By CAM FORTEMS
Daily News Staff Reporter
The Kamloops Blazers and the Western Hockey League have rescinded a ban on Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan, promising to return full access to players and management.
League commissioner Ron Robison and Blazers owner Tom Gaglardi met for two hours Tuesday with Daily News publisher Tim Shoults and editor Mel Rothenburger.
“We're lifting the ban immediately. Gregg will be reinstated with full access to all Blazer personnel and that will take effect immediately,” Robison said in an interview following the meeting at The Daily News office.
Rothenburger said Drinnan is reinstated “without conditions.
“Lifting of the ban was in everyone's interest.”
Drinnan will continue writing news coverage and columns, as he did before the Blazers sent a letter on Dec. 22 outlining concerns with coverage and instituting a ban on speaking with the veteran reporter.
Robison admitted that the Blazers were in violation of the WHL media policy by restricting Drinnan's access to team personnel.
However, he said he was sympathetic to the Blazers' perception that coverage has not been as balanced at what is received by other franchises in other WHL cities.
“One example being the lack of coverage surrounding a major news conference this year that both the club and league felt was very important, major announcements related to player signings, to announcements of scheduling special events in Kamloops.
“I believe that's all going to be corrected as a result of our meeting today.”
Drinnan could only recall one press conference that wasn't covered and it was called for Sept. 1 at 10 a.m., when no one was available from The Daily News' two-man sports department to attend. The announcements were reported, however, in stories prior to and after the press conference.
"With a two-man staff that works until midnight or 1 a.m. we can't be covering everything. We have missed other such events and covered them later by phone and we will continue to do so," Drinnan said. “The day of the news conference in question, I was by myself because the other sports reporter was on vacation. I'm sorry, but in these situations these things happen.
“Still, the stories got reported.”
Gaglardi, the team's majority owner who purchased the team in 2007 along with ex-Blazers Shane Doan, Mark Recchi, Jarome Iginla and Darryl Sydor, said only that the team is onside with the league.
“This has been a league matter from the beginning and we were in lockstep with the league and we're satisfied with where we are today. We're happy to proceed in good faith with the league, as we've been, and the Kamloops Daily News,” Gaglardi said.
He declined to answer other questions.
Rothenburger said there were no conditions placed by the league or team on reinstating access to players and team personnel.
“We welcome criticism of the way we cover the community, constructive criticism, and we'll look at details of examples raised,” Rothenburger said.
Robison said he's confident after the meeting the Blazers will receive coverage “more in line from what we see throughout the Western Hockey League.
“The issue was not surrounding the factual nature of the reporting. It was more to ensure the Blazers received what we consider to be similar coverage to what we receive in other WHL markets in terms of coverage of media conferences, dealing with certain subjects of a more positive nature as opposed to reporting on other issues,” Robison stated.
The restriction of Drinnan's rights to cover the hockey club became a hot-button issue among sports writers and columnists across the country who came to his defence through newspaper columns, blogs and Twitter responses.