It is unusual for this space to contain an article about the San Jose Sharks, San Jose being far from Santa Rosa and hockey being what it is. But recent events concerning the Sharks have forced this team into the forefront of the sports news, for better or worse.
As you may know, the Sharks led the Detroit Red Wings three games to zero in their conference semifinals but subsequently lost three games in a row. If San Jose loses on Thursday, it will be eliminated from the playoffs and a season which, a few days ago, seemed full of joy and promise will descend into sadness and recrimination.
One event stands out. After Game 5, Versus announcer Jeremy Roenick, a former Sharks player, characterized the play of Sharks star Patrick Marleau this way, "An unbelievably poor effort from Patrick Marleau. A gutless, gutless performance by Patrick Marleau." Roenick later said the word "gutless" may have been too strong, but he did not back off from his point.
In the same interview someone asked if Marleau might be hurt. That's when Roenick delivered the coup de grace.
"Yeah, he's hurt right here," Roenick said, pointing to his heart.
It is worth noting in Game 6 — subsequent to Roenick's scathing criticism — Marleau responded with exactly one shot on goal and no goals, a performance that seemed to validate Roenick's analysis of Marleau's guts and heart and whatever additional body parts you care to name.
Was it wrong for Roenick, an ex-teammate of Marleau, to say what he said?
Before we get into the ethics of Roenick's remarks, think about Barry Bonds for a moment. In the early stages of his career, Bonds did not play well in the postseason, although he redeemed himself in later years. People used to say and write that Bonds disappeared in the playoffs and many questioned his courage under pressure. People argued about this assessment, but no one ever declared it wrong for observers to express an opinion one way or another.
But that's exactly what Sharks announcer Randy Hahn did. He tweeted a rebuttal to Roenick: "Roenick only cares about furthering his broadcast career. His Marleau take was WAY over the line. Many bridges were burned ... It was unprofessional."
We admire Hahn for his loyalty to Marleau and all things Sharks, and we would expect no less from the team's announcer. But we notice Hahn did not refute Roenick, never even attempted a rebuttal.
Hahn began by questioning Roenick's motives — he's a selfish man who cares only about his career. Perhaps, but this does not address Marleau's heart or how he played.
Hahn wrote Roenick went way over the line. In what way? Hahn doesn't say, although he seems to imply it's not nice for a former teammate to be ruthlessly frank about another. If so, why?
Hahn wrote that Roenick burned bridges. Surely, it is not a broadcaster's job not to burn bridges — Golden Gate, Bay or Brooklyn. A broadcaster's job is to tell the truth as he sees it. So many former athletes obscure the truth or protect current players, and that rings so false. Fans should appreciate an announcer who doesn't care about bridges, who doesn't even consider bridges.
Finally, Hahn seems to imply Roenick no longer is welcome around the Sharks. So what? If the Sharks blow this series, Marleau — not Roenick — should be persona non grata.