By Rob Ficiur
I have a very bright four-year-old grandson. When we were together recently we he asked “Why?” After my thoughtful answer he asked me another question “Why?” He was trying to understand by asking deeper questions (some of which have no answers). Eventually it the easiest answer to repeated why questions can be a simple “Because.” But even that authoritative is not enough to answer why.
As I looked out in the sporting world – there are many events that lead you to ask: why? And then Why again (and again)
1. Why did Bruins announce the firing of Head Coach Claude Julien the day of Super Bowl parade? Even though Claude Julien led the 2011 Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship, fans knew a year ago his job was not secure. Last June when the Bruins missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, I was surprised that Julien was not replaced then. So, with the Bruins struggling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference we know why he was fired.
But why was the firing announcement made the day that Boston was celebrating with a Super Bowl parade? The team had a day off the next day, they could have fired him then. They could have waited a few hours until the Super Bowl parade was long over. So why did they make the announcement during the Super Bowl parade? Whether on purpose or my clumsy thoughtlessness the Bruins look like they wanted the city to not notice when they fired their coach by doing it on a big media day. Maybe fewer people would notice. Instead it brought up deeper questions…why then?
2. Why do hockey sports casts always show the opposing coach when his team has just been scored upon? When a goal is scored, the camera focusses on three things in this order: First, they showed the scoring team skating to their bench to high five their team mates. Second, they show the goalie who is scored upon as he smooths the ice in front of his net and drinks from his water bottle. Sometimes these two occur in the reverse order. Every time after a goal the third thing shown is the opposing coach who has just been scored upon. Why? Why not show the coach whose team just scored a goal? No, the camera always focusses on the not so happy coach. The best reason I could think of for this consistent pattern of camera coverage is that there must be times when the not so happy coach goes ballistic when his team has just been scored upon. If the camera is focused on the coach at that time the fans at home can see the coach go into a tirade against his players live on air. If that is the best reason for focusing on that coach, I still ask the question – why? I still can’t figure out that answer.
3. Why were the Detroit Red Wings such a dominant team under the ownership of Little Caesar’s founder Mike Illitch? When Illitch bought the Red Wings in the summer of 1982 the “Dead Things” (as they were mocked by a few fans back then) had only made the NHL playoffs twice in the previous 16 seasons. This was in an era when more than 2/3 of NHL teams made the playoffs. After Illitch took over as Red Wings owner they missed the playoffs only once in 26 years. Their current 25-year streak of making the playoffs is the third longest in NHL history. Remember that this streak is in an era only about half of NHL teams make the playoffs, making this an even more remarkable achievement. The easy answer is that when Mike Illitch took over the Detroit Red Wings, his leadership changed the team from a loser to a model franchise. But why? Every new owner for every new professional sports team wants to make their team a perennial playoff contender and win a several championships. Few have the Illitch success.
Why are the Detroit Red Wings different? One answer could be that Mike Illitch was willing to spend money to get good players. In the pre-salary cap era the same could be said for the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, yet the spending did not bring playoff success in those cities. The Red Wings found a way to develop and maintain a winning culture. Was it because Illitch hired and supported the right people in key management positions without ownership interfering? That is a simple answer, but the full explanation must go deeper than that. If we could find out why the Detroit went from the Dead Thing to the Hockey City USA, there are many would pay for that magic formula.
4. Why did the first Place Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Michelle Therein? Two simple answers are that they had had a recent losing streak; and that Claude Julien was now available. (See #1 above). After enough thinking, a hockey fan can easily understand that the Canadiens saw a chance to hire an elite French Canadian coach that could spur them to playoff success. (Remember last year Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup after firing their coach mid-season).
Even once we get that why figured out – it leads to another more difficult why question. Why would Boston give Montreal, a division and historical rival, permission to hire one of the best coaches of this era?
Why? We ask questions and sometimes the first answer brings up more questions that are even harder (or impossible to answer)