Anonymous Locker Room Quotes Breed Shame
"It's like a country club in here."
This is what an anonymous Islanders player said to Newsday after his team lost to the Flyers on Sunday. There have been a few interpretations of his comment. One was that the player was frustrated by the lack of any player movement, the notion that most veterans were comfortable knowing their jobs were safe because trades were not being made.
Another was that the Islanders' epic nosedive -- they are now winless in 18 of their last 19 games after a 5-2 loss in Boston on Thursday -- was being accepted too easily.
Doesn't really matter what the player meant.
The problem was that one player, in a room of 20 supposed brothers, in a franchise that should be a family, chose to step out and speak about the Islanders anonymously and in a negative tone.
This cannot happen.
Nothing good comes out of a player speaking anonymously to the press. It's also borderline idiotic of the player, even if deep down he's a good person who probably didn't understand the harm he was inflicting. For starters, the Islanders' locker room at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is small, the media contingent even smaller. Somebody out there, if not a lot of people, knows who did it. (At least be smart enough to call or text when you're far away from the rink, Hockey Guy).
In the gory days of the late '90s, back when I was the Islanders' PR director, we had a veteran pull this stunt. Back then, there were four writers covering the team daily for the New York papers and a lot more microphones and cameras. Still, this lughead was dim enough to sit in his stall and grant a one-on-one interview with one writer before the PR staff, his teammates and the rest of the media corps. Before I got to work the next day, I had a half-dozen calls from players threatening bodily harm to their guilty teammate.
When the newspaper came out the next day, boy did "Anonymous" feel like a dope. He admitted to the crime, apologized, was fined, lost the respect of a few teammates for a little while (if not forever), life moved on, the team finished last and we moved on to the next disaster.
At the beginning of this season -- yes, in a post for Islanders Point Blank in which I predicted the team to hang around NHL .500 ... who's the dope now! -- I wrote the following note of caution regarding the still-rebuilding and injury-wrecked 2010-11 Islanders:
"The goal for the Islanders is to make sure the wheels don't fall off during the tough stretches. No sideshows. No media meltdowns. No in-fighting. Nothing short of first-class player treatment. If the franchise is having trouble convincing top players to come here, management needs to show their own that this is a place they don't want to leave."
When I read the anonymous player quote in Newsday, my first thought was, "GONNNNNNNNNG." By the way, don't shoot the messenger, the reporter doing their job.
Teams talk about bad losses being "unacceptable." Nothing is more unacceptable than a player publicly and gutlessly going against his team -- even if that team has lost 18 of its last 19 games.