Former head coach Adam Oates was on Hockey Night in Canada radio a couple weeks ago to talk about his new role as an HNIC analyst. At the top of interview, Oates dropped this wisdom: “You wouldn’t like it if someone said something about you.”

So true. Please keep in mind as we move along.

Oates went on to discuss what it was like to coach known coach-killer Alex Ovechkin (“Just to set the record straight, I loved it… For me he was very coachable.”), how every detail of the game is not scrutinized (“It’s blogged. It’s twitted.”), and what team he likes in the playoffs (the Kings). Then, at the end of the interview, Oates told a story, ostensibly about how much he misses playing.


When we played Toronto this year, we went to the shootout. I had Grabovski on my team. And he grabbed me right away and he said he didn’t wanna shoot. And I’m like, “Why not?” I didn’t tell him if I had him in my list or not. Obviously, he was a little nervous against [his former team] Toronto. So I didn’t put him in, and after the game I went up to him and I went, “Hey, if you skated down the ice and you fell down and they laughed at you… They all wanna be on the ice, man, and I miss it. I miss that feeling of nerves every day.”

Rob Pizzo responded, “That’s a great story.”

No, it’s not.

First of all, it kind of falls apart there at the end. Oates doesn’t tell you which team won (hint: it’s not the Caps). He does some run-on sentences and uses some ambiguous pronouns. And the conclusion is all about himself rather than the purported subject of the story, Grabovski.

Plus: Oates left out the part where Grabovski took a skate blade to the face earlier in that game, requiring a bunch of stitches and nearly costing him an eye. I remember it. The date was November 23, 2013.

Grabovski’s absence from the shootout list meant Troy Brouwer took his spot and missed the net completely. It was a point of much discussion in the game recap:

MuzzMuzzington: Using Brouwer instead of Grabo in the shootout against his old team was like [CENSORED / THIS IS A FAMILY BLOG].

Graham: Maybe Grabo knew something we all don’t, ie that Reimer knows all his moves? You really think Oates just shanked him like that for no reason?

Myan: I thought maybe Grabo said something about not being able to see properly out of his eye because of the stitches?

There’s some merit to that last thought. Perhaps Grabovski’s alleged reluctance to shoot had more to do with the nearly career-ending injury he took less than an hour earlier than with fear of embarrassment.

And there’s one more salient point here: Oates told the media about another player requesting not to play against a former team. Oates did the same thing with Jaroslav Halak in March, basically ending that relationship, and now he’s done it again. And he did it all as an excuse to tell a story about how much he loves the game.

Oates probably didn’t mean to embarrass Grabovski, but this is the second time he’s failed to keep confidence. I wonder if management around the league notices this stuff and considers it in their staffing decisions.

Thanks to Raul for linking me to the interview.

Tagged with:
  • Oates is a douchebag. Now I hope he never works in the NHL, again.

  • HartKiller_09

    Sure, Oates says Ovechkin was coachable, but how would he know? Just because he coached him? Canada says Ovechkin’s not coachable and can support it by pointing out he’s not Canadian.

  • Myan

    Hey I’m featured! Woohoo!

    But seriously, Oates needs to keep what players tell him out of the media. When a player confides in his coach that he doesn’t feel comfortable doing something, he’s showing trust in his coach and those conversations should stay private.

  • Kelly V.

    Did Grabo ask him not to talk about it to anyone? I doubt it. I doubt he cares that Oates said anything either. These hockey players are not giant babies who can’t handle people repeating what they say. He asked not to be put in the shootout. I don’t think he’ll have a hard time owning that. Oates did what he asked and that’s that. Big deal.

  • Marky Narc

    Boy, I’d sure want this guy coaching my club’s farm team.

  • Marky Narc

    And just so we’re clear, I’m not serious. I don’t even own a club that has farm team.

  • Myan

    It’s not about guys not being able to “handle” it. You shouldn’t have to preface everything you say with “hey don’t tell anyone about this, cool?” That’s absurd. It should be understood that when you confide in your superior that you are uncomfortable basically doing your job(!!), it’s a conversation that should stay in the locker room. Oates has a history of unnecessarily telling the media everything (Halak-gate); how can he expect players to trust him/confide in him in the future?

  • Sarah

    Oates : personnel :: Don Cherry : fashion

  • James Hare

    Don Cherry knows what he is doing and does it for impact. Oates is clueless or malevolent.

  • Lawrence

    Honestly both times Oates has done this, I don’t think he meant it as a “calling him out” sorta thing and that he might just be an idiot.

  • johnnymorte

    They never had the shootout when he was a player Kind of a different situation when you’re one on one and everyone is watching. I don’t think it’s the right thing to be a hater on Oates right now. He was a great player and a great Cap when he played. Let him move on. No need to bash someone that’s trying to refresh their career.

