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The NHL didn’t make it two weeks before the first ginned-up controversy of the 2013-14 season.

Earlier this week, San Jose Sharks rookie, Tomas Hertl, scored four goals against the New York Rangers; one was a show-offy, between-the-legs move. Two days later, TSN’s Farhan Lalji asked Sharks alternate captain, Patrick Marleau, if Hertl’s performance fit the definition of showboating,* which was, by any definition of “fair” or “question,” a fair question.

Sharks captain and part-time press critic Joe Thornton didn’t care for it, and let Lalji know by interrupting the scrum. Jason Botchford, a reporter for The Province, wrote that Thornton said, “Shut up, have you ever played the game?” followed by, “I’d have my cock out if I scored four goals,” and adding—in case you weren’t sure what he meant—“I’d have my cock out, stroking it.”

Cam Cole, who writes for The Vancouver Sun (owned by Postmedia, who also owns The Province), claimed that Thornton “didn’t say it for publication.”

This raised more than a few eyebrows across the Canadian section of Twitter, where many (though not everyone) said that Cole was overreacting. The head flack for the Sharks didn’t care for the quote, and Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski came down somewhere in the middle. Thornton didn’t really care.

It’s hard to imagine what kind of line Botchford might have crossed by printing what Thornton said. In fact, the Province writer displayed more restraint than he’s getting credit for. Though he could have made good hay of the quote, he buried it in his post, below such innocuous lines as, “They’re really good at finding the seams. You can tell they’ve worked together for a long time.” To suggest that what Thornton said was off the record not only insults Botchford, but Thornton too—a man who has been speaking into microphones since Hertl was in short pants.

Botchford gets the last word—not only because he’s the one whose conduct came under strange fire, but also because he’s right: “If a player doesn’t want something reported, it’s quite simple. Don’t say it to 20 reporters and cameramen.”

*It might, but that never stopped Teemu Selanne.

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About the author

Simon Bredin was the Spring 2015 chief copy editor of the RRJ.

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