PHWA Member Dennis Bernstein Goes Woodward On Botta?

New York Islander Fan Central | 4/05/2011 07:42:00 PM | | | |

A little thing surfaced in my research the other day that I remembered from years ago when Miroslav Satan received the Good Guy Award with the Islanders. A member of the PHWA was from a site called the fourth period.

I admit, this blog completely looks down on such a site being credentialed by the association. I'm very tight and strict with my standards here, have been since day one to a fault.

Apparently now though a different PHWA member from same site named Dennis Bernstein had a lot to write/speculate/opinion about Chris Botta and this ugly situation on Tuesday here. I remembered his article on 12/17 regarding this story here where he included the following but asked questions of Botta and how Lou Lamoriello fired PR people as someone who was from the NY area.

This is the point in the story where the question of credential status and game access comes into focus. Chris Botta is a good guy, he credentialed me for Islanders game back in the day but I’m not a follower of his work. My assumption is that since he writes for more than one website, he’s able to translate his experience of two decades around the NHL to the written word, not a stretch for someone coming out of public relations.

Some Fascinating Points Were Made Today I Wanted To Share:
If the writers wanted to pressure the Islanders into reversing the decision, they should have chose to boycott the games, not withdraw from voting for season ending awards. The best way to show solidarity is to not sit in the same press row at Nassau Coliseum where they used to sit shoulder to shoulder with Botta but it would likely risk their jobs. So let's man a protest that puts us in no jeopardy but does risk our standing with the NHL. Let's start an action that potentially lowers our visibility if we lose the right to vote for the high profile awards. The NHL will likely look at this as a marvelous opportunity to grab a sponsor for fan voting for the awards and find a 'blue ribbon panel' to select the finalists. Sad to say, none of my colleagues took a primer on negotiation and civil disobedience before decided to engage in an ineffective strategy. One of my fans, a New Jersey Devils supporter made a fabulous point that if the PHWA voted for the Vezina Trophy, would Larry Brooks of the New York Post really boycott the voting if he had the opportunity to vote for the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist?

So while a right I've worked hard to earn stands at risk in a matter that has zero to do with me, the politics of the matter isn't what the most egregious part of the story.

When Chris Botta was disavowed in Uniondale, he got an audience with WFAN Radio on Mike Francesca widely listened to afternoon drive time show. On the show, Botta, who was the former PR director of the Islanders, stated he left on amicable terms and had no idea why his credential was pulled. In the days thereafter, he hypothesized that the cause was the jealousy Islanders management and ownership had over his great relationships with the players. If credentials were pulled for every reporter that had good relationships with players, there would be no credentialed reporters, it's just silly logic.

NYIFC Comments:
I have no idea about what was hypothesized or where Mr Bernstein is coming from with this. I cannot endorse or reject that viewpoint.

The leadership of the PHWA has come under fire for not going to the wall in support of a dues paying member of the association. One of the deans of hockey writing, USA Today's Kevin Allen, issued a brief, smart statement questioning the logic of the boycott which I am in total agreement. While I don't want to impair anyone's right to earn a living, membership to the PHWA is granted on an invitation basis only and for a body of work, certainly not a requirement for Botta to possess for continuing employment. My support for Mr. Allen's stance comes from the following logic:

What if Chris Botta's actions earned him expulsion from press row? Was there full disclosure on the nature of his relationship with the team?

I've come to learn a very different version of the reality and have been quiet up to this point but in an effort to get to the other side of the story (and there always is one), I feel a duty to those in the PHWA who feel the same way as I do as well as the public.

An alternate version of the story is that Chris Botta was terminated from the Islanders and as a result, every time he entered the locker room he came with an agenda. He routinely bad mouthed the organization to players, questioning why they would want to play for them and denigrated management. If you were GM Garth Snow or owner Charles Wang and you got wind of a former employee that you granted access was discrediting the organization at every turn, what would your best response be? Like the Islanders, I'd be doing the exact same thing, pull the 'privilege', not the 'right' to be in the building and make no comment about it.

Which of the two scenarios makes more sense? An innocent writer being singled out for doing his job for a team that is in dire need of publicity, or a terminated employee with an agenda to get back at his former boss. I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I'm buying the latter and as for those dues paid to the PHWA, I'm happy to refund the $25 annual fee out of my own pocket if it came down the second way. With the status of the ability to vote for the awards now in potential jeopardy, shouldn't Botta do the right thing? Step away as to serve the great good of the association, thank those chapters for their support and in a public statement urge them to cast their vote to maintain the integrity of the awards and the PHWA, or is it really all about Chris?

Perhaps the PHWA should explore termination for a member that's misrepresented his situation, not enact an ill-planned, ill-advised boycott that damages the reputation and privileges of a long standing international body.

Feel free to check Mr Bernstein's twitter account and ask hard questions here along with researching his background reporting here.

NYIFC Comments:
Mr Botta made clear he had no part of initiating such a boycott in his statement the other day beyond knowing it was discussed.

NYIFC comments are simply we just wanted to bring this PHWA members views to our readers, you have to make up your own minds.

Completely admit NYIFC loves a style where someone is willing to put their credential or themselves on the line for the fans and ask same hard questions like this blog always does when things do not seem fair or add up. The past stories speak for themselves about this PHWA experiences.

Could the writer be wrong about Botta? Absolutely, but the point is there are always two sides.

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