  • Sarah

    Yikes, you’re right. I was going for the ultimate in laughable badness and still came up short. Thx

  • Sarah

    I’d have totally agreed with you yesterday, but Peter isn’t dredging up the past. He isn’t rehashing the same season. He’s defending Grabo from what happened to Halak. Getting portrayed in the media as namby pamby quitters threatens the careers of these players, after all. If you accept head coaching responsibilities you’re supposed to care about that and handle it for them. One reason I love Lindy Ruff so much– his dealing with the media is always a master class. Watching his compassion and bravery in the wake of Rich Peverley’s cardiac event, when the Stars really needed a strong leader, only deepened my respect for him.
    I felt sorry for Oates with Bailamos going everywhere and the ongoing bashing, but what happened to Halak over a private comment just isn’t right. I’m for anything that stops that happening again.

  • Matt McNeely


  • hopeless

    Except his narrow-mindedness wasted 2 seasons of potential… he deserves no respect for his coaching. HoF player? Yup. Anything else? Nope.

  • Matt Lauer

    The brotha just can’t stay out of his own way.

  • Graham Dumas

    I think it is a pretty big deal. First, it’s clearly not something that’s done often in the hockey/broader sports communities. Second, I think there is a sort of confidence between coaches and players, or even players and players, that’s understood as an unwritten rule.

    Hockey, like most if not all other sports at the top level, is very much a game of psychology and confidence. It’s also played by people who are constantly pushing themselves to be at their best (Ray Emery excepted). If your coach goes around telling stories about you being worried or nervous, it breaks down that confidence and makes you worried and nervous.

    And even if it doesn’t affect the player, it’s a generally not-cool move that does nothing for the bond between player and coach, which I’d argue is worth preserving.

  • Dark Stranger

    Under the circumstances, understandable that Grabbo would be more nervous than usual for the shootout — if stitches near the eye were making it relatively hard to see. (But Oates should not have said anything to the press for his case, or for Halak, too.)

  • Rob W.

    Id be pretty happy if this is the last time AO is talked about on RMNB

  • hockeyrich

    Oates needs to say things like this to deflect his inability to coach. Oates rates right up there with Cassidy as one of the worst Caps Coaches in team history. Oates will join Mike Milbury and Keith Jones on the intermission idiot show! So we can have three morons that puke when the speak, and don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    Meh. I might care if I thought Grabo cared. Something tells me he doesn’t.

  • Sarah

    I agree. I mean, if you look around the league, even the most unhinged coach doesn’t bring locker room talk into the media. Tortorella drops f-bombs on live TV, and wouldn’t do this. Patrick Roy may have rattled that divider (more understandable in light of a hit to Mackinnon’s knee!) but he doesn’t do this. He’s not afraid to stand up for his players and say controversial things, but it’s always because he has his players’ backs. I totally respect that. Obviously, his players trust him because of it, and that’s one reason he’s up for the Jack Adams. Honesty like that– a willingness to have a clash when it matters– is different from recklessness or indiscretion, and it’s becoming a rare commodity these days. God bless him.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Hey, I made the big show!

  • Jonah

    i guess the only good thing about this is that it *might* make grabo’s stock go down a little bit and make it easier to re-sign him….
    no no no its just stupid and pointless. oates is clueless and an idiot and he just doesn’t understand people.

  • VirginiaPatriot

    I wonder how “coachable” Oates was, considering is “failure to appear” and subsequent contentious contract issues following his pick up by Washington in March 1987? As I recall, a lot of fans weren’t very pleased with him back then and his “me me me” attitude that he seemed to portray back then.

  • BondraOvie412

    And the witch hunt continues….

  • M James Vaughan

    Why shouldn’t he make a comment? Not a big fan of Oates but this is a big boy game. Would hate to think your disdain for Oates clouds your judgement on Grabo’s and Jaro’s pansy bullsh*t. Lets call it like it is. This is the NHL.

  • Sarah

    The world is full of morons who refer to, e.g., sight threatening eye injuries as, I quote, “pansy bullshit.”
    An NHL head coach who fails to shelter his injured players from said morons is in dereliction of duty. Roy grasps this and is up for the Jack Adams. Ruff grasps this and has won it in the past. For coaches who don’t grasp this there ought to be a Jack Daniels award, for the head coach who most contributes to his players’ drinking.

  • Graham Dumas

    Total. Pansy. Bullshit. People who don’t play all the way through almost-career-ending injuries are just straight-up gay.

    I also appreciate the self-censorship of the profanity, but not the homophobia. Word up.

