Wednesday, August 8, 2012

THE HISTORY OF HOCKEYBIRD, PART THREE

Phil Esposito, my Dad & the Stanley Cup

Disclaimer
Saturday - November 24, 2001
Disclaimer:
Hockeybird.com is not affiliated with the NHL, the New York Rangers, the NHLPA, The AHL, the ECHL, any news organizations or media outlets. In a word, we are just us. The opinions and ideas expressed by the writers on Hockeybird belong to the individual writers themselves. 
All original materiel, text or images, are owned by the individual writers or creators and can not be reprinted or reproduced in any way without permission. Of course you can link to it anytime. The Hockeybird.com name and logo are herby declared protected with all rights reserved. Borrowed items belong to their respective owners. 
Any original material sent to Hockeybird.com shall be considered "offered with permissions" meaning the creator retains ownership while allowing Hockeybird.com to use it on this site. 
Hockeybird.com is not responsible for any of the content that may be "linked to" on this site. 
It is our intention to offer commentary, news items and opinions on matters concerning the New York Rangers and the NHL as well as ice hockey in general in what we hope is an entertaining and informative way.
                   ----}- The management & staff at Hockeybird.com

OK folks.....it's time to spit out part three.  I know what you're thinking, "does this guy ever shut up?" Um, no. OR "Doesn't this guy have something better to do?" Um, no again as I'm looking for work. The above post was the disclaimer for our site. I hope it makes clear that while we did take this seriously, we NEVER took ourselves seriously. We had fun. Hockey has always been such a huge part of my life. I was introduced to the game by my Dad (seen above) and I've been an NHL and Ranger fan since there were only SIX teams. I used to go to Ranger practices when they were in held in Long Beach, NY....well before the Islanders were an NHL team, I love the game and respect it. Kyle from HARD OCP told me to respect my readers and I think we did. All of us shared this respect and passion for our beloved and great sport, but we really enjoyed making each other laugh and hopefully, the readers understood where we were coming from and laughed with us (or at us).

All of our writers had a few things in common. They knew the game and had a passion for it. They had a sense of humor with many of our writers penning some of the funniest things I've ever read. The tradition established on Hockeybird of combining that humor along with our thoughts on the NY Rangers or the NHL in general had put us in a very enviable position. By accident we had somehow garnered a world wide audience (although I've always wondered how flat some of the jokes were in the Czech Republic or even worse, Russia. I can't imagine what the Finns or Swedes thought of us). With all the attention we were getting we began to flex our collective muscles a bit. We took on all the relevant issues of the day. Heck, we had comments on just about everything, not just hockey.

People were reading while at work, school and other places where they were supposed to be doing something else. I remember getting email from readers who's IT departments at work had the site blocked. Whoa, it's not like we posted Pron or anything although we could be vulgar at times. It was sort of a conversation with your buddies around the water cooler, but online. A whole community evolved around the site and we were inclusive, not exclusive. Any and all were welcome, but you did post at your own risk. If you couldn't take the heat it was better that you found a different site.

I never ONCE edited a writers column for content. That was a big issue for me. Freedom of speech and of topic was something I hold close to my heart and I hope the writers appreciated this as I know the readers did. It is fair to say that we were whistled for a few infractions though. A few elbowing penalties, a few for roughing (OK, a lot) and on an occasion or two we would draw 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting and a match penalty or game misconduct. Not one of us were shy in the least and when it came to getting involved, drop the gloves.....let's dance. One of these incidents revolved around an email sent by one of our readers to then head coach, Ron Low. Allow me to set the scene here.......

Coach Ron Low had little success in NY and the fans let him know it 
It's March, 2002 and Hockeybird is drawing major attention in the online hockey world. The Rangers in a word, stink. As the playoff hopes of our once proud franchise are quickly vanishing, the frustration level of the fans gets to be at an all time high. Venom is spewed at home games with chants of "Fire Sather" and there was a ton of vicious attacks on the coach.....and in my opinion, they were valid if you could separate out some of the nastiness. His press conferences left many shaking their heads and wondering why this guy was our head coach. Coach Low was getting hammered not just by us but other sites as well. The beat writers smelled blood and circled the coach like a pack of great whites. While answering a question, Ron let's out that his wife read an email sent to him by a fan that suggested he fall on his sword and resign and the coach was upset about this. The sender of said email is a Hockeybird reader (wasn't everyone?) reads about this exchange in the local papers and then forwards me a copy of the email. This became the infamous EMAIL INCIDENT.


