Alex Lifeson On TSN's 'Off The Record' With Michael Landsberg

TSN, January 6, 2000, transcribed by Matt S.

[Transcriber's Note: This is only barely Rush-related as it is a talk show where the panel discusses sports issues, but Alex was one of the guests. The other guests were NHL Hall of Famer (and friend of Rush) Steve Shutt and Sacramento King Scot Pollard. The regular host, Michael Landsberg was absent at the time so the guest host was James Duthie.]

[Intro title sequence and music. Short clip of Alexei Yashin playing for the Ottawa Senators.]

James: If you could be Alexei Yashin for just one day, what would you do? Whatever it is, you'd need a good lawyer.

[Short clip of Shaquille O'Neal playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.]

James: Shaquille O'Neal doesn't want to fight for his country on the Dream Team because last time he wasn't on the front line.

[Short clip of Mike Ditka chewing out one of his New Orleans Saints.]

James: And from great tight end, to legendary coach, to has-been, it's tough being Iron Mike.

[Short clip of Doug Flutie playing for the Buffalo Bills.]

James: And from iron will to the will to win, Doug's magic will be card tricks on the sidelines, and not on the field this weekend.

James: Possibly the biggest panel ever assembled on the show: Steve Shutt, Kings centre Scot Pollard, and Rush's Alex Lifeson....Hey everybody, James Duthie here, and welcome to a star-studded edition of Off The Record. Michael is off this week; I have borrowed his chair. Yes, it is 'Landsbergus Interruptus'...only for a couple more days. And in the chairs next to me: NHL Hall Of Famer and five time Stanley Cup winner with the Habs - Steve Shutt [Graphic: Steve Shutt MEMBER OF THE NHL HALL OF FAME [1993]]. His band has sold thirty million records, they've been nominated for thirty three Juno awards - Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson [Graphic: Alex Lifeson GUITARIST OF 'RUSH']. And a former hoops star from Kansas who now is part of one of the NBA's most exciting young teams - the Sacramento Kings' Scot Pollard [Graphic: Scot Pollard SACRAMENTO KINGS CENTRE].

[Short clip of Mike Ditka coaching on the sidelines.]

James: And today on the show: Iron Mike went from being a tank in the eighties to an Edsel for the new millennium.

[Short clip of Jacques Villeneuve sitting in his 1998 Williams F1 car.]

James: And is she really going out with them, or are they married? Once again, sports fans are in Jacques' bed. Do we belong there?

[Short clip of Shaquille O'Neal playing for the Lakers.]

James: And when Shaq said no to the flag, was it his ego that made him throw in the towel?

[A couple of highlight clips of Alexei Yashin playing for the Senators.]

James: But first: a judge has ruled that Ottawa Senators fans...season ticket holders, can proceed with a lawsuit against Alexei Yashin. Now few would argue that Yashin has gotten the flak he deserves, but is this lawsuit going a little bit too far, guys?

Steve: Boy I'll tell you what, it's certainly new and...but, you know, it's going to be interesting to see exactly what happens. It's going to have ramifications for all different sports.

Alex: [Graphic: Alex Lifeson 2-TIME GRAMMY AWARD NOMINEE] Yeah, I know if I ended up showing up at an arena and wanted more, and decided not to play, and expected to get paid for it, I'd feel perfectly comfortable with somebody suing me.

Scot: I'm not into suing anybody or being sued by anybody, I'll just stay out of this one. [laughter]

James: Come on, don't they have a right after what's been...

Scot: I don't like lawyers or any of that, people sue too much these days.

Alex: That's a good point.

Scot: We should abolish all lawyers, and we should all just work things out...maybe with our fists. [laughs]

Steve: [Graphic: Steve Shutt PLAYED 13 NHL SEASONS WITH MONTREAL & LOS ANGELES] It really is an interesting standpoint that they're taking. They bought these season tickets with the understanding that they're going to see one of the premier players in the league perform.

Alex: For their team.

