In the August issue of The Hockey News, in the wake of baseball star Tony Gwynn’s death this past June, columnist Adam Proteau wrote a critical piece about the use of chewing tobacco in hockey. A few pages earlier, in our table of contents, we published an image of Thomas Vanek throwing out the first pitch in a Minnesota Twins game. In the front right pocket of his shorts is the outline of what appears to be a cell phone. In the front left pocket, there’s something shaped like a tin of chew. Apparently, the picture was worth about 10,000 words. We received a high volume of letters to the editor (particularly for July), mostly bemoaning our photo choice. Here's an example:
The article about chewing tobacco in the August, 2014 issue carried a strong message. It really is a shame that so many young men are being drawn into taking up the filthy habit. It's really disappointing though that the same issue features a photo of Thomas Vanek throwing out the first pitch at the Twins game, with a tin of tobacco clearly visible in his pocket. Using this photo is counterproductive when you run an anti-chewing tobacco article six pages later.
Mike MacLean Cole Harbour, N.S. And this one:
I love the idea of kicking tobacco out of hockey. Obviously it is a health risk and a nasty habit; growing up there was nothing more disgusting than falling into a pile of it (that was spit by my coach). However, something immediately caught my eye in your August edition; on the inside cover Thomas Vanek is throwing the first pitch at a Twins game with what appears to be a tin of dip in his left pocket. Let's hope it's gum, right?
Michael Weinstock Blue Bell, P.A. Our editors noticed the bulge and discussed it briefly. We thought it was likely dip, but could also be gum, mints or candy that come in a similarly shaped container. One reader wondered if it might be a puck. We concluded regardless of the contents of the container, we’d run the photo. If it indeed was chewing tobacco, so be it. It’s reality and could be a stimulant for more debate (like this one). Some of our editors simply thought it was a non-issue. Our question to you: did we make the right call by publishing it? What would you have done? Are you 100 percent convinced it’s chewing tobacco?