Tag: Chris Botta

Garth Snow, Charles Wang

PHWA seeks Gary Bettman’s intervention in handling Chris Botta/Islanders credential flap

The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) is reaffirming their support behind Islanders Point Blank‘s Chris Botta.

Botta, as you may recall, had his credentials revoked by the New York Islanders for reasons known only to them but assumed to be because the Islanders disagreed with Botta’s take on things going on in Long Island. Botta is a former PR man for the Islanders and his relationship with Garth Snow now that he doesn’t work for the Islanders has been a bit strained.

Today, the PHWA (full disclosure: None of us at PHT are members of the PHWA) issued a statement saying they continue to stand behind Botta in his exile from the full media accessibility of the Islanders.

Here’s an excerpt from the PHWA’s statement on the matter. You can read the entire statement here.

The media marketplace is changing daily, and newspapers and other outlets for written journalism are among those adapting. To its credit, the NHL and its teams have aggressively taken on the challenge of creating and enhancing their “own” coverage on several platforms, going beyond the more traditional “in-house” broadcasts to now include team web sites and other outlets.

Yet the league’s savvy fan base understands the need for, and desires, independent and objective coverage that doesn’t pass through league and team filters.

Our concern is that this decision, if allowed to stand and become precedent, signals an end to the league’s agreement that independent and objective coverage not only benefits its fan base, but the NHL itself.

The PHWA’s position is absolute. The splitting of hairs about the circumstances of the Islanders’ decision is an irrelevant waste of time. We ask that the NHL disavow the Islanders’ capricious decision in this specific instance, but even more important, reaffirm that – barring egregious actions that would cause the PHWA to expel a member, anyway—PHWA members will be granted access to cover its teams.

Adding this in while members of the New York, Long Island, and New Jersey chapters of the PHWA are boycotting the vote for NHL Awards in a stand of solidarity makes for quite the high profile mess for the league to get a handle on. The PHWA asks that they get a chance to sit down with Gary Bettman to get this all figured out. After all, if a team takes issue with what a beat writer, reporter, or blogger says grinning and bearing it should be the case.

If a team wants nothing but positive news to be put out about what they’re doing, that’s the reason to have a team PR department. The job of reporters is to be objective and call things as they see them and if Snow or Charles Wang or anyone else in the Islanders organization had a problem with how Botta was reporting on what he saw around the team, perhaps checking out how they do things would be more advisable than denying a hard-working and honest guy a chance to continue covering a team he knows intimately.

The Isles have been dead wrong about how they’ve handled this situation and the show of solidarity from the writers in the tri-state area to support him is a bold move to do something to get it resolved. There are enough writers in the PHWA so that voting for awards won’t be compromised, but it looks bad on the league to have one organization operating in a rogue manner regarding their press.

While I don’t expect that the Isles will quake at the presence of Bettman in the proceedings, it’s a situation that should be resolved in a positive manner with Botta being able to get back to doing what he does best in covering the Islanders.

New York hockey writers will not vote for year-end awards in protest of blogger’s revoked credentials

Michael Grabner

Friday morning, the New York Rangers chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) announced that they will abstain from voting in the year-end awards as a form of protest. The issue for the writers was when the New York Islanders revoked the credentials of blogger Chris Botta. Botta is known for writing at AOL Fanhouse, Islanders Point Blank, and the New York Times Slap Shot blog. After the Rangers chapter voted 7-3 to boycott the year-end voting process, the Islanders chapter of the same organization voted 5-0 to join their brethren and also declined to participate.

Andrew Gross of The Record in North Jersey explained the New York Rangers chapter’s position in a post today and how they view this as a bigger dispute with long lasting ramifications:

“As our chapter chairman, Larry Brooks of the New York Post, has said on several occasions this season, what is the point of paying dues if the national organization is not willing to protect its own.