Steve: For their team, so they put out all this money, and then this player decides that he's not going to play. So, these guys want their money back, or they want to sue, or whatever. And it's something that's never been done before, and I think there's going to be a lot of people...are going to be looking at this, certainly a lot of the leagues, and a lot of the agents, and a lot of the athletes are going to be looking at this very, very closely.

James: Well the biggest problem that people have with Yashin is that he has no loyalty to his team. But isn't that a bit of a double standard, because we see time and time again in sports that teams have no loyalty to players. Example: in Buffalo this week, Doug Flutie. He had loyalty to his team all year long, and what happens? He gets benched for the playoffs.

Steve: Well I think there is loyalty and there's responsibility. And I think that sports, as a's really changed in the last fifteen years. Where there was certain loyalties fifteen years ago, now it's a business; there's too much money involved to have clear-cut loyalties where we can keep this player for so many years because he's been great for us...and you just can't do that anymore.

Scot: The Doug Flutie thing is a travesty. The guy gets you to the playoffs, and then they bench him. I don't think that that's anything that should be done in any sport. I think that's worse than fans buying tickets to see a player play...well, they're buying tickets to see a guy play in the playoffs, and he's not going to play.

Steve: Well isn't that a team decision though? That's a team decision that they...

Scot: You [inaudible] were talking about responsibilities and loyalties...

Steve: Well there, they feel that know, I love Doug Flutie, and I think everybody does, but the Bills, they say well, we can win with this other guy.

James: Alex?

Alex: [Graphic: Alex Lifeson SOLD 30 MILLION RECORDS WORLDWIDE] Well that's the bottom line, it's a team, and it's made up of a number of players, and you've got to go with the best players. It's not really a question of a personal thing, like loyalty; it's a profession, you know, you've got to get the job done to the best of the abilities of all the players involved.

James: Fans still expect players to be loyal. Case in point, the other night: Damon Stoudamire comes back to Toronto, the guy who left the Raptors, and he gets booed, in fact somebody even tried to take a slug at Damon Stoudamire. [Cut to clips of Damon Stoudamire practicing with the Portland Trailblazers, and some Toronto fans holding anti-Damon signs.] Now, deep down do you think that fans think that players owe them something?

Alex: I guess fans do, but fans are weird anyways. You know, they're crazy for all the wrong reasons. [laughs]

James: You're a fan though.

Alex: Yeah, sure I'm a fan...

James: Do players owe you something?

Alex: No, I don't think they do. I mean I enjoy sports, I enjoy music, I enjoy lots of things, I'm a fan of lots of things. And I respect somebody that does a job well, you know, that's really the bottom line. If they move on, they move on, it's no big deal, everybody does. We all have to move on at some point.

Scot: Talking about the sports fans though, that like they'll sue a team because one of their favourite players isn't going to be at the game, I think that's the same kind of fan that's going to maybe throw something at a Damon Stoudamire or boo him an entire game.

James: Fans to see you...

Scot: The superfans. They pay our salaries...

James: Fans pay your salaries...

Scot: Whether an athlete wants to admit that or not, that's why we're out there on the floor, because somebody wants to see us play. Like you said, maybe the fans feel it's our responsibility to show up if we have a contract, regardless of any extenuating circumstances.

Steve: I think fans right now, in today's sports, understand that a player is not going to spend his whole career with one team. There's a lot of other factors coming in, financial, et cetera et cetera. But I think that fans expect...

Scot: Players to show loyalty while they're there...

Steve: [Graphic: Steve Shutt SCORED 424 GOALS IN 930 NHL GAMES] That they're loyal while they're there, and if...but not go and like, trash the city you're at, saying, well geez, I don't like the team, I want to get out of here, I want a trade. That's what fans...they hate. If a contract comes up, and they say lookit, you know, I'm getting three million dollars more going with this team, fans can understand that, and I don't think the animosity will be there.

Scot: Hmmm...I don't think fans understand that, either. I think they see the dollar amount and say what's the difference between 3 million or 3.2 million, if another team offers you 3.2 million you might want to go there, especially if you don't really like the city you're in, but if you really like the city you're in it wouldn't matter. Who's just the dollar amount that may lure you away to a different city. You said it earlier, it's a business.

