An Open Letter to Steve Simmons

By The Real Logan B

Dear Steve Simmons,

In case you’ve forgotten what I wrote to make you block me, here’s a refresher:

That was a response to you bad-mouthing Darren Pang and the St. Louis Blues broadcast. Someone had asked you what exactly you gained from openly saying that you had to mute the broadcast for the Blues game, because you couldn’t stand the homerism.

Putting aside whether you were right in your complaints or not (which I don’t necessarily think you are, since the national broadcasts are oftentimes equally biased and subpar), you went and blocked me – a sign that you clearly got upset by what I was saying – for saying we deserve a world without your contrarian, oftentimes nasty, very public assaults of those you don’t like in the hockey community.

I’ll admit – I was a little harsh. I’m sorry for saying we deserve a world without you; I probably could have easily said “we also deserve a world without your nasty lobs at prominent, well-liked hockey figures on a regular basis, yet here we are.” I’m going to pull out the pregnant card here; I’m emotional and let that get the best of me. I’m sorry.

I’m a little confused, though.

For someone who got upset over what I said in retaliation to a public Twitter war you started, you seem pretty fine with being far worse to Phil Kessel.

As someone with media credentials, I consider myself a member of the journalism community who is saddled with a certain level of responsibility. By giving me credentials, the NHL club I most often cover – the Arizona Coyotes – are granting me access to games and player insights that regular fans don’t have.

In exchange, I assume that the team expects me to use those extra tools provided to gather inferences and observations on the team to share with the general public; quotes from coaches and eagle-eye views of the games, access to practices and first access to prospects, all being combined to give fans a knowledgeable and balanced perspective on why their team is doing well or struggling.

Yes, that includes why they’re struggling – but I cannot fathom why you, someone who blocks people for criticising your negative and frequently-flung insults, think that means it’s open season on character assassination.

I have some thoughts on why I think Phil Kessel was snubbed by Team USA for the World Cup – including, for some of the thoughts, opinions about his off-ice benefit for the team.

Phil Kessel isn’t as marketable as TJ Oshie, and they’re both pure goal scorers. If you want to argue that there’s only room for one on a team that’s trying to be built with four lines of different role players, then it’s understandable to go with the more marketable of two players with a potentially similar toolkit. That’s an off-ice take.

Suggesting that Team USA didn’t pick up Phil Kessel because he lacks character? That’s not just a bad take, it’s bordering on slander.

Credentialed media have a certain unspoken onus on their shoulders to use their allowed privileges and insider access to give fans information they can’t get elsewhere. They have a certain level of trust bestowed upon them by the fans to share information that the fans can trust and use to help supplement their viewing of the games.

It’s a betrayal of trust, therefore, to offer up ‘insider’ insight into a player that slams his character, based on what seems to be nothing more than personal dislike.

When Kessel was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the summer of 2015, you wrote a piece about how the Leafs did everything they could to just make Kessel go away. You even went as far as to tell a story – that a number of other Toronto media members ultimately debunked – about how Kessel seemed to care less about his game than his daily hot dog snack.

Now that he no longer players for a team you cover, though, the assault on Kessel’s character has continued.

It started with an assertion in the start of the postseason that Kessel could barely hold on to a line with Crosby or Malkin, instead being stuck on a line with the other lost, broken toys cast off from various NHL teams. You know, like Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino. No mention of how this created some of the most lethal offensive depth in the NHL postseason, putting an elite player on each of Pittsburgh’s top three lines – just a reminder that Phil Kessel is lazy, lacks character, and his teams hate him so much that they relegate him to lower lines because he’s worthless.

Now, you’ve asserted that Team USA is so turned off by his character that they failed to name him to their roster to prevent his toxic personality from affecting their lineup.

Never mind the fact that he’s one of two top Penguins who didn’t get a nod for his team – but maybe Kris Letang also lacks character? I didn’t see that in your column; I’ll wait for it.

Never mind the fact that Team Canada also left off top scorer Taylor Hall and the North American team left off Max Domi. Do they, also, lack character? What about PK Subban? (Actually, don’t answer that one – if you’re one of the people who think that making a multi-million dollar donation public instead of anonymous makes someone immoral and selfish, I’d rather not know). Team Sweden also left off John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars. Oh, and Hampus Lindholm of the Anaheim Ducks. Justin Faulk, one of the NHL’s best defensemen and elite power play specialists, is also going to be staying home from the World Cup due to an omission from Team USA’s roster.

I see a lot of hot takes by reporters out there. Sidney Crosby can’t lead his team and elevate their play enough. Braden Holtby lacks the stamina to carry his team to a Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin hasn’t added enough of a defensive facet to his game to truly be considered an elite all-around talent.

All of those hot takes can at least be quantified, though. Whether the quantifiers used to validate those claims are really accurate or not is up for debate – but at least they can be pointed to in an attempt to support an opinion.

