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Sometimes it feels like we're not wearing facemasks

January 16, 2011|Crystal Schelle
  • Crystal Schelle
Crystal Schelle

During the time goaltender Jacques Plante played for the Montreal Canadiens in the mid-1950s to early '60s, he helped the team win six Stanley Cups, five of which were consecutive.

And as far as I know, he doesn't have any connection to newspapers. However, he's credited with one of the quotes I feel best describes working in this industry.

When asked about his job as goaltender, Plante replied, "How would you like it in your job if every time you made a small mistake, a red light went off over your desk and 15,000 people stood up and yelled at you?"

Because the truth is, it can feel like that when we make a mistake. Plante might have had only 15,000 people to boo at him when he was on the ice. But we sell twice as many Sunday papers as that, which doesn't even account for the people who share our paper or the hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a month to our website, all of whom have the right to tell us when we get it wrong.

So when I get a call, an e-mail or a note, I think of Plante, who passed away in 1986. Although I never met the Hockey Hall of Famer, I have always felt we had one thing in common — goaltending. Because as editor of the Lifestyle section, I am our team's last defense — just like Plante was for his.

We all know that when Plante called his mistake "small" that in the big picture it wasn't. For him, one "small" mistake meant the loss of a game or the hopes for another Stanley Cup. He knew if he let one puck by, his intensely dedicated hockey fans weren't going to be happy. Just like we know our readers aren't happy with us.

Missing an error of any kind can be crushing, especially when it ends up on the doorsteps of our readers.

When I miss a typo, an incorrect date, a misspelling, poor grammar or a factual error, I feel like I've played the worst game of hockey ever. Readers didn't get to see the great blocks and saves I managed to do all week before it got to their mailboxes. They just bought the ticket for the time I missed the puck.

Plante knew his fans had a right to be upset, just like our readers. Because newspapers, like hockey, depend so heavily on their devoted fans.

We try to make it right by immediately putting in a correction or clarification. If it's a story that's online, we fix the mistake as soon as we know. If it's a birth or anniversary announcement, we rerun them because we know they are more than announcements, but mementos.

There are excuses we can give you, but we won't. Plante still defended his goal when he got hurt. On Nov. 1, 1959, a maskless Plante took a puck to the face when facing the New York Rangers' Andy Bathgate. Plante would only return to the ice when he was allowed to wear a goaltending mask — popularizing what has become an iconic piece of hockey equipment.

He loved the game too much to give up. Just like we do.

So when one of those pucks got by Plante, he readjusted his mask, wiped away some blood and readied himself for the next puck.

Plante understood that those red lights and boos were part of the game and meant to make him a better player.

And as I stand in my own crease watching those pucks come at me from all angles, that's the way I see it, too.

Crystal Schelle is Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. She can be reached at crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com.

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