  • johnnymorte

    Well, the fact that he asked Grabo after the shootout rather than in that moment, that about sums it up right there. But, I don’t agree that players should have private lives on the ice and in the locker room. If it pertains to hockey, we have a right to know about it if it comes to us as folklore. But, this Grabo thing seems a lot less pansy than the Halak thing. I mean, if you feel you don’t have the mojo that night, you probably should tell the coach for the sake of the team. The shootout is a completely different animal than a 12 person hockey game.

  • Sarah

    I appreciate your argument that as fans who put time and money into supporting a team, we “have a right to know” a lot of things. But players are human and just don’t thrive when every last word they say, and every decision they make, is scrutinized, distorted, blown out of proportion, distorted further, and used as fodder for unfair mockery (see Halak-gate). Successful coaches like Lindy Ruff are extremely careful, therefore, to keep certain things out of the media. Ruff, of course, has long experience in the league, which helps tremendously.
    Remember all our goalie drama in Dallas this year? Me neither. That’s because a master coach manages awkward situations, like a Vezina and Stanley Cup winner sitting on the bench for the first time in his life. Tim Thomas was hugely professional, too, and that helps, but Halak and Holtby did nothing unprofessional either and look at the soap opera that happened. The brouhaha in Boston with Tyler Seguin just disappeared, and a year later is just a joke. You think there was no frustration for him when he showed up? Then there was the Olympics: If Seguin were from literally any other country on the planet he’d have gotten to go, but he stayed home while he linemates went to Sochi. Not a ripple at the surface; Lindy’s presser about that was pitch perfect. God, the Stars could have been a total disaster scene this year, and in lesser hands all these tensions would have torn the place apart. Take all that, and the nightmare that happened to Rich Peverley, and add in all the insanity of putting people’s feeling in the press and I don’t like to think what happens.
    Instead, the whole year was about hard work, triumph in adversity, and some major character wins (like traveling to St. Louis immediately after Peverley’s collapse, and beating the then-division leader). You don’t get that if the coach isn’t orchestrating all the personnel issues perfectly.
    Bottom line is, I disagree philosophically with the idea that the players have no right to privacy. They are human. But even if you don’t buy that at all, the fact remains, stuff like this just doesn’t even work.

  • Bugs Fire

    I believe this part deserved to be included too, in fairness to Adam (speaking about Ovechkin):

    “One thing I really love about him is he is a very genuine person. You watch – when somebody else scores on the team, he is genuinely happy. And it’s real. And that’s a great quality”.

    On one hand, I appreciate Oates coming to Alex’s defence (as much as I would like that defence to be more forceful, like taking some damn responsibility for the stupid plus-minus). On the other hand, it is unbelievable how deeply ingrained the “selfish Russian” myth is. What are you saying – Alex Ovechkin, the infamous coach killer is happy when someone else on the team scores? You are going to tell me he does not eat babies or drown puppies either?

    I guess whatever Adam Oates is saying or doing is slightly irrelevant by now. Except that the whole Grabo comment situation may help to understand why players didn’t play hard for him.

  • Rob Young

    I say he has Asperger’s. It fits. Pathologically rigid. Doesn’t “get” human interaction enough to realize that it is wrong to “out” your starting goalie and your most important impending free agent as ‘not wanting to play in uncomfortable situations…’

  • Shaun Phillips

    Add attention to minuscule details while missing the larger picture. I’ve been thinking this myself since December/January.

  • John Bolt

    I hope he does, so that we can watch him fail.

  • Red

    Personally, I don’t think this man deserves any more digital print dedicated to him on this site. Bygones and all that. I mean it’s weird to talk about your recently dumped ex while you’re already dating somebody new and exciting.

  • VeggieTart

    I can’t think of a team dumb enough to hire him after the clusterfuck he caused in Washington. If the only two available candidates for coach are Oates and Tortorella, you go for Torts.

  • me too
    but I doubt it
    I’ve got a couple season reviews left, so there’s at least compulsory paragraphs about how Oates made someone worse

  • VeggieTart

    Hey, I’m Aspie, and I can think of the right thing to say in both situations. Re Halak: We’re going with Holtby tonight. That’s all.

    Re Grabo: He was injured earlier this game, and we’d like to have him evaluated further.

  • Rob Young

    There are many degrees and different presentations of autistic spectrum disorders.

