Rich Hammond of the LA Kings Insider announced he was moving on to a different job yesterday. Last night, he visited a class at the Annenberg School of Communications and revealed more about the reasons why. Ann Frazier (also known as mymclife of Fear the Fin) first broke the story on Twitter and was kind enough to give us this report:
"As a Communication major at the University of Southern California, I have the opportunity to take a class where we basically talk to important people in sports every week. It’s a pretty amazing class simply for entertainment factor (three and a half hours a week where we just talk about sports! For credit!), but there’s also a sort of peek behind the curtain, behind-the-scenes aspect that is really interesting for someone who wants to work in the sports world.
This week was no different. Our scheduled guest was Kings play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, who was pretty awesome to talk to. But the surprise guest this week was USC alumnus Rich Hammond, fresh off the news that he had stepped down from his position as official Kings blogger.
Back in 2009, Hammond was originally hired by the Kings as a direct response to the fact that the Los Angeles Times decided that they would no longer send reporters to away games. Since not having half of their season covered by a beat writer was kind of a problem, the Kings decided that they needed to hire someone themselves to do so. As Hammond already had an established blog and following at the LA Daily News, he was sort of the obvious choice. It helped that he gave the Kings the idea in the first place.
So the Kings hired Rich Hammond to be their official blogger. Both the Kings and Hammond spent a lot of time working out the details of his position, making sure that Hammond would not simply be a PR release megaphone. The Kings would have no editorial control, and Hammond was free to criticize the team and its moves without fear of recourse. This was extremely important to both parties.
Fast-forward to this summer. The lockout is going on, and the players are pretty much talking to any and every reporter that comes their way. Kevin Westgarth was no different, and so Rich Hammond talked with him about the lockout and posted it on his blog.
The NHL saw that interview and told the Kings to take it down immediately. You see, since Rich Hammond was technically a Kings employee, the NHL considered him to be a League employee. And League employees are not allowed to have any contact with players. It didn’t matter that Hammond was simply a beat writer that happened to be employed by a team rather than a newspaper, he was still employed by the Kings.
Both the Kings and Hammond fought this decision. They tried to figure out a way around it so that Hammond could continue to interview the locked out players, like every other hockey writer out there. They even considered shutting the blog down. But if we’ve learned anything from the past decade, it’s that the NHL is pretty stubborn. He could not talk to players.
Hammond was not forced to take the post down or take a pay cut or anything like that. But the fact that NHL was trying to get involved in what he could and could not write made him uncomfortable, and he did not see it ending well. Because of this, he decided to leave his post as the official Kings blogger. And that is why he now covers USC football and basketball for the OC Register."
It's clear that the Kings wanted him to be independent. Now it turns out that the league didn't appreciate that.
I am disgusted with the NHL for picking a fight over this. By overreacting in this way, they have damaged a valuable resource for the team and its fans. The LA Kings Insider connected fans all over the world, kept people informed, and generated record traffic for the team's site.
Sadly, it's just another way this lockout has hurt the league's own product.