Frustrated at the time, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner can now look back with amusement at the reaction of the Toronto Media after he was pulled against the Leafs in mid-January.
Toronto is often held up as one of the toughest hockey markets to play in, in large part due to the media covering everything — no matter how minor — if it relates to the Leafs. Further, they are often accused of making something out of nothing, which alludes to the pressure of plying your trade in the fishbowl that is Toronto.
Given Robin Lehner‘s comments on Saturday night, he agrees with this assessment, and he doesn’t even play for the Leafs. However, he had a small taste of life in Toronto, after being pulled during the Buffalo Sabres‘ 4-3 loss to the Leafs, back on January 17th.
That in itself shouldn’t have been considered a big deal, at least in theory. After all, Lehner had just conceded three goals in just over nine minutes in the second period, to undo the Sabres’ early 2-0 lead.
However, the media jumped all over the goaltender’s reaction as he came out of the game. He appeared to shout at coach Dan Bylsma as he went past the bench, and then spiked his mask and threw his glove in obvious anger.
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What really summed up how the Toronto hockey market is often perceived, was the media then attempting to make Lenher look even worse. This was achieved by referencing an incident earlier in the game, when he was spotted waving to a fan during a TV timeout.
Speaking on Saturday night, as reported by the Toronto Sun‘s Ken Warren, Lehner said: “Maybe I should recognize that, and know where I am. If that happens anywhere else in the league … that probably happens every time a goalie gets mad.
“They said I was waving to girls, but I waved to a kid. It was funny. Well, it wasn’t funny for me afterwards, but looking back, it’s OK.”
Hockey players posing for pictures and interacting with fans is nothing new. However, the media incorrectly surmised the 25-year old’s actions were evidence of him not concentrating on the game and being distracted by female fans, hence why he performed so badly.
The reality was that Lehner was waving to a young boy on FaceTime, who was too ill to attend the game. Those are the moments kids never forget, helping to create a bond with the game of hockey.
As far as the 2009 second round draft pick is concerned, his actions were exaggerated, although he wasn’t too surprised, given it happened in Toronto: “It’s something in that town, it’s something to talk about, to take advantage of.”
In fairness, Lehner does have a point. Aside from “wavegate” (sorry, sorry, no need for that), of course he was angry after being pulled – who wouldn’t be?
In addition, the Swedish native was shouting in general, rather than at his coach in particular. Speaking on the night to John Vogl of The Buffalo News, Bylsma said: ” He should be upset with getting pulled.
“That’s part of Robin’s game, that emotion. I have no problem with that.”
In general, Lehner is considered one of the more emotional and controversial players in the NHL. Look no further than him calling out Ben Scrivens last season, after the Montreal Canadiens’ netminder refused to fight him in a game.
Overall, while Lehner doesn’t help himself at times, he probably does have a point about the Toronto media. You can only imagine how much more intense things would be for him, if he actually played for the Leafs.
Does Lehner have a point about the Toronto media? Would there have been less scrutiny elsewhere? What other cities are comparable to Toronto in respect of the sports media? Share your thoughts in the comments section.