HAMMOND HUSHED!

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LA Kings, Los Angeles Kings, NHL Hockey, Rich Hammond

Rich Hammond on Staples Ice at an Insider Suite Night Photo: Paul Armbruster

KINGS BEAT WRITER ABRUPTLY LEAVES ORGANIZATION DUE TO NHL INTERFERENCE ON LOCKOUT PIECE, “THE LEAGUE WANTED THE STORY TAKEN DOWN”

By Paul Armbruster | KingsNewsDaily.com

The big question surrounding the recent decision by Rich Hammond to leave the LA Kings to cover USC Athletics for the OC Register was simply why? That question appears to have been largely answered this morning in a story by Tom Hoffarath of the Daily News. It was revealed that the Kings beat writer was pressured by the NHL to remove a critical story he published about the league lockout and to stop interviewing players.

Speaking before a sports business class at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism on Wednesday night, Hammond elaborated that recent pushback from the NHL for a story he did during the current lockout resulted in him reconsidering how effectively he could continue to work in that role.

Hammond’s Sept. 17 post was a Q and A with the Kings’ Kevin Westgarth, the most visible of the team’s players as he worked with the NHL Players Association during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. Westgarth was candid in his opinions about both sides of the negotiations.

“The league wanted the story taken down,” said Hammond, who stressed the Kings organization did not take issue with it. “Technically, they were saying that as a team employee, I had to abide by their rules of not discussing the lockout.”

The issue at hand is whether or not a team beat writer can maintain journalistic integrity even though he is an employee of the organization for which he writes. For three years, Rich Hammond did every thing he could to prove the answer was yes, he could. That is until the NHL lockout occurred. Hammond has maintained the Kings have never tried to influence his reporting in any way. However, during the lockout, the Kings are obligated to follow league rules and those rules apparently state that team employees cannot discuss the lockout, let alone interview players and publish them.

Whether or not this particular rule can be revised to allow for unhindered reporting by in-house beat writers remains to be seen. For now though, it is clear that this experiment has a very serious flaw called conflict of interest.

-PA

  • Michelle Sanford

    Paul.. I was just trying to email you last night regarding this.. both my emails for you
    are not going thru??
    Yes my exact first thoughts before I knew what was ‘last straw’ was Rich must have finally been pushed too far on what he was allowed to do. From day 1 he had said
    he wanted to be able to report freely with no censorship so fans would have the inside
    story. Although I did not frequent his site much in the last couple of years..due to
    a couple of personal observations, I knew if something was breaking I needed to go to his site to find out. How very sad we are losing an Excellent Beat writer.
    The NHL’s improper interference shows that Lowly LA is more important then people think.. West Coast Hockey does count. I am sure being Champs made them sit up and pay more attention.. too bad it had to be at the cost of Rich. Another distasteful move and more respect loss for them.
    GO KINGS GO!!!
    WWTC!!!

    • Paul Armbruster

      Hi Michelle. I’m not sure why I didn’t get your email. I’m receiving just fine. Hmmm. As for Rich’s departure, I’ve written a ton about it on his last post. As is the case with most things, I have to believe there’s much more going on than meets the eye. Especially with regards to the how and why of his exit.

  • Serena

    Thanks for this (and your email updates) about the Rich situation and lockout analysis.

    I admit, as much as I adore and respect Rich for his impartiality (and for being my secretly usurped hockey tutor, with your assistance…) I was fully pissed when he announced he was leaving. Jaded-By-Lockout-Gal-That-I-Am, I assumed he bailed from financial insecurity w/the prospect of season cancellation.

    Because of your updates, and your own journalistic integrity, I have to admit now that I’m proud of him and his principles. I’m very much chagrined to now know it is actually his respect for the sport and (despite consistently objective impartiality while covering the BESTEST-MOST-AMAZING-HOCKEY-TEAM-EVER) respect for the team, that caused him to leave on his own terms. Not everyone is motivated by money, and I’m pleased in how you both have evidenced same.

    I’m so heartbroken by this lockout and posturing going on, but I am glad my first instinct over losing Rich was wrong. I’ve done him and the organization a disservice by thinking anyone would pick cash over what this franchise has accomplished, and I truly do hope you continue to remind people that ALL of the Kings family has shown each other nothing but courtesy and respect when some (ahem, cough, Bettman) have chosen divisive and suppressive tactics to control their own spin.

    I’m SO proud of both you and Rich for standing up and speaking out by word and deed when others seem to feel unable/unwilling/unmotivated/uninterested to do so. It’s hockey. It’s awesome. We need this lockout and heavy-handed shenanigans to just…stop.

    Thanks!
    Serena