A face the (Canadian) media loves to hate — why?
It looks like TSN/NBC analyst Pierre McGuire is up to his old tricks. Once again he has taken the opportunity to lambast long-time Capitals winger Alexander Semin.
On the July 1 “Free Agent Frenzy” show on Canada’s TSN (and simulcast on the NHL Network), McGuire and the apparently anti-Semin panel launched a blistering attack on the Russian, who is now a free agent.
The firebombing started with ex-NHL coach-turned-analyst Marc Crawford who referred to Semin as “a loser,” without giving a single reason why he deserved such an appellation (barring Crawford’s own disdain for him). He continued the barrage, saying that although Semin’s point production was greater than fellow UFA Zach Parise’s, he does not help his team at all, while Parise helps “in every way.”
Marc, could you be a little more vague with those comments? Is there any proof to this accusation, or did a Russian rub you the wrong way at some point in your career? Because, calling somebody names on a national network simply isn’t professional journalism.
Not wanting to miss his chance to bash Semin, McGuire eagerly jumped in with equal venom, saying he ”is not a great teammate” and describing him as the “ultimate coach killer.” Aren’t you being a bit melodramatic, Pierre?
Clearly, McGuire has a short memory. He sang Semin’s praises during one of the better playoff runs the Capitals have had in years. In fact, Semin was the talk of the NHL during the first round as we reported on this website in April.
Playoff performance aside, lets look at the stats. Semin been an amazingly solid producer since he arrived in Washington. Looking at his numbers, one would never guess that he has been riddled with injuries each year. He has done everything his coaches have asked him to do. And he has even been hailed as “caring too much” by his former general manager George McPhee.
He has been a loyal teammate. He is never late to practice. He does what is asked of him and doesn’t argue with the coach or management. He’s not a prima donna with huge demands, nor does he expect special treatment. One can’t even accuse him of being a one-way player, as he’s proved that this certainly isn’t the case. No, he simply wants to play.
Why then, do members of the Canadian media wage war against this player? They certainly would never talk about one of their “own” this way, no matter how detrimental that person was to their team. It would be unacceptable. Why is this any different?
Members of the Canadian media, including Pierre McGuire, seem to enjoy denigrating Russian players.
Maybe Semin turned down a request for an interview or perhaps he refused to give McGuire his private mobile number so they could exchange text messages and give Pierre another name to drop. Or maybe his discomfort with the English language makes him somehow less human and, therefore, easier to excoriate. Or, as I’ve often thought, there may be a more sinister reason for trying to ruin his reputation. The NHL is still very much an Old Boys club, and anyone different is not well received.
Whether they are motivated by xenophobia or some other reason, the attacks on Semin’s character are unacceptable and unethical behavior on the part of TSN’s “expert” panel. Yet I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Bashing Russians seems to be a time-honored tradition in certain circles and it seems the people who do it will not be happy until all of the Russians have gone home to the Kontinental Hockey League. And while Semin is far too talented to play in that league, Sergei Fedorov, the new GM for CSKA Moscow has said he will make a play for him.
Yes, the Cold War still rages on the ice. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the old ideas of what a Russian player is to change. It’s time for some in the Canadian media to forget the contentiousness of the 1972 Summit Series, get with the times and do some rethinking. Do those old stereotypes of the stoic, unfeeling, passionless Russian still apply? And, perhaps more importantly, did they ever? Until this relatively small, but influential segment of Canada’s press corps is willing to look at their own biased attitudes and commit themselves to a little fairness, I fear hockey slip further into the realm of “niche sport.” Certain big name, absurdly suited and coiffed commentators are already laughingstocks. It’s time for a change, before the sport we love becomes one too.
Photographs: Alexander Semin by Geneen Pipher/Hockey VIPs Magazine; Pierre McGuire from Wiki Commons.