  • Sarah

    I am all for bygones-be-bygones in dating and hockey, believe me. I cannot wait to see this drop, and get back to ferrets with chainsaws and whether Volpatti is dreamy, or whatever. Maybe even some hockey discussion.
    But Oates has to stop acting like your weird ex who won’t accept you’ve moved on and doing stuff like this to his former players. I’ve been on a date where the ex showed up, it’s not fun! And I’ve sat around with my boyfriend waiting for him to get off the phone with a female friend who couldn’t get over him and find someone else. Really kind, patient guy who could sit and listen to her yammer at him for an hour while he surfed on the internet, and we were supposed to be doing something.
    Ultimately, I was able to draw a line under it only by writing him a sticky note that said, “If I have to pretend not to exist, I get the computer.” He stifled a laugh, got up and sat down outside for the rest of the conversation. And the effect of cold hard concrete on his butt limited further emotional talks to like ten minutes, which I was totally cool with.
    Maybe that’s the answer? Make him sit on cold hard concrete if he’s going to continue to detail his players’ emotions to hostile media that will tear them apart? I’m sure that we’re all open to suggestions here.

  • Sarah

    Don’t cry, Peter… pick one of the bazillion women who find you attractive. Right? …Am I missing something here?

  • Sarah

    Okay I have a suggestion. Hopefully we have no more incidents like this, Peter finishes his season reviews, and everybody heaves a grateful sigh of relief and moves on. That’d be great.
    If, on the other hand, this man puts even one more of our players through five more minutes of grief, I promise to compose a song in his honor. It will make “Bailamos” look friendly. It will make Taylor Swift look forgiving and sweet. I will stop discussing this now, because these songs tend to write themselves in my head if I even talk about them.
    Maybe it would be based on “If I Only Had Brain…” ack, no, no, must stop, not doing this unless it happens again.
    Good night all.

  • CJ

    I think that is the point though. Did he say it directly to call out his players? No. He was instead trying to give too much information where none was nessecary (in Halak’s case) or trying to make a story about wistfully thinking about being a player and frankly doing a bad job of it. In either case though he wasn’t self-aware enough to think before speaking about who or what was coming out of his mouth and how that could be interpreted.

    So yea… an idiot.

  • CJ

    To be fair to everyone from everywhere I think it’s not strictly a Russian thing on this front but rather a player thing. There are some guys from all over that don’t get pumped for others scoring on their team. They mail-it-in by bumping gloves and maybe a brief cheer but really there isn’t any emotion behind it.

  • Rhino40

    SO disappointed.

    Adam Oates was one of my favorite Caps players at the turn of the Millenium, and given his success with the power play in NJ I had thought…”Finally, a coach who really ‘gets’ the contemporary Caps, and knows how to carry himself with the media” (rather than one who tries to resurrect a late 90’s clutch-&-grab team with only one 20+ goal-scorer, and who also says “y’know” a minimum of 30 times in every postgame presser).

    The questionable decisions, wasting of quality talent, obsession with handedness, and the near-ruining of one good goalie (and running two others out of town) were bad enough.

    Now this.

    I had regrettably resigned myself to the fact that Oatsie may not have been ready to be an NHL head coach. Now I have to accept that he seems to be somewhat of a vindictive jerk as well.


  • VeggieTart

    True. And some of us learn ways to work around our challenges better than others.

  • Red

    This is why you guys should throw more RMNB parties. Amirite?

    Unless you don’t want to bring your work (aka Caps fan) home with you, in which case your situation is understandably dire.

  • M James Vaughan

    Didn’t realize he had sustained a potential career ending injury so shame on me.

    But shame on you for equating my use of the word “pansy” with fear of homosexuals. Seriously?

  • Oxford dictionary

    pansy • informal • offensive An effeminate or homosexual man.

    You might not have known that at the time. Now you do. It’s your call what you do with that info.

  • M James Vaughan

    Using the term “pansy” doesn’t mean you are afraid of homosexuals or that you hate them. Accusing someone of hate speech for it seems a bit unreasonable, very judgmental, and intolerant. Shoes on the other foot.

    Word up.

  • Graham Dumas

    You used an offensive term in an offensive manner. You don’t get the option to flip the script and call the people you offended, be they gay or straight, unreasonable or intolerant. Or is the NAACP intolerant of the Klan?

    Also, how did you manage to get more than one shoe on a single foot? Magnets, yo, how do they work?!

  • M James Vaughan

    Actually, I just did flip the script yo. And the NAACP is indeed intolerant of the Klan, and rightly so. You don’t tolerate people who use the word “pansy”? I say you’re judgmental and that I don’t share your values.

    Ad hominem attacks are really silly by the way, especially when you use them in an internet forum. Wait, am I not allowed to say “silly”?

  • I didn’t accuse you of using hate speech or make any conclusions about you at all. I pointed out that language you used is neither nice nor welcome here. I believe you when you said you didn’t know it was bad. No you do know. Take a second and decide what you wanna do with that information.

  • Graham Dumas