The three-year experiment in which the Los Angeles Kings paid reporter Rich Hammond to cover the team wasn't all smiles, according to Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth. He writes that in a talk Wednesday night to sports business students at USC Annenberg, Hammond said the National Hockey League recently demanded that a story he wrote be taken off the web. Hammond announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the Kings' employ, and the hockey beat, to cover USC for the Register in Orange County.
Hammond's Sept. 17 post was a Q and A with the Kings' Kevin Westgarth, the most visible of the team's players as he worked with the NHL Players Association during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. Westgarth was candid in his opinions about both sides of the negotiations.
"The league wanted the story taken down," said Hammond, who stressed the Kings organization did not take issue with it. "Technically, they were saying that as a team employee, I had to abide by their rules of not discussing the lockout."
The story remains posted as discussions between the team and league continued. Still, Hammond wondered about maintaining the integrity of the blog if future restrictions or threats were ever put to him again.
In the meantime, he had renewed discussions from the Register about the USC beat and decided to take it, explaining only on his last post for the Kings' blog (linked here) that "the timing and situation" was right for him to "move on . . . the decision is mine and the Kings in no way pushed or encouraged me to leave." He said that during the lockout, he was not in danger of being laid off.
"It's my choice, for a number of reasons," he said. "I will leave on good terms."
Hammond was a colleague of Hoffarth's at the Daily News before going on the Kings payroll. Hammond posted a farewell item Wednesday in which he says "I have decided that the timing and situation is right for me to move on...I’m grateful that my parting with the Kings is amicable and that I will leave on good terms, both personally and professionally, with everyone involved."
The Kings released a statement thanking Hammond for his service. In part it says:
The Los Angeles Kings would like to express our deepest gratitude and best wishes to Rich Hammond as he embarks on the next chapter in his professional life. Rich’s efforts as a partner in building a new platform for LAKings.com epitomized integrity, work ethic and vision, and at no time did he waver from his goals and commitment to his readership.
In this fun tribute video produced by the team, Kings' Hall of Famer Luc Robitaiile says Hammond will remain the team's favorite blogger.