Posted March 27, 2002: 
I'm not going to sit here and compose a list of what we think is acceptable behavior and what is not. That's not something I'm qualified to write about. But it is important to remember a few things before deciding what's the best way for you as a fan to get your point across. For one, these players and coaches and GMs are people just like you and me. I'm sure Ron Low doesn't put together his game plan thinking, "what can I do to piss off Rocha tonight" or "what line combo is going to make the Rodents head explode". Of course not, he's doing what he thinks is best. That we think his best may suck is not my point but worth bringing up anyway. My point is that these people who we root for, cheer on and otherwise follow are in fact, people. If we keep that in mind then each of us will find the correct way to express these feelings on our own.

----}-


We immediately posted the story (not the email or the coach's email addy) and then all hell breaks loose. Not only were a few fans and other sites pissed at us, the Rodent was pissed at us. The Ranger brass was pissed at us. The email itself was mention by Bill Clement on ESPN, I however thought that the fans voice was finally being heard and it wasn't our fault at Hockeybird that some of the language was as ugly as the teams play. We used humor to get our point across I was happy that we, the fans were being heard. After all......we PAID huge $$$ for this team and the memory of the '94 Cup was already getting stale in our minds. Many wished that the team would stop leaning on past success and build a winning team NOW. I can't claim that this was the first time, but as a result of the fans efforts and his own performance, the coach was let go.

Glen Sather get's behind the bench after firing yet another coach
Now I had mentioned more than once that Coach Low was a nice guy.....it's just that he was doing a poor job, nothing personal, just business. 

 I know that it wasn't just Hockeybird that got this done, it was a team effort. We played a small and tiny part if at all. However, if we were going to get some credit, I was going to take it. Now this did create a little more controversy. As Hockeybird grew, other sites had an issue with us. Looking back, I find it strange that we got under their skin as part of what we did, EVERY DAY was post links to and promote their sites. If we had an occasional comment that didn't sit well with them, too bad.

This is HOCKEY, not curling. I thought people who ran hockey websites would understand this.

There was one site in particular that we got a little heated with. From my perspective (as I understand these things) the beef between Hockeybird and Ranger Fan Central was a complete win for all involved. The readers got a kick out of it and the extra traffic to both sites was fantastic. Dubi Silverstein of Ranger Fan Central didn't feel the same way. They had a more dictatorial style at their site and if you didn't fall in line you were told to take a hike. They only reluctantly agreed to post a link to our site. It made them feel dirty to link to us. We were not like them and it made them uncomfortable. But our outstanding writers helped Hockeybird become a must read in the online hockey world and RFC had no choice but to acknowledge us. As I recall, it went down like this......

We allowed comments below each post. Because of the web-bots that would spam advertising, I kept a keen eye on this feature and removed the offensive comments. Not reader comments, just the spam. Gabe from  Fact or Fiction had posted a new article and there were some pretty negative comments left by some readers. As I looked into the IP addresses of all of the angry commenters I found out something pretty sneaky. Two writers from Ranger Fan Central were posting under fictitious names. This was kinda sleazy in my opinion so I called them out on the front page after sending them each personal emails and got denials in return. Both had no idea that I had the goods on 'em. Caught red handed, Dubi had a poor reaction. The many comments seemly coming from a large group of people turned out to be just two people. While Dubi had some "official" comments under his own name and called for a stop to my posts referring to RFC, he continued to post nastiness as this large group, inventing email addresses and screen names to once again appear like an angry mob.

Here's what Fact or Fiction posted in response: "Apparently my depiction of a Ranger Fan Central writer as consistently negative to Sather's moves was perceived by RFC personnel as the equivalent of taking a piss in his living room. " and went on with, "So it is ironic that RFC suffers from the same afflictions that they criticize so vehemently on their site. But don't expect them to realize that. If the one sentence in my last column got them riled up, this one may be a catalyst for a Miss Piggy-type rage."

