He said what?

@CBurt1987: Never has anyone said anything like that to me on the ice. I’m disgusted and upset. Something needs to happen before things get out of hand

This was posted on Twitter around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, after RIT’s 6-5 win over Holy Cross at Ritter Arena, RIT’s home rink.  Cameron Burt is an African-American hockey player for RIT.

Within the next hour, Burt’s post generated several responses, including this one, posted Sunday at 12:35 a.m:

@QUHockeyBlog (Luke Devoe): @CBurt1987  @EdTrefzgerUSCHO Awful race related incident tonight for RIT’s Burt. Absolutely no place for it in our sport. Gotta fix this!

(Disclosure: I am a contributor to USCHO.com.)

About 12 hours later, Burt wrote this on Twitter:

@CBurt1987: I apologize to the fans and parents of the children that were at my game last night for my language. I was caught off guard by what was said

However, Burt did not elaborate on what was said to him or what he said in response, despite a handful of online responses. Nor did anyone pin down what was said to Burt. If it was a slur, it’s not worth repeating, but a discussion and dialogue is necessary if so.

So far, there’s no definitive answer to this question:

What was said to him?

We won’t know yet. We’re only going on assumptions and veiled statements right now. Given the circumstances, it’s safe to assume what was said by Burt’s opponent. But when it comes to fact-finding, there’s a need to know, even considering the ugliness of this incident. It deserves public scrutiny.

***

Still, this topic won’t go away.

In a similar vein, consider this. Hockey players will say such – they say they don’t mean it, but whatever they say on the ice comes in the “heat of the game.”

That was illustrated during the preseason, when Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds – another black hockey player, who had a banana thrown at him during a preseason game in Ontario – allegedly called Sean Avery a homophobic slur, confirmed by Avery.

To which I asked a Division I hockey player once, “Do you ever think about some of the things you might say to other players?”

Do some of those words justify anything?

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The East Coast at random

A few thoughts after spending eight days on the road …

The most underrated view of New York City is from the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Route 19 in the South Hills of Pittsburgh is one big headache.

The people who anchored WPXI’s news in 1996 … are still anchoring the news!

But watching the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington newscasts was a serious upgrade. Like switching from Key Light to Cristal.

I went to a Ravens bar in Maryland wearing black and gold … and survived.

But Pats fans, you’ve got nothing on Ravens fans as far as the obnoxious level goes.

It will cost you at least two dollars just to get out of the state of New Jersey.

The older you get, the grosser McDonald’s gets.

If you can, get to one of the Double T Diner locations in Maryland, and make sure you go with friends and you all order dessert.

I love my friends. I love my family even more. I cherish the time I spend with them.

And, seriously, as much as I love traveling, there’s nothing that feels as good as being back home.

Be resourceful on a busy day

We want our information fast, short and accurate. We scroll through our texts and Twitter feeds during the course of meals with family and outings with friends, absorbing whatever small details we can gather – the latest rash of bad behavior by certain celebrities, the stock market’s rise and fall, what the family is having for dinner, or scores of games.

Even I do it. I kept refreshing my phone last Saturday night, looking for college football scores. I could not find the scores anywhere on Twitter, and I posted one of my pet peeves:

@rlenzi: Pet peeve: When teams/institutions don’t update their final scores on Twitter #figureitout #controlthemessage

In minutes, I got two responses. I got an unsolicited third – from an SID who must have been in a sticky post-game predicament but whose score I was not looking for. And I totally appreciate this SID’s insight – someone who is resourceful and has made the most of their department, despite being pulled in different directions. (And a good person, to boot. That goes a long way in the profession.)

But it got me to thinking. We’re not alone.  There’s a need for information. More importantly, a need for information from credible sources.

We’re at a crossroads as far as those who purvey information goes – the senders. And there’s a big difference between someone who’s been trained and refined to be a sender such as a media member (print, tv, online, radio) or an organization’s staffer … and some of the yahoos with laptops, recorders and registered domain names. (I just don’t trust them.)

