Steve Simmons addresses Phil Kessel controversy and more in AMA session

Toronto Sun columnist and occasional TSN contribute Steve Simmons took to the mean streets of Reddit today to take part in an “Ask Me Anything” session on /r/hockey. While he admitted that he had no idea what Reddit, the 12th most-visited website in Canada, was until today, he brought with him some very curious answers to questions mostly related to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here are some of the key takeaways:

On Pension Plan Puppets’ criticism of the “Hot Dog” article:

I tend not to read the blogs, especially those that don’t identify themselves by name so I’m not sure what was written here. I knew the Kessel hot dog question would come up – so I’ll address it here once so I don’t have to do it again. About five months before the Kessel trade was made, I got a call from someone I know telling me about the hot dog stand near Phil’s condo that he regularly frequented. At the time, I actually discussed the possibility with my editor about having a photo taken of him eating a hot dog. For whatever reason, we got busy doing other things and never considered it again. On the day of the trade, I was working at TSN and started writing the column after we finished with television. I phoned the person who originally told me about about the hot dogs and he refreshed the story for me. He’s someone I trust so I had no reason to doubt his word. In our conversation, which can happen often in reporting, we had a miscommunciation. I asked him where the stand was. He thought I asked him where he was. He told me a street corner. I used that corner in the column. When an editor in my office saw the piece, she saw the streets, said she lived there, and told me there was no hot dog stand there. She knew where the closest hot dog stand was to that corner, she said, and changed the piece accordingly. In truth, the location didn’t matter to me as much as the analogy did. I stand by the column, save for the street corner. I think it’ was the most telling column written on the Kessel situation. People in the Leafs front office thought Brendan Shanahan had written the piece, it was so close to his opinion of Kessel. The piece is 936 words long. Don’t get caught up over a trip in location. Read the rest of the column. Find me a more telling piece on Kessel’s end in Toronto.

A few things about this answer could cause one to raise an eyebrow:

  • Simmons, who claims to pride himself on taking in all available knowledge, still does not read “the blogs”. In 2015, this is a very interesting position to take; whether it’s here, our friends at the major “competing” sites, or even an upstart platform, there’s a lot of great information to take from the blogosphere, much like there is in the mainstream media. It doesn’t seem wise to shut one’s self out of available knowledge like that, but that’s a personal opinion.
  • The fact that he was considering having a photographer stalk out Kessel to get a photo of him eating a hot dog is, in many ways, concerning. Beyond it bringing an extension of paparazzi culture into the hockey media, a photo would be of little value. We talk about the integrity of Simmons potentially “making up” the story when we look back on it, but it should be reminded that athletes eat a lot of “bad” food. They burn lots of calories and their bodies need to replenish them. Digestive systems are finicky too, so many stick to what they know. Usain Bolt ate approximately 1000 Chicken McNuggets at the Beijing Olympics. He’s the fastest man in history. Phil Kessel looks chubby but wins every foot race he gets into. It’s whatever.
  • You’d think that a major publication would catch the “miscommunication” of locations. They clearly saw red flags when there wasn’t a stand in the area, but rather than confirming with “the source”, an editor of a mass-printed newspaper guestimated a location. That’s pretty sloppy.
  • I also find the claim that he’s never seen the PPP article, which made shockwaves across North American Sports Media, a little off. Then again, this is someone who claims that he first heard of Reddit when he was asked to do this AMA.
  • He stands by the rest of the article, which is fair. I believe him when he says that Brendan Shanahan had a similar mindset about Kessel from a personality perspective. Do I think that they’re correct? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers, and I’d imagine that Shanahan would have better observations to work with than me. I don’t think it’s a particularly telling piece about Kessel’s end in Toronto, in any event; there’s nothing really being told in it. Which is fine; just don’t sell it like there is.

On Bruins management’s perception of Kessel:

What I will say is, when I first met Kessel he was so shy and awkward he wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone at all. Over the years, as he grew more into himself, he gained more personal confidence and seemed more able to be comfortable in the spotlight. Sometimes that’s just a matter of growing up. But I do know this, when he played for the Bruins management of that team thought there was something wrong with him that they were missing.

This is a peculiar answer. I feel like it would make sense to tread lightly with a statement as strong as the last one, as it makes a pretty harsh suggestion with nothing to back it up. With that said, it’s hard to say whether it plays as an actual shot at Kessel; the Bruins seem to have an ongoing trend of trading early 20’s stars whenever they can’t figure out their personalities (and they begin to cost money).