Steve: I think that the fans...when you start trashing the team where you're playing, and you're saying geez I want to get out of here, I don't like the city, I don't like the team, or whatever, I think that's what the fans don't like.

James: Look at Steve Francis in Vancouver...didn't even want to come there at all, and got his way, got out of there.

Scot: It happens. Van Horn did the same thing during the draft. Philadelphia was talking about drafting him, he said absolutely not...

James: What did you think of that though?

Scot: I think that guys have a right to say a little bit about where they want to go. I think the draft is a little unfair, and that some guys get stuck in a place their whole career. I don't think...maybe Michael Jordan could have made Portland a giant superstar and brought them six championships, but they passed on him, and Chicago got him and kept him forever.

James: All right. But do players have a right to say no to their country? Is it 'stand on guard for thee', or 'stand on guard for me'? We'll talk about that when we come back.


James: Well in the fans' eyes, Vince Carter is the best, or at least the most popular player in the NBA. But apparently he's not good enough to play for the U.S. on their Dream Team. [Cut to clips of Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors and Shaquille O'Neal of the L.A. Lakers.] Vince Carter snubbed in the voting; and he really wanted to represent his country. Shaquille O'Neal did not. O'Neal wasn't asked to the team simply because he'd already told them he wouldn't go; he wanted to spend more time with his three-year-old daughter. But now there seems to be more to it. Shaq says, and this is a quote, "The last time I played, I only got two minutes, and then David Robinson played the rest of the game. I'm not going through that shit anymore." Well, they probably won't need him anyway because they're going to win gold no matter what, but should a player be expected to represent his country?

Scot: It's up to the individual. I think if a guy wants to play for his country, and he has that sense of duty within him, then... [gives thumbs up] go ahead!

James: But it's his choice.

Scot: It's his choice. I don't think a can't force a guy. Maybe he could have handled it better and said what was really on his mind at first, instead of saying, oh I want to spend time with my family, and then come up with some other bullshit excuse.

Steve: I've represented our country in the Canada Cups. [Graphic: Steve Shutt 3-TIME NHL ALL-STAR ['76, '78 & '81]] And it is a tough...I don't think people understand how much of a time commitment it is, and how much pressure it is, and also, not pressure...pressure, also of winning, but pressure from within. All the players that are invited to play for their teams, and I don't know, in the Canada Cups we would bring probably another ten players, and then they'd get cut. So you're coming from teams where you're a star in your team, in your city, and then you get down to the nitty gritty, you get cut, or what happened to Shaq, you know, he was there but didn't play very much, so it's kind of a blow to your ego. So there's a lot more at stake than just representing your country.

James: Did you ever debate saying no?

Steve: I thought the pros and the cons, but then I thought to myself that this was, you know, a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it's a whole different...I think it's a whole different atmosphere when you're representing you're country versus a professional sports team.

James: Well Alex, you're a big hockey fan. Now, as a fan, and it goes back to the fans, again, these guys are getting paid a lot of money, even though they may not be getting paid money for the World Cup or the Canada Cup, don't you want to see them? As a fan, it's a big deal to you, isn't it?

Alex: [Graphic: Alex Lifeson 5-TIME JUNO AWARD WINNER] Well you sort of expect it, I think. But what Scot says is very true, it's really up to the individual. If you don't want to do it, you shouldn't feel like you have to do it only because you're there to represent your country. I think Steve brings up some good points as well, you look at it, you look at the pros and cons, and it is a great opportunity if you choose to. With Shaq, of course if you're a player of that caliber and you only play for a couple minutes, you think well, what's the point, I mean laying out this kind of time, when in fact I would rather spend time at home or...

Scot: Playing time aside though, you get the guy out there, and he's had the experience already, he's been there, done that, so to speak. And he didn't like it. So fine. If he doesn't want to do it again, fine. Why put all this bad press on the guy's head, saying, oh he's a jerk, he just didn't get enough playing time to satisfy his big ego. Hey, the guy didn't like it, he didn't like the experience, he's been there, done that. Let somebody else come in that hasn't done it that wants to do it.