I trust the people who are trained and who have a proven track record as a communicator, whether they work for a media outlet or as a representative of an organization or institution. I trust even those trained in traditional media but who chose to branch out on their own and create their brand as a blogger or an online-only journo. All these people, they’re the ones who are trying to embrace all of this new technology to convey instant information.

So here are a few ideas to help them. Teams, here’s what you can do to help your teams and help yourselves:

Hire a social media administrator on a contractual basis.

Train a work-study student on social media and assign him or her social media responsibilities during home games – updating scores, posting stats – and during the week, such as linking releases and local media stories. They’re getting paid to hold an on campus job. Have them work, too.

Or, if you’re a pro team, have an intern do this.

Chances are, your media contact doesn’t have time to sift through the minutae.

Likewise, media members, make it a point to incorporate social media into your routine. The live blog is falling by the wayside in favor of Twitter. When it comes to tweeting, instead of play-by-play, emphasize more on the essential details such as a game-changing play or the loss of a player to injury, a news-worthy moment such as a player hitting a milestone or a bench-clearing brawl, and, yes, even a periodic score update.

Tweet tweet

Twitter is an awesome way to distribute information and to create connections with people. I’m lucky that there are a few people out there who want to hear what I have to say, er, Tweet. But our Twitter followers don’t define or validate us. And if those 1,154 do validate/define you, then you might want to reconsider what’s important to you.

Anyhow.

As a confessed information junkie, I love Twitter. It seems pretentious but I love sitting out on a nice day, having a coffee and scrolling through the Twitter feed on my BlackBerry. Maybe I’ll read a story in the Washington Post on a group of students from an African-American boarding school who traveled to D.C. to see the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Maybe I’ll read a poorly written game story that’s all play-by-play and no theme. Or maybe I’ll read a news alert from Chicago about how the L trains have been stopped because a person fell on the tracks during the A.M. commute. I also get to see peoples’ personal thoughts. There’s a certain level of intimacy to Twitter in that regard. It is also, for journalists, a great way to get information and content out into the world – and out quickly and in consumable form.

But I dislike when people use Twitter as a primary form of communication in an important situation. My pet peeve is when you send me 140 characters via direct message telling me something that might be meaningful, when you can pick up a phone or send me a personal e-mail or a note on Facebook. Much like sarcasm doesn’t translate on Twitter (or on paper, for that matter – ask David Cone about his newspaper stint in 1988), there’s a certain emotional aspect lacking when you send a direct message to someone.

No, there’s a lot of emotion lacking when you’re trying to tell someone in 140 characters that you’re sorry, that you’d like to help … or that you’re sick of their crap.

What got me when I got laid off was the people whom I thought would care enough to send an email or pick up the phone … but who sent me a 140-character-or-less direct message. Um, you have my email. You have my phone number. To be honest, I was in no mood to do personal PR in 140 characters or less for the first 48 hours after I got my letter of termination … but I probably would have picked up the phone after seeing your name on the caller ID. I’m sure you’d give good phone, too.

***

An aside … A shameless plug: Follow me on Twitter – @rlenzi. Just don’t send me a direct message and think you’re getting the emotion of the point across.

Has the question been asked?

Carlos Amestoy’s departure from the University of Maine hockey program last week was definitely noteworthy. No, more than noteworthy. But in scouring the traditional local news outlets, nary a word was mentioned about Amestoy’s departure last week to Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League. As an optimist, I hope the right people are asking questions about this departure. Even if they’re not being answered. (It’s just as easy to write that an entity or a person will not comment on a situation, but the news is out there for consumption.)

But back to Amestoy’s departure. In the interest of disclosure, I covered the Maine hockey team for more than three seasons and I’m not targeting Amestoy or the program whatsoever. Just putting out the facts.

Amestoy wasn’t one of Maine’s more prominent players. In fact, he was used sparingly at forward by the Black Bears in less than a season and a half. Amestoy had committed to Maine in April of  2008, and entered the school and the program as a freshman last fall. In 15 games in less than two seasons, Amestoy did not register a point.

Thursday and Friday, prior to Maine’s series against UMass-Lowell, the word got out – via Twitter  – that Amestoy was leaving Maine for the pastures of the Ontario Hockey League.

