd and the players affecting the atmosphere of the Bell Center (and living rooms ’round the Habs Nation), the Ottawa Sun released its morning edition. I hesitate to post it here because of its classlessness, but I will post this link to a story by CTV Montreal, about the Sun, partly to highlight the object of my anger and disgust, and partly to authenticate it as a true front page (because I actually saw comments accusing Habs fans of making this up in order to rile the base).

I am a huge proponent of journalistic integrity. I wonder where it has gone, and why it is so rare to find. The Sun’s decision to publish what they did showed me that it is even more rare than I had thought.

I get that there are bloodthirsty crowds at fights (which I despise, for my own personal reasons) and I get that there are those who go to hockey games in hopes of seeing fights and/or injuries (to opposing players, of course!). I have never understood that, and I know that hockey is the only sport in which fighting does not advance the game whatsoever. I’ve seen the crowds jump to their feet around me as a fight breaks out, or a huge hit is executed, and I can’t get that excited; in fact, I have actually bemoaned our own players for not sticking with the game plan.

But for a newspaper to publish a photo of a bloodied man whose career could very much hang in the balance, and use the bloodlust for a cheap-shot headline, that got my blood boiling. And I felt compelled to write the editor of the Sun, both in email and on their web-form for that purpose.

As I don’t feel the Sun will print it, and even if they do (in hopes they have a fair view of what journalism is), I will share what I sent to the editor in my direct email, here in my own pages.

I sent this to your “Letters to the Editor” online but in order to be sure it got to you, I’m sending it to you here as well. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I’m sure, as an editor, you would like your publication to be the most respected and most tasteful. Sadly, as you’ll see by my letter, your front page delivers neither quality. Below is what I wrote via the webpage.

I am a Montrealer, and a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan. We, here in Montreal, were very pleased to be facing the Ottawa Senators in Round 1 of the Playoffs, as this is the first time in decades that our teams are facing one another. All along, we’ve been friendly rivals, without contentiousness and without the kind of vitriol reserved for our regular rivals such as Toronto and Boston (a shared animosity, I believe). And we were looking forward to our cities competing without it degrading to ugliness.

This is not about Game 1, the score, or even the hit on Lars Eller by Eric Gryba. Rather, I am writing to express my abject disgust over the front page headline juxtaposed with the photo of Lars Eller. The picture is of Eller directly after a hit (one that sent him to hospital with a concussion, facial and dental fractures), bleeding profusely; the headline reads: “First Blood Sens”.

I am utterly dismayed at the lack of class and heart this shows on the part of your editors – from the sports editors to the editor-in-chief for allowing it to be published. If this were an Ottawa player, and a Montreal paper had the gutlessness to do the same, you, too, would be up in arms.

Shame on you for your exploitation of an injured player to laud your win. Your journalistic integrity is deeply lacking in compassion and class.

Note: (for the record: the story in the Sun begins:

“First, the Senators drew blood Thursday night.

Then, they smelled it.”)

I believe if the editor had any integrity whatsoever, he would publish some sort of statement of regret. I doubt that would happen. As I said, I just wish they would print my letter.

When I am feeling emotions of any kind – I write. It is my catharsis, my emotional cleansing, it is my therapy and happens to be a forte, and if I can share my words with those who can use them, need them, or should hear them, all the better.

Expressing my outrage, sharing it with my fellow Habs fans – and to my great and pleasant surprise, many MANY Sens fans – and perhaps getting an editor to think twice about what he allowed will go a long way toward the healing process needed after an unwelcome revisit of the nausea incurred when one sees one’s team experience a stretcher-required injury mid-game.

Prayers to Lars for a speedy recovery and a FULL return to the ice.

And Go Habs GO!!!!!

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