SUN Hockey Pool

Lockout a 'suicide mission'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- They are lined up here at the NFL's Media Center -- a train station converted into a conference centre -- end to end like so many boxcars. They are the tables along "Radio Row," each holding a Mad Dog or a Wild Man on The Team or The Ticket or The Buzz or The Fan.

There are 90 radio stations here, according to the National Football League.

When you walk by, the words fly about sport radio's centre of the universe like sparks from a bonfire.

At the end of one row of tables sits another like all the rest, rectangular and covered with a white tablecloth.

This is the epicentre of The Jungle and behind the table sits host Jim Rome (heard daily on The Team 1200, noon-3 p.m.)

He started out as a $5 an hour traffic reporter in Southern California, but now he's the king of the sports radio landscape.

At the end of his show, he leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands over his head and answered a few questions from the Sun.

SUN: How would characterize most of your competition in the sports radio business?

JR: I don't spend a lot of time listening to them, really. I just worry about my own show and my business that I have to take care of. I don't really concern myself too much with that.

SUN: You've got takes on a lot of different topics. How many newspapers do you read, how much time do you spend on the Internet? What are you doing in terms of information gathering?

JR: I've always been of the opinion that for every hour you're on the air, you should prep two hours. It's not rocket science how I go about developing what I have to say about the things that I see. I try and access as much information as possible, talk to as many people, utilize relationships that I have, watch the games, do a lot of reading. Basically, I see the world a certain way, that and accessing and consuming as much information as I can.

SUN: You're on radio, you're on TV (Jim Rome is Burning on ESPN). When are we going to see you doing a newspaper gig?

JR: Hopefully, never. I don't need another job. Two is enough right about now.

SUN: What do you think of the lockout in the National Hockey League?

JR: I'm an NHL guy. I love hockey. I miss hockey. It is a suicide mission. It is terrible. These guys are not going to come back and have anywhere near what they had. They have done almost irreparable damage to the sport. The fans are not going to forgive and forget. The hardcore ones will. But good luck getting that peripheral fan back. That sport will never be what it was prior to the lockout.

SUN: You're probably situated in a market in the States (Los Angeles) that we talk a lot about in Canada that maybe a lot of people didn't care about hockey already. What's your read ...

JR: They didn't and then they did and now they won't. I mean anything short of a Stanley Cup run it's going to be awfully hard to get the fringe fans to come back. Again, the sport's got its hardcore fans that will wait and they'll be patient and they probably will forgive and forget. I mean, baseball shut down and that's our national pastime and there's still fans that didn't come back to that. Hockey does not have enough goodwill in the bank, especially not in Southern California.

SUN: How would the Senators have done this year with (goaltender Dominik) Hasek and changing the coach?

JR: I like the Sens and I want to say they had what it took to take that final step, but until they take that final step, it's hard for me to say it. I've been burned before. I know RAM (Senators president Roy Mlakar), I go back with him, I believe in him and I like what they have, but I've been burned by saying, 'this is the year,' before. So I'm still a little skeptical.

SUN: Tell us something about RAM we don't already know in Ottawa.

JR: You may know it. As friendly as he and I are, when the Kings first came on the station, he hated me and he wanted me off. I don't know if he'll cop to it, but, as only RAM can, he voiced his great displeasure to the station and said, 'I want that guy off the air.' I don't know if all of Ottawa knows because he comes on and we buddy up and we have a relationship. Like a lot of my listeners, I tell them to give the show a couple of weeks, he hated it at first. RAM, come on, he's calling me up all the time, 'Tour Stop, Tour Stop, Romey, when are you coming, we can do it.'

SUN: That's the next question. Is that even feasible to have a Tour Stop (Rome takes his show on the road) in Ottawa?

JR: Yes. I'd like to. I've always taken a lot of pride in the fact that the show is there. I remember when it came on, the take was, 'what do we care about a guy in the U.S.? We're not going to listen to what he has to say, what he has to say is not relevant in any way, it'll never work.' Well, it does work, so I think that a Tour Stop is feasible. Those things are pretty hard to set up. We haven't been able to do it, but hasn't yet doesn't mean it won't happen.

SUN: I think one of the keys to you having success in Canada is you've probably embraced hockey more than most national personalities in the States. What are the roots of you liking hockey?

JR: I had season tickets to the L.A. Kings growing up. I went and I saw the Triple Crown line. I saw Rogie Vachon and I saw Bob Nevin and Bob Pulford. Mario Lessard. I loved it. My dad liked hockey. I don't really know why because he didn't really have the roots, either.

SUN: Was he a Southern California native?

JR: No, Boston. I am. He wasn't. Back in the day that was fun. You'd get your 9,000 people a night, but you could go in the Forum Club after the game and the players would come in. The NHL guys were always great guys, especially back then, they were accessible. You could go into the Forum Club after a game and have Rogie Vachon come in and hang out. Or Marcel Dionne. It was great. A lot of fun. Better yet, I can go back one further. We had season tickets to the WHA Los Angeles Sharks, '72-73. So I've always liked it. I get it.

SUN: What's your greatest personal athletic achievement?

JR: Me or what I've seen?

SUN: Yours.

JR: Still to be determined.


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