Gabe was a prophet as this set off a firestorm of controversy. But hey, it's the end of July/ beginning of August and there is absolutely NOTHING going on in the NHL at the time. So, not only am I going to defend my writer, Gabe....I am going to have some fun with it, and MAN did I have fun. It started quit innocently with this:


July 26, 2003
Fire Sather !

OK, that got your attention.
That's the kind of headline you'd expect on another site.....even now in late July.

Man, did that get a reaction. I was flooded with hate mail from Dubi and Jess. I was accused of disrespect and not joining in on their movement to have fans dictate to the Ranger brass what should be done to the team. They were telling me what my responsibilities as Hockeybird's owner were and that I HAD to do as they asked. They also wanted me to have Gabe apologize for his post and remove his articles. What? Are these guys serious? I think they thought they could intimidate us. That in itself was funny. For one, I hadn't mentioned their site at all.....although it's true, I wrote that headline with them in mind. So, I posted a follow up on July 31st:


I'm getting a kick out of this rift that now exists between some of the writers here and two of the writers at RFC. In a nutshell, we poked a little fun at the negative slant these guys take in their articles. The reaction was swift and loud. Now it seems that unless I edit my writers and refrain from mentioning them, then we can't be friends. It's kind of ironic that the same people who spend all their time spewing venom can't take a little good natured ribbing for it. For the record, I still like RFC and will continue to link to the site. If these guys don't like the fact that we poke a little fun at 'em.....too bad.

And then this:


August 02, 2003
ChickenBird

Yesterday I spent way too much time trying to sort out the issues with the two RFC writers. I'm happy to report that Jess Rubenstein and I had a nice discussion and everything is now cool between us. Jess admitted that he was coming here and posting under assumed names to make it look like the RFC writers had tons of support. Unfortunately, Dubi Silverstein (aka John) did the same thing, meaning that all the so called support came from just those two. Dubi will not admit to what he did and continues to throw insults around.....he's called me a coward and a chicken. Ooh, I'm crushed. Oh well, now the world knows exactly who he is. How sad.

I may have proclaimed an end to the hostilities between the sites but couldn't resist another few pokes. I spoke to each writer by phone. Jess seemed to understand but he was being loyal to Dubi. Dubi was being a flat out an idiot about this. So while I could have let this die....I didn't.


August 03, 2003
Speechless

Damn.
Would it be OK if we continued our little spat.....just for a week or two ? There is jack shit going on in hockey right now and I have nothing to talk about. Huh....OK, I'm sorry. Just a thought.

The comments section continued to be a battlefield. However, two writers Jess and Ebase at RFC came over to the dark um, I mean our side. In other words, they went public as understanding the fun and that Dubi had crossed the line. Jess lost his writing gig there. This was just flat out bizarre. We tried to ignore this as a few real issues took place, Herb Brooks the head coach of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team had suddenly passed away and we all suffered the Black Out of 2003, from Toronto all the way across the US. There were in fact some serious hockey issues to deal with. Around this same time, I did a bonehead thing. I said another site sucked in a very public way and had to apologize. If I screw up, I have to take on the chin, no? I made a public apology as all was forgiven. I was never a big fan of "rumor" sites as I believed that they made up most of their so called rumors and the rest were just laughable.

To be fair to Dubi Silverstein, he was/is a nice guy and he went on to purchase and run the BlueShirt Bulletin. At some point we had kissed and made up. I was even invited on some of his live chats as a guest on his site and one of my Hockeybird Interviews was published in the paper edition and I got paid a few bucks for it. 

The summer of '03 was entertaining to say the least and whether it was an email war or a comment section fight, Hockeybird and it's staff were up to the task and was now a well respected website and proud to never have taken itself too seriously. We had fun. The fun was not limited to the pages of Hockeybird, the fun had on the boards was flat out hysterical. I am looking forward to putting that article together. For now, I need to spend some time looking for work. Come back soon for the next in this series. I hope you are having as much fun reading this as I am posting it.

----}- Bird

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