The NHL, too, has turned a blind eye, essentially indicating they had no jurisdiction over the Islanders’ decision. I don’t expect the NHL to be the media’s protector. But the Botta decision sets such a bad precedent the NHL should have exerted whatever pressure it could.”


There was plenty of discussion and controversy when the Islanders revoked Botta’s credentials earlier this year. According to the reports, the Islanders revoked his credentials because of critical comments that he’d made in the direction of the Islanders organization. Even if this was the entire story, the PHWA would not look kindly towards one of their own seeing their access revoked. From all indications, Botta has been a responsible member of the New York media—if not critical. Of course, there’s more to the story here. Before working full-time as a blogger/journalist in the New York area, Botta worked in the public relations department for the New York Islanders. Yes, the same New York Islanders who cut-off his access. The drama, the intrigue!

Craig Custance of the Sporting news relayed PHWA president Kevin Allen’s comments:

“Although the Rangers’ chapter doesn’t reflect the sentiment of the other 30 chapters, I’m respectful of its decision. In America, the idea of using one’s vote as a means of protest is as old as the country itself. And the issue here is important. The PHWA doesn’t believe that an NHL team should be able to deny access to one of our members. Chris Botta is one of our members. And he was denied access by the New York Islanders.”

There are two sides to this story. On one hand, the PHWA is standing up for one of its respected members. One of the few weapons in their arsenal is for the writers to boycott the year-end awards. They disagree with the Islanders’ move earlier in the year; the Islanders never reinstated Botta’s access, so the PHWA is making their statement for everyone to see.

On the other hand, the Islanders believe (and the NHL agrees) that issuing credentials falls under their jurisdiction, and theirs alone. Instead of simply ignoring the bad publicity, the Islanders’ PR department issued a refreshingly honest statement on the matter.

“This unprecedented action taken by the New York chapter members of the PHWA, is not hurting the Islanders organization or changing our stance on the past matter. Instead it is directly affecting the various players that rely on these votes to earn nominations. Players such as Michael Grabner, who is considered as one of the frontrunners for the Rookie of the Year award, Frans Nielsen who is considered a possible nominee for the Selke Trophy or Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist who could win the Vezina Trophy, will not receive votes from New York media members who watch these players every game.

Grabner will never have a 30-plus-goal rookie season again. In the case of Nielsen, his seven shorthanded goals this year are the most since Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Richards, who also scored seven tallies in 2008-09, when he was nominated for the Selke Trophy.

It is unfair to punish the players that had no direct impact on the decision made by the Islanders organization. The Islanders request that the New York members of the PHWA change their position and vote for those NHL players who deserve consideration for an NHL award. By doing so, the New York members of the PHWA will recognize the players that rightfully deserve the chance to have their name considered among the league’s elite.”

There are two things that are interesting about the Islanders’ comments. First and foremost, if the Isles are willing to continue to hold this position in the face of all the negative publicity, I’ll go out on a limb and assume the organization isn’t going to change their position on the subject. In the statement, they not only acknowledge their position, but also reiterated their take.

Additionally, the Isles noted how the boycott will effect individual players who are up for awards. Michael Grabner is tied for league lead in rookie goal scoring (31) and is 3rd among NHL rookies with 48 points. Even though the Islanders are the ones who provoked the action by the PHWA, it looks like it will be individual players who suffer the consequences.

Since this has been an issue debated in the past, we wanted to throw this out to the readers for debate. Is this kind of boycott a productive statement and a noble sign of solidarity, or should the PHWA show their disapproval in some other manner? Let us know in the comments.

NY Islanders are expected to cut season ticket prices

Rick DiPietro, John Tavares

It’s not often that the concepts of supply and demand are laid out as clearly as the differing directions in ticket prices between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders.

While the Flyers are using the NHL’s rising salary cap as a reason (or excuse?) to raise season ticket prices, Chris Botta reports that the Islanders are likely to acknowledge the last few defeat-heavy seasons by lowering theirs.

