Inspired by the recent Satire Friday feature here at S7S, I decided I’d do my own satire feature every occasional day that ends in Y. Especially days on which I have less than a lot to do at work.
This article is about a topic very dear to my heart – spelling. I can’t help but think that if you can’t be bothered to check your spelling and grammar in an official news-type site, you probably shouldn’t be an official writer. Grammar errors are for one-person blogs. Hope I touch some of your hearts as well.
Jared Cowen was all smiles on the weekend. No, he hadn’t signed a new "bridge" contract with Ottawa yet. His agent says that he and Murray have agreed to get it done at "a time that is not now, but definitely won’t lead to a hold-out. No-sir-ee, no hold-outs here. Not even thinking about it. Don’t look at me like that." No, Cowen was ecstatic because it appears that for the first time in over a year, the NHL.com writers have learned that his name is not spelled C-O-W-A-N.
"It feels great," the beaming young Senators defenseman said. "I’m finally starting to feel like I belong in this league again. It was hard, first with the lockout, then my hip injury, then with the official NHL writers treating me like I didn’t even exist."
How the mighty have fallen. Once projected to be a top-five pick, Cowen was still taken ninth overall, in the 2009 entry draft by the Ottawa Senators. He was a can’t-miss prospect who then proceeded to get injured, allowing him to drop a few spots. Though he was no McKinnin’, Yaccapuff, Stampcoast, or Crawzbeeee, it seemed that anyone with an ounce of NHL prospect knowledge would at least be able to spell his name, and tell you that he was a top shut-down defenseman with a wicked shot from the point.
An NHL.com source, speaking under condition of anonymity, said that the most likely reason was that as the stereotypical hockey player, spelling Cowen’s name correctly was not of concern to the writers. "He’s a white Canadian kid from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan," said the source. "If this was [Nazem] Kadri or [Piqué] Subban, we’d be accused of trying to promote an ‘old-boys club’, where only those with English-sounding names are welcome. If he was Québécois, the whole province might boycott us for a year and throw riots, demanding that all NHL writers know how to speak French. If he was Russian, he’d probably jump ship and head back to the KHL. If he was American, NBC might threaten to stop showing our games. If he was Swedish, he’d probably leave his team in protest and go sign with a Cup contender like Detroit. We could make this kind of mistake because we can’t be accused of any sort of discrimination."
Since the Senators had so many injuries last season, to notables such as Eric Carlson, Jason Spetsa, Milan Mikalech, and Creg Anderssen, Cowen was rarely mentioned in pre-game reports. He normally was the final name when mentioning players with injuries in the ‘Team Scope’ section, and would be at the end of the list of injuries for both teams. Nevertheless, his name was still misspelled a staggering number of times. Many articles would change the spelling halfway through, as though the NHL were hedging its bets, hoping that one of the spellings would be correct. The NHL’s worst mistake came following an Ottawa-Carolina game on April 16th, 2013, in which Cowen illegally concussed Hurricanes’ forward Jeff Skinner into next week. Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety came down hard, issuing a "five-game ban to Jared Cowan." Some quick legal work soon proved that this ban could not be applied to Jared Cowen, due to the difference in spellings. According to Article 58.9.231, Section b), menu item number 12 (pork in black red sauce), press # to continue, only one player may be issued a suspension per hit. Additionally, a suspension can only be changed if the player asks for the commissioner to become involved. Shanahan could not ask Gary Bettman to correct his spelling mistake. "Through on a technicality," Senators’ GM Brian Murray said. "Thank goodness we didn’t spell his name wrong on his contract, or his entry-level contract might have run out a year early or something."
The problems worsened during the season, with a TSN article at one point making the same mistake. Questionably-reputable Senators’ blog Silver Seven Sens (silversevensens.com) mentioned this incident when asked for official comment. "We expect this kind of disappointment from NHL.com. They use Barry Melrose, who doesn’t even have a mullet anymore! To maintain our blog's credibility, we have a stand-alone mullet writing for our team! And then they use Jeremy Roenick. What did they do, use the NHL ’94 stats to determine who would be the best writer to hire? We also expect this kind of shoddy reporting from the CBC. Any place that uses Don Cherry and Glenn Healy as hockey analysts loses our respect. If Bob Cole could see well enough to use a computer, he’d probably spell Cowen’s name G-O-N-C-H-A-R. But TSN? That’s a respectable site! James Duthie is from Ottawa and even occasionally claims to like the city. We can only hope that this epidemic has passed."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was recently in Vancouver, where he was asked about this ‘achievement’ during a press conference. One reporter asked how they could misspell a player’s name when all names are in a database on the NHL website, and when player names are automatically linked to the player’s profile. "Wouldn’t a lack of linking alert somebody involved in the process that there was a mistake?" Daly commented that likely "the length of the injury, and the fact that it occurred before the 2012," (he paused here for emphasis), "-2013 season likely led to people thinking that his name had just been removed from the database." When a reporter, armed with a smartphone, pointed out that Senators’ stalwarts such as Nikita Filatov and Michael Fountain still have NHL.com profiles, so it would be ludicrous to think that a young, promising player like Cowen would be deleted, Daly shifted uncomfortably, thinking of what to say. Another reporter then went for the jugular (metaphorically), asking if this was proof that the NHL really doesn’t care about things like "balanced marketing" and "fair refereeing" for small-market Canadian teams, because they bring in money anyway and Bettman hates them. Luckily for Daly, Canucks’ coach John Tortorella happened to be walking by, and could quickly jump in with, "Next question." The NHL has yet to release an official answer.
Back in Ottawa, Jared Cowen is ready for his next challenges. "I’ve just to get focused, work hard, and get myself ready for the upcoming season." When asked if he was worried that he might have to hold-out like Subban to get his next contract, he replied, "I’m out to prove I can be the best defenseman out there. I’ve told my agent, anything Subban can do, I want to do twice as well. Be twice as tough, go twice as long." The future is brite for this young star.