What you do, though – you, of the blocking people for saying hurtful things fame – is make harmful assertions about players that can’t be measured in any real way. They’re just hateful opinions, and they laugh in the face of the teams that trust you enough to give you credentials.

You may not care about what I’m saying here. Ultimately, I don’t think you do. If you cared about anything apart from your own feelings, you wouldn’t be writing the things you do about players while blocking those who have far less egregious opinions of you.

At some point, though, you’re going to reach a point where Phil Kessel is nearing retirement. He’ll maybe have a Stanley Cup to his name, and he’ll have one of the most decorated offensive careers in the league. He may even have a Conn Smythe.

What will you have? Just an archive of articles belittling his success. I hope that’ll help you in retirement.

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5 Comments

  1. This is pretty sad. And I’m not even pro-Simmons. But you seem to be missing the fact that Brian Burke is partially in charge of picking the team, the same man who left Bobby Ryan off the Olympic team because he can’t spell ‘intense’: http://espn.go.com/olympics/hockey/story/_/id/10195703/how-us-hockey-team-bound-sochi-olympics-was-named

    You also seem to be taking simple reporting like the line Kessel plays on and their production this season and connecting it to further character assassination attempts when they aren’t even there. Who is connecting Kessel being lazy and lacking character as why he was dropped to the 3rd line – you or Simmons?

    Simmons has one job – get page clicks and inspire conversation/debate. He does that better than nearly anyone in the City, right or wrong. Your assertion that somehow his pile of Kessel articles will make him disappointed when he looks back from retirement, failing to realize he’s the most read sportswriter in the country and he can look back on that fact much more fondly than pieces he wrote about polarizing figures to cause a stir.

    You just seem to miss the point completely on what Simmons’ job is. He’s not a beat writer. He’s paid to opine on pro sports and use his experience in the industry and media access to dig deeper into the story. Hence getting a Raptors executive to comment on DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph being out until 2 am. Everyone seems to think only Simmons had a problem with it, but they missed the key part of the piece.

    A team wants to trade a player so badly they’ll eat $2 million in salary and strike the deal before they even hire a General Manager (anyone think Lou couldn’t have got more for Kessel?), and somehow Simmons is on an island for suggesting there are hockey people who have issues with him. His snub from the World Cup team is just more confirmation of that, and yet it’s somehow Simmons ‘ fault. Who also pointed out Kessel is playing his best hockey right now.

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  2. Thank you so much for saying here what others (including myself, an @NHLFLAMES fan) have been saying for so long. I’ve witnessed steve Simmons’ baseless attacks that can be characterized as “Ding-Dong-Ditch”. Where he will level a snarky attack, and run as soon as he is called out on it .

    Following Round , where only 4 of 16 teams were eliminated , he went on a Rant stating that “The islanders have no fans in NYC, In fact, all of NYC are pretty indifferent to their existence. ” Followed by ” Pittsburgh is the only True hockey town left in these playoffs now with Hawks Ducks and Kings out, and that makes me sad, and is quite pathetic.”
    That is where I had enough . In a reply to him, I mentioned every remaining NHL team left and asked them what they think of Simmons claiming they aren’t true hockey towns. None were pleased. Nashville replied in disagreement. Simmons didn’t make a sound. I then Challenged him to tell Al Macinnis (Blues) , Mike Modano (Stars) Owen Nolan ( Sharks) Steve Yzerman (Tampa) Mike Bossy ( Isles) Ovechkin (Capitals) etc etc that they’ve never played for a true hockey town, and their legacy of these teams will never be equal to Pittsburgh – to their faces- live on air or video- if he is so brave. He never replied. I ended with ” oh and by the way, the Staff and full house patrons at NYC Isles loyal hangout “The Overlook” in east 44th send their love, and a big #GoIslesGo as they are currently standing room only and booked for all Isles games season long and in playoffs – indifferent my ass.

    He isn’t alone though as others out there are of his Ilk. It’s more fun firing back at him than ignoring him, because one day, those who pay him will be equally as fed up and their reaction will hit him where it hurts – his paycheck. Keep up the great work. I’ll keep challenging to back his words up , with action, which as of yet he has been too yellow to do.

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  3. Simmons has been attacking people with lies and baseless accusations for years. He has done the same thing to many players,coaches and management I personally think he is a star in his own mind who won’t admit mistakes or inaccuracies in what he writes (phil kessel hot dog stand) kessel lived nowhere near the stand. I can’t believe he is still employed .

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  4. Well said. Steve has yet to mention anything in any of his articles ranting on about Kessel’s famous ‘lack of character’ that can actually SHOW this ‘lack of character.’ I guess Phil’s lack of character led to his selection to the 2014 Olympic team and his subsequent naming as top forward by the IIHF and to the All-Tournament team (by the media!!) in Sochi.

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