Steve: I agree with Scot on that, too. If the guy doesn't want to be there, I mean...

Scot: We don't want him representing the country anyway.

Steve: [Graphic: Steve Shutt WON 5 STANLEY CUPS WITH MONTREAL] Exactly. Because I've seen that, where guys have come in to that same situation where you're talking about, and they mope around, and they bring the whole atmosphere of the team right down. I mean, if they don't want to be there, fine...

Scot: Screw 'em.

Steve: The heck with them, let's bring in somebody who wants to play.

James: Okay, let's take it to a different level. The Ryder Cup: there were some players that wanted to get some financial compensation, not necessarily for themselves, this year, the Americans, but to go to charity at least. Should players be paid to represent their country, and would that help getting guys like Shaq there?

Alex: [Graphic: Alex Lifeson MEMBER OF JUNO AWARDS HALL OF FAME] I think the issue with Ryder Cup is control. It's not so much the money, and who gets the money, but how the money is divied up. The PGA makes a great deal of money from the Ryder Cup, and I think the players have an issue of wanting to know where that money is going. It's not necessarily in their pockets, but if these millions, tens of millions of dollars are going to be moved around, they want to have some kind of say...

James: But these guys make a ton of money. This is one event for your country.

Alex: That's not the point...

Scot: Because of them, the country makes millions of dollars...

Alex: Yeah, it's them that's making the money.

Scot: This likens it to college sports in America, where there's millions and millions of dollars being generated every time a team takes the floor or the field or what have you, and those college players never see a penny of that.

James: I think I know where you're going with this...

Scot: They get a "free education" from it. Thanks a lot, appreciate it.

James: So when you were at Kansas, do you think you should have got paid? Do you think college players should be paid?

Scot: Of course! Our team made nine million dollars whether we were on TV or not. Our team averaged nine million dollars every time we got on the floor.

James: You probably got paid a little under the table anyway, right?

Scot: No. I wish I did.

Steve: Every game?

Scot: Every game.

Steve: Every game you made nine million?

Scot: Whether or not we were on TV. TV was more.

Alex: Is that right?

Scot: That's total, you know, generated from all the venues, merchandising, what have you, but that's ridiculous...

James: Were all the players bitter about that?

Scot: No, I'm not bitter about it, I'm doing well for myself, but I'll bet, you know, some of my guys that are not in a fortunate situation that I'm in right now, and maybe have a real job by now may be thinking a little bit more harshly about those rules.

James: All right. When we come back: A Saint he ain't. Are coaches like Ditka becoming dinosaurs? More coming up on Off The Record.


James: [to Scot, who was talking as they returned from commercial:] Hold on just a sec. The New Orleans Saints go 3 and 13; Mike Ditka joins Bill Parcells in the retirement home for hard-assed, iron-fisted coaches. [Cut to clip of Mike Ditka chewing out one of the Saints.] These guys becoming a dying breed. Is there any room for a coach who rules by intimidation?

Scot: I think on the professional level there's too many characters, too much money, and you've got to be more of a figurehead that just kind of orchestrates the symphony, so to speak. I think guys that get it too in-your-face in a professional level. There's too many egos involved, and you can't intimidate a man that's making more money than you, or is a lot bigger and stronger than you.

James: Steve?

Steve: I totally agree. With coaching for four have the players there, I mean you just can't be right in their face. You know, a good example is Scotty Bowman. When he coached us in the seventies, you know he was very dominating, he'd be right in your face. But look at him now in Detroit, you know, he's changed his ways, he stays in the background now, and he plays little mind games with all the players. You just can't coaching in the seventies, in the nineties, you know, right in the guy's face. There's no way.

James: Does that bug you as a fan, Alex, that coaches like that, that are in-your-face, and rather entertaining, cannot do it anymore because of the egos of pro athletes?

