I am not around the Buffalo Sabres much. Aside from one game I watched from a press box and a few games I’ve watched on TV, I am basically completely foreign to them this season. But I still know a few things:
- Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly was charged with impaired driving after he crashed into a Tim Hortons last summer and fled the scene. The charges are still pending and he'll go to court in July, according to CTV.
- Generally speaking, charges pending for a crime as serious as drunk driving should typically prevent a person from being nominated for a "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey" award like the Masterton Trophy.
But like I said: I’m not around the team, so maybe there’s more of a story there. Maybe there's a reason that O'Reilly deserves the award ... something that those of us who don't know the player can't see.
That’s the argument that one member of the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association -- the group that named O’Reilly for the award -- seems to be making here after receiving backlash from fans who thought the nomination was an inappropriate one.
The implication here from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News is that he knows better than the average onlooker because he is around the team daily. He covers them everyday and he knows Ryan O'Reilly's story and that makes his opinion better and more well-informed.
But the problem there is that neither Harrington or, from what I can tell, any of his colleagues in the Buffalo PHWA have made the argument for why O'Reilly should win the award. Not publicly, at least. They haven't explained why -- despite that pesky little DWI charge -- O'Reilly still deserves this award. All they've done is get defensive with people on Twitter who have rightfully questioned the nomination.
The story announcing the news makes exactly zero mention of the DWI charges. It notes that O'Reilly has become a leader on the team and that he practices longer than anybody else on the team and that he's having a strong statistical year on the ice.
Maybe there's a story here that we don't know. Maybe O'Reilly took the DWI incident as a wake-up call and that it truly was a lesson for him. Maybe he took the opportunity to fix some personal issues that may have led to the incident. He did apologize, after all, so there could be some truth to that notion. It'd be a good example of perseverance.
But the journalists who have been around O'Reilly all year -- the ones who picked him for this award -- have not told that story. Glowing stories written about him this season, like this one from Harrington, have not touched on the subject. If your claim is that you know better than others because you're a "30-year journalist," you should do the job of a journalist and tell the story that gives you such insight into why O'Reilly's nomination is acceptable.
Until then, fans and readers have every right to question why somebody with a serious pending legal case was nominated for a congratulatory award about perseverance.