(The team provides a guide to next season’s ticket prices as well as the different perks and benefits season ticket holders can expect for the 2011-12 season.)

Islanders tickets holders will have a good idea of the price drops and changes from this season to next, but Botta translates them in this post.

  • The recent 20% reduction of over-the counter prices, instituted after the Islanders’ early-season swoon took them essentially out of the playoff race by early December, is likely to remain in place for the 2011-12 season.
  • Season ticket pricing plans will be significantly discounted. Contrary to a theory posted here on Saturday night, it does not appear the franchise will ask buyers to put down money early this spring in order to get the best prices. Good.
  • After seeing their benefits reduced over the last few seasons, Islanders full season subscribers can expect a menu of highly creative and enticing goodies to choose from if they renew or sign up.
  • Additional fan-friendly ticket plans and promotions are also in the works.

The Islanders have been dealing with a mostly down last few years, especially this season – including the way they interacted with Botta himself. The organization seems like it’s flailing in the wind a bit being that it seems like the Lighthouse Project in shambles, but earning back the hearts of its remaining fans would certainly be helpful.

While the team remains in the NHL’s cellar, there have been signs of life in Long Island here and there. Perhaps the Islanders can make it tougher for fans from Quebec to storm their barn next season by courting potential new (or returning) fans a little closer to home.

It’s not like they have much of a choice, anyway.

Could the Islanders break the NHL record of 17 consecutive losses?

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It doesn’t take an expert or an impressively observant person to notice that things are bad for the New York Islanders right now. It would be bad enough that they’re on an 11-game losing streak, but they’ve also taken public relations hits after firing Scott Gordon and revoking beat writer Chris Botta’s press credentials.

They’re also missing two key pieces on a talent-poor roster thanks to the long-term injuries of Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo. (Let’s not ignore the fact that oft-injured big investment Rick DiPietro isn’t “all there” either.)

Yup, things are bad in Long Island.

In fact, the situation is so bleak that some people are wondering if the team might sink to historically low levels. Justin Terranova of the New York Post wonders if the Islanders – again, currently on an 11 game skid – could tie or even surpass the all-time record for consecutive losses (17 games).

It’s a situation that will only get more painful and difficult if the Islanders stamp themselves as the NHL’s longest loser. The record for most consecutive losses is 17 — shared by the 1974-75 Capitals and the 1992-93 Sharks. Those Capitals were an expansion squad, and the Sharks were in the second year of existence.

With that question in mind, I thought I’d take a look at the team’s next seven games. Which games seem the most “winnable” for the woeful Islanders? Let’s take a look.

Note: All records are taken from before Friday, November 20th’s contests.

Saturday, Nov. 20: Home against Florida (8-9-0)

The Panthers are a .500 team through and through, with a near-even overall record and a 5-5 mark in their last 10. Verdict: Moderately winnable.

Sunday, Nov. 21: On the road against Atlanta (7-9-3)

The Thrashers have been struggling a bit, having lost three in a row going into a tough one against the Capitals. Still, they’re in a big home stand and the Islanders won’t even get 24 hours between back-to-back games this weekend. Verdict: Tough situation, but winnable match-up.

Wednesday, Nov. 24: At home against Columbus (10-6-0)

The Blue Jackets are 5-1 on the road, but on the bright side, the Islanders will be well-rested. Verdict: Cozy situation, but very tough match-up.

Friday, Nov. 26: At home against New Jersey (5-12-2)

This very well might be the Blooper Bowl to determine the worst team in the NHL. The odd start time (1:00 pm ET) and local rivalry make it a coin toss. Martin Brodeur’s injury situation could make it the closest thing to an easy win for the Isles. Verdict: Very winnable.

Thursday, Dec. 2: At home against NY Rangers (10-8-1)

The Islanders receive a week off before having a back-to-back, home-and-home duo of games against the Rangers. Back-to-backs increase the chances of them only playing against Henrik Lundqvist once. Verdict: Tough match-up, but big break could help.

