Perfect storm leads to tensions boiling over at Oilers presser

·4-min read

Here's the thing: when it comes to the fiery exchange between Leon Draisaitl and reporter Jim Matheson at Tuesday's Edmonton Oilers media conference, everything that everyone on both sides is shouting is pretty much all true.

Is the reporting fraternity right that Matheson began into a reasonable line of questioning? Yes. Did he become emotional and step outside his role when he clapped back at Draisaitl with an adversarial response? Of course, yes.

Are Draisaitl backers right to suggest that players aren't obligated to take the bait and can challenge certain lines of questioning? Yes. Did he handle the situation with the utmost maturity? Far from.

Is this a prime example of the limitations on Zoom availabilities as media members and players navigate the new normal while the NHL staged competition during the pandemic? Sure, maybe — but they were in the same room at the time, it should be noted. Would Matheson and Draisaitl have been able to have a more productive version of this conversation in a one-on-one scenario? Perhaps.

But is this the time to bemoan certain champagne-level issues given its lack of importance in the grand scheme of things? Probably not.

The Draisaitl-Matheson exchange was the perfect storm when it comes to the challenging new relationship between media, players, and a very online fanbase. (Getty)
The Draisaitl-Matheson exchange was the perfect storm when it comes to the challenging new relationship between media, players, and a very online fanbase. (Getty)

In many ways, this was the perfect storm when it comes to the challenging new relationship between media, players, and the legions sharing, commenting and fuelling matters online.

On one side, we have one of the most veteran reporters on any beat, and one who has covered arguably the greatest teams and players in the history of the sport. Inherently, that been-around distinction, let alone Hall of Fame status, empowers him with a level of confidence, assertiveness, and perhaps hints of arrogance and superiority.

He's going to lean in, and will do so unapologetically. How else would you explain the use of the word "pissy" without feeling the need to cower and fear the wrath of public relations?

On the other is one of the game's best and most mistreated superstars, who is reaching the peak of his personal frustration. He only knows losing, now eight seasons into his career, despite his individual mastery. But no matter how bad the situation becomes, it's simply not his place to speak poorly of his teammates, coaches, or organization. Code is code, after all.

But Draisaitl is right to be miffed, and to be triggered by the suggestion that he should be the one to Power Rank the team's issues.

He sniffed out the lead-the-witness tactics a mile away. He wasn't having it.

Incredibly, what exists as the most powerful force — the whole internet — wasn't the root cause of this conflict. We, as a society, are more adversarial online. We are all a little tougher, and a little more willing to say the things we wouldn't in normal everyday interactions. But when Matheson and Draisaitl stepped into the ring, they weren't staring through a webcam into the ether, but looking each other dead in the eye from across a socially-distanced media room.

Zoom problems be damned.

Of course, it is the internet which allows for a moment like this to take on a completely different life form. When a conversation, or in this case spat, that should have probably taken place privately is instead live to record, and can be clipped, shared, liked, re-tweeted seamlessly, and therefore commented on endlessly, it transforms an everyday conflict into an out-and-out referendum on the media's role in the game.

It becomes what it was.

This was a made-for-Twitter moment if there ever was one. It couldn't be manufactured again, even if one tried.

Saying that, I'd believe there's hope, yet, for Matheson and Draisaitl, and maybe one day they can hash things out. Have a laugh.

But none of that seems possible without the Oilers sorting things out themselves, something which appears as hopeless as it's ever been.

Ain't that the real issue, fellas?

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