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Reporter reflects on relationship between athletes and media after tense exchange with Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton

By on January 19, 2022 0

A veteran Edmonton sportswriter whose career saw him inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame says he believes it’s harder for reporters to smooth things over when there’s friction with an athlete than before.

“It’s not meant to be an adversarial relationship between the media and the players,” Postemedia writer Jim Matheson told 630 CHED’s Reid Wilkins. indoor sports radio show on Tuesday evenings. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I think I’m very fair in what I do.

Matheson’s name was trending on Twitter for much of the day after a tense exchange during a post-workout press briefing with Leon Draisaitl, one of the Edmonton Oilers’ two superstars.

Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes with Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Wednesday November 24, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“Obviously something I wrote or said ticked it off, but I have no idea what it is,” Matheson said.

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“Not the most pleasant situation to be honest.”

Matheson asked the German-born Draisaitl after the Oilers practice at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday about the team mired in a week of funk after a dominating start to the NHL season.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers slump in third, lose to Senators

The reporter, who covered the Oilers for about 40 years, asked Draisaitl if, amid the team’s second six-game losing streak, he thought the team had gone into such crises after the two the Oilers’ last regular seasons.

“Sure. Yeah,” Draisaitl said.

Matheson then asked Draisaitl what he thinks about the main reason for the team’s recent defeats and the thing he thinks is the most important thing for the team to improve.

“Yeah, we have to improve in everything,” Draisaitl replied.

“Do you want to expand on that?” Matheson replied.

“No,” Draisaitl replied. “You can do it. You know everything.”

At that point, Matheson decided to ask Draisaitl why he was so “pissy”. Draisaitl said he was simply answering the questions and Matheson suggested they weren’t very “good” answers.

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“I have one more for you,” Matheson said then. “Leon, you showed your frustration on the ice in the last game against Ottawa. Is it a good thing to show it so the other team knows you’re frustrated? »

“Yeah, that’s a good thing for sure,” Draisaitl replied.

After his response, a voice in the background of media availability can be heard saying, “I think we’re done.”

Matheson said he was aware the exchange exploded on social media almost immediately after it happened, but stressed that as a reporter he didn’t want to be part of the story.

“And when I write my story tomorrow, I won’t be the story either,” he said. “I’ll just say that Leon wasn’t very enlightening with his answers.”

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The Oilers’ recent struggles have been compounded by the fact that the team will have gone through a period this month of playing just one game in 15 days as an indirect result of pandemic-related public health restrictions. Some players have suggested having to ruminate over their issues while waiting to get their season back on track has been difficult.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers return to Rogers Place for first time with new COVID-19 restrictions in place

Matheson told Wilkins that, coincidentally, the pandemic could also indirectly make it more difficult to smooth things over with a player when there is friction between him and a reporter.

“Things are not like before and they have to go back to the old days,” he said on Tuesday evening. “If I had a disagreement with a player, you could sit next to him in the dressing room and say, ‘Did I do something that pissed you off? Tell me what it is and I can try to improve it if it’s something I said or did.

Matheson said if the player feels he deserves an apology and can understand why, he has no problem offering one.

“I’ve written stuff over the years… where you threw a free shot that looked like a cheap shot at a player and then you go to bed at night and sleep and toss and turn and get up in in the morning and you say, ‘That wasn’t very nice of me,'” he said. “And then the next day in training you approach a player and say, ‘I’m sorry, that wasn’t a very good thing to say’, and you can apologize and go from there. .

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“But that’s not how it works now in today’s NHL…because with COVID you don’t go into the locker room and therefore you can’t sit next to a player and say, ‘Look, did I do something to upset you? ‘”

Jim Matheson poses at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto Monday November 13, 2000. Matheson will be inducted into the Hall and will receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award at a ceremony on Monday evening.

(CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)

Wilkins said he contacted the Oilers to ask if Draisaitl wanted to appear on his program as he spoke with Matheson about poor media availability. He said the Oilers politely declined to make him available, saying they felt he didn’t need to dwell on what was said.

“I thought I asked a few questions about softball to start,” Matheson said, noting that another Oiler answered many of the same questions Tuesday without one-word answers.

“But Leon didn’t want to answer the question, so he just said, ‘Everything’. OK. I thought it was just normal, ‘Do you want to expand on that?’ and he said, ‘no.’ And that’s when I said, ‘Look, I get one-word answers, so…’”

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READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland believes team will turn things around

Although Matheson said he would like the opportunity to speak to Draisaitl to see if there is anything he has done to upset him, he does not regret asking the 2020 Hart Trophy winner to the NHL why he was “pissed off”.

“If I walk away and take what he said, then I don’t look very good, so I just defended myself,” he said.

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