Alex: I don't think you really look at it that way, or find it that noticeable. It's very different on the floor, or on the rink, you know, when you're with this guy in practice, and in the dressing room, and all of that. I mean, it's always been my experience that if you deal with somebody in an honourable, respectful, and intelligent manner you'll get much more out of them than if you push them around. And, you know, so I think for a fan it's very difficult to know really what goes on and to what degree that kind of treatment is.

James: We've gone the other way now, where players get their coaches fired. You see it a lot in the NBA, Penny Hardaway and such. Is that an okay thing?

Scot: I think in the NBA more often it gets you traded than you get the organization thrown up in the air, but it happens. And I don't think that's right, I think if you have a problem with the coach you need to talk to the coach about that, instead of talking to the media about it.

James: Let's say the coach doesn't want to talk, he just wants to abuse you.

Scot: Ask for a trade.

James: What about in college? Let's talk about guys like Bobby Knight. You know, he's a guy who slaps a player on the bench. He's always abused his players, yet he's still out there coaching.

Steve: That's not pros though.

Scot: That's not pros...

James: It's a whole different game, isn't it?

Scot: That's amateur status. And I would also say that I have met a few of the players that played for him. Some of them absolutely hate him, some guys transfer away. But other guys say they'd go to their graves with him, if anything happened to him, they'd be on his side no matter what. So I think with a guy that's in-your-face that much, there's always something that keeps you bonded to him, or you're immediately going away from him.

Steve: Coaching in the nineties, it's...Pat Burns had the best quote of all. He says, "my players can get me fired in three weeks". And if they decide that you're out, I mean they just go phoomp, they go flat on you. And you're out.

Alex: So you think the whole team would kind of lose it for the coach? Go on strike, in a way?

Steve: I've seen it, where the coach...whether they get tired of him, or they get tired of his antics, or for whatever reason...and they don't do it subconsciously, but you can just see the team go shhhhhh [lowers both hands], just deflates, and they play flat, and that's it, and then the guy's gone.

Scot: I've seen a complete mutiny though, where they refuse to go to practice, and the coach stayed. The coach didn't get fired, and he's still there.

Steve: Well, that's far and few between.

Scot: Oh, I believe it.

Steve: Most time it's the other way around.

James: Let's look at the example of Golden State. We don't want to necessarily talk about the Sprewell incident per se, but look at what happened since then. Donyell Marshall, teammate of Sprewell at the time where he attacked P.J. Carlisimo comes out and says that, you know, pretty much everybody on the team hated Carlisimo, and I think his quote was that "something was going to happen". So, if twelve guys, or most of the team hates a coach, is it the coaches fault then? [Silent pause] Come on, Scot!

Scot: [laughing] Everybody's looking at me.

Steve: You start.

Scot: Uh, I think, sometimes...we were talking about this at the break...I think sometimes a coach just doesn't mesh with a team, and sometimes the hard work ethic and the in-your-face style works with a certain team, and all of a sudden you get a couple of different players in there, and as a team they collectively just decide that that's not going to work for them. You've got to get the feel for the team's mentality, and their chemistry, and decide which coaching style is going to be the best. And with these kinds of egos in the NBA, and all professional sports, you have to realize where your team is coming from before you can attack them with your plan of attack.

James: It's getting ridiculous though. Is it going to get to the point where the coach, all he does is draw on the chalkboard, and the players run the team? Or is that where we are now?

Scot: Professional players know how to play the game. There's not really a whole lot you can teach them once they're at this level.

Alex: Yeah. You need to orchestrate, like you say.

Scot: You need somebody who's just going to provide the X's and O's.

Alex: Somebody who's got diplomacy, and some smarts about him, to put it all together and get the synergy happening in the team and get the most out of them.

Scot: You need a manager.

Alex: You don't need a bully.

James: We want your input on all of these subjects, and you send it to us all the time. Some of your e-mails:

[E-mail graphic appears on the screen; James reads it aloud. Graphic reads:]


[Next e-mail graphic appears on the screen; James reads it aloud. Graphic reads:]


James: First of all, that's seven words. Second of all, you won't get any argument here. Here's how you can contact us: there's our e-mail address, our web site address, and our fax number. Keep in touch, will ya?




James: Time to let you guