Earlier this week, we learned Rich Hammond was leaving his job as a blogger/beat writer for lakingsinsider.com to take a position with the Orange County Register to cover USC athletics.
The move was disappointing for Kings fans who had come to enjoy and rely on his coverage of the club, but it also made perfect sense. The NHL, after all, had locked out its players, putting the 2012-13 season in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the Trojans’ football team was bowl eligible again after a two-year ban and the newspaper had an opening on its USC beat.
Turns out there was more to the story.
On Sept. 17, Hammond – a Kings employee that was hired in 2009 to cover the team after the local media cut back its hockey coverage – published an interview on the club-owned website with Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, who promptly criticized the NHL for locking out the players.
This apparently displeased the NHL, which forbids all but commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly from speaking about the lockout on behalf of the owners.
“The league wanted the story taken down,” Hammond told the Los Angeles Daily News. “Technically, they were saying that as a team employee, I had to abide by their rules of not discussing the lockout.”
The Kings stuck up for Hammond – who was hired by the club with the guarantee he would have full editorial control and wouldn’t be used simply for public relations – and the post hasn’t been taken down (Update: it’s been taken down). However, according to the Daily News, “Hammond wondered about maintaining the integrity of the blog if future restrictions or threats were ever put to him again.”
The league has yet to comment on the issue, but at least one reporter is asking. We’ll let you know what the NHL has to say, if anything.