Credit Maine assistant captain Mike Cornell for breaking the news Nov. 10:

@M_Cornell: Really going to miss @camestoy92, but excited for his fresh start up North! Great kid Great Player… #Confidence

Saginaw posted a news release on its website on Amestoy’s acquisition on Nov. 11. Then, Amestoy commented two days later on his departure from Maine, via Twitter:

@camestoy92: Thank you to all of my friends and team mates back at Maine for their support.

Why is this news? This is a player leaving an established college hockey program for a major-junior program, a hot-button topic in college hockey.

This situation is a conflict of sorts – though not in the traditional sense of the word “conflict.” And as a former reporter once told me, conflict is news.

Amestoy has not publicly stated the reasons for his departure. Maine has not publicly commented on Amestoy’s departure. It begs the question – did anybody in the traditional media ASK about Amestoy’s departure?

***

On a related note …

Maybe this is more ammunition for the CHL in the major-junior vs. college hockey battle that’s prevalent – in the media, in the blogosphere, part of the impetus behind the formation of College Hockey, Inc., a Massachusetts-based organization that promotes college hockey as an avenue for players. (Further disclosure – I have worked with College Hockey, Inc. as a freelance writer.)

Some background: College hockey, as a collective institution, is faced with the problem every year of players who commit to colleges then break that commitment to instead join major-junior or professional teams. In a way, it leaves college hockey programs holding the proverbial bag.

Maybe a player is not up-to-snuff academically. (Or, as one former college hockey player put it a few years ago after his early departure from a Hockey East school, “I just didn’t want to go to class anymore.”)

Maybe a player is lured by the riches of the NHL or the possibility of playing in the NHL. Or a player is lured by the riches of major-junior programs.  The majority of that was unsubstantiated conjecture until ESPN’s Craig Custance, who was then with The Sporting News, examined the issue in a revealing piece that ran in August.

http://aol.sportingnews.com/nhl/story/2011-08-30/nhl-colleges-wage-war-with-canadian-junior-hockey-ohl-whl-qmjhl

Because of an unexpected departure, chances are that a program has to scramble to fill that hole – maybe days or weeks prior to the start of captain’s practices in September.

And college coaches, College Hockey Inc., the Canadian major-junior teams and the NHL have tried to discuss ways to not so much dissolve the conflict but to harness it somehow.

And it’s a conflict that’s either in dire need of a resolution, or one that may never be resolved.

A case against writing a column

A media blogger once chided me for not taking enough of a stand on a blog I wrote for my former employer.

Because frankly, as a reporter, it wasn’t my place to opine on what I was covering. And I wasn’t a columnist, so writing a column and taking a stand in that context wasn’t germane. Though it was essential to use facts in order to support an argument or a stance – which can effectively be done on a blog, without having personal opinion clouding it. There’s a difference.

But here’s a question:

How is a reporter supposed to remain unbiased – or be perceived as unbiased – when they are putting their opinion on the situation out there to everyone on something they cover?

Boston U.-Maine hockey. What if …

During the course of this game nearly three years ago, I wondered what would happen if Maine – a team that was teetering on the brink of missing the Hockey East playoffs – would beat Boston University, the No. 1 team in the country on Valentine’s Day weekend of 2009.

There were no goalposts to rip down, because football season was well over. Plus, Orono is a small, sleepy college town, so there’s no couch-burning or rioting on Mill Street.

A few of the journos jokingly referred to the 2008-2009 team at BU as “The NHL’s 31st team.” The Terriers had a lineup with 13 NHL draft picks, including current St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and current Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson, and defenseman Matt Gilroy, who opted to return to BU instead of turning pro after his junior year. Gilroy won the Hobey Baker Award in the spring of 2009 as the nation’s top Division I hockey player and now plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Maine led 2-1 late in the third period but in the end, Boston University tied the game on Nick Bonino’s goal with less than five minutes left in the third period.

http://www.pressherald.com/archive/umaine-makes-its-point-to-bu_2009-02-14.html

Oh, and the Terriers ended up winning the national championship less than two months later.