Simmons also touched on several other topics, including brushing off Mike Johnston calling Kessel “very coachable“, the Jose Bautista twitter incident, his current feelings about the Leafs, how the haters hate, and why Twitter isn’t real journalism

Like a vast amount of Simmons’ work, the answers aren’t for everybody. I’m not of the belief that he deserves to be jumped on, be it for the quality of his work or in any form of personal attack though it’s not hard to see why he’s such a polarizing figure in Toronto sports media. Steve said he found the whole AMA process “a little unruly, and confusing”, but hey, he gave the people what they wanted.

  • Gary Empey

    Steve Simmons isn’t a Journalist he’s a douchebag. Why Jeff do you have any interest in what he says when time an again he has nothing to back up any of his claims

  • CMpuck

    I’m sorry leafsnation but you guys have no credibility when it comes to simmons and reporting for that fact.

    You guys interview Simmons, feed him pizza and toss him soft ball questions. He owned you guys during that interview – one and one – when he can defend himself in real time.

  • jasken

    2 points.
    1. Kessel is gone -why rehash this nonsense.

    2. About Simmons thinking about staking out the hotdog stand .

    People think of amusing ideas all the time but the fact is he didnt pursue it. It is not at all “concerning” . Simmons is in the entertainment business as is Kessel.

    • TGT23

      Weeeeell… One might argue Simmons is in the news business (albeit sports news) and doesn’t work for some gossip magazine… But then again, he works for the Sun so maybe you’re right.

      As for your first point… So?… A player doesn’t cease to exist because he’s no longer in Toronto.

    • SEER

      One might argue Simmons is in the news business (albeit sports news)

      Isn’t sports news a bit of an oxymoron?

      So?… A player doesn’t cease to exist because he’s no longer in Toronto.

      I’m a Leaf fan, so yes he does exist, but just like that tree that fell in the forest
      I dont give a S_it.

  • jasken

    A few things first Simmons is a sports journalist but seriously before sending out the column should have made sure he had everything correct.

    Kessel is easily intimidated which dont sit well with management of any sort. His eating habits are one thing who cares if he eats 1 or 100 hotdogs he needs 4000-5000 calories a day or more. If reporters actually got a list of everything players eat their jaws would drop to the floor.

    When teams want you to play 200 ft and you only play for the offence and give little effort if any to defensive side of things you are selfish and only interested in your own success.

    • CMpuck

      Finally someone who gets it. Great post

      4000-5000? I don’t do cardio and bulk on 4500 calories, given an NHL player’s activity level, easily 6000-9000 calories, you can’t eat clean.

      I love food illiterate bloggers and sports writers judging something they’ve clearly never done or even do legitimate research. Kessel needs a myfitnesspal public profile to troll these betas.

  • CMpuck

    can you guys stop giving that troll and the other toronto trolls attention ffs. he lives off of this spotlight. no one cares what they have to say. enough already.

  • magesticRAGE

    It was the timing of the story.
    Kessel was the go to goal scorer for a team that didn’t know how to build a modern day hockey team. He lead the offense every year, played every game. Sure, he had his deficiencies, but he did what he was paid to do, and he did it well. Kessel actually wanted to stay, sincerely.
    Simmon’s piece is a smear, and paints all the things Kessel brought to Toronto as nothing, because Steve didn’t like his BMI. He assaults Kessel personally and as a player, and waits for the guy to be traded to do so, I guess for a parting gift. It’s just so low, kicking someone on their way out the door. What’s worse, current management didn’t even give him any sort of awknowledgement, not even a clip or thank you. I was disappointed.

    I don’t like Steve Simmons

  • magesticRAGE

    It was the timing of the story.
    Kessel was the go to goal scorer for a team that didn’t know how to build a modern day hockey team. He lead the offense every year, played every game. Sure, he had his deficiencies, but he did what he was paid to do, and he did it well. Kessel actually wanted to stay, sincerely.
    Simmon’s piece is a smear, and paints all the things Kessel brought to Toronto as nothing, because Steve didn’t like his BMI. He assaults Kessel personally and as a player, and waits for the guy to be traded to do so, I guess for a parting gift. It’s just so low, kicking someone on their way out the door. What’s worse, current management didn’t even give him any sort of awknowledgement, not even a clip or thank you. I was disappointed.

    I don’t like Steve Simmons