Friday, Dec. 3: On the road against NY Rangers (10-8-1) **Would tie the record if they continue to lose**

Again, one of these games could be against a Lundqvist-free Rangers squad. Verdict: Tough match-up, but back-to-backs might mean no Lundqvist.

Sunday, Dec. 5: At home against Philadelphia (12-6-2) **Would break record if they continue to lose**

If the Islanders bring a 17-game losing streak into this one, it will be difficult for the Isles to avoid humiliation. Verdict: Very difficult.


After looking at the Islanders’ schedule, I don’t think that they will lose 17 games in a row (or worse). With some big breaks in between games and five of those contests at home, they have every reason to win at least once. Honestly, they might even go above .500 during that stretch.

Then again, you never know in the NHL.

Islanders embarrassing off the ice too: Team pulls journalist Chris Botta’s press credentials

New York Islanders Media Day

By now you’ve read about it or heard about it on the radio, but the paranoia over having bad things said about the team on Long Island has reached a new high, leading to team pulling the media credentials of one time team PR man Chris Botta. Botta, who worked for the Islanders for 20 years, runs the fantastic Isles site Islanders Point Blank. Of late, Botta’s had his hands full in dealing with the woeful, terrible Islanders, losers of 11 straight games and recent firers of coach Scott Gordon.

Recently, Botta has been critical of the direction the team has taken in firing Gordon and raising questions about what’s going on with goaltender Rick DiPietro, who’s become invisible in favor of 40 year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson. For what Botta’s done on Long Island to provide fans with a consistent and level-headed approach to covering a team he knows intimately you’d think that the Islanders would be happy that anyone giving them that amount of attention would be a good thing given how bad the team has been for the last few years.

Instead, the team treats those who dare question anything that goes on in Long Island like traitors to the throne and cast them aside. Just think of what happened to former color commentator Billy Jaffe who was not brought back to TV this year in favor of Islanders legend Butch Goring. Sounds like the Islanders front office is doing their damnedest to control the message coming out of the home office, doesn’t it? It sure comes off looking that way.

What’s most stunning about this development is that the Islanders come off as looking so thin skinned they can’t take constructive criticism. Questioning Botta’s work ethic here is foolish and wondering if he cares about the Islanders would be even dumber. The guy has been with this team through some of the thinnest years in its existence, you’d have to think he cares about the team more than most people. Silencing him because he dares question the direction the team is going in is insanity.

After all, if the Islanders do this, what’s to keep other teams from denying anyone they don’t like hearing from and turning the press box into a pack full of “yes” men and women who won’t dare question anything at all? Keeping the message clear for what you want to be heard is up to team public relations, it’s not up to the media to “play nice” with the organization.

Instead, the Islanders have instantly put the spotlight on themselves as the bad guys and it’s hard to not think they’re just really paranoid when it comes to doing just about anything. Sure the team is sensitive to having their moves questioned, but that will happen when you’ve been as bad of a team as the Isles have been since Charles Wang bought the team. Now they’re casting aside a guy who used to be one of their own, a guy that used to handle meltdowns like this himself and they’ve got the Professional Hockey Writers Association challenging their actions as well. If the Islanders are going to answer to anyone over this it’ll be the NHL but it doesn’t seem likely that they’d step on the Isles toes to tell them how to do things.

It’s tough to say anything nice here about the Islanders because, let’s face it, they’re cutting off a guy who does the same sort of thing we do here and if it was us in Botta’s shoes I doubt we’d be handling things as graceful and gentlemanly as he has. We’d be shouting from the top of the mountain about injustice and shouting it to anyone who would listen. There’s only one right move the Islanders can make here, but cutting off their nose to spite their face has been so in vogue with the Islanders lately, it’s tough to see them making a good decision to keep Botta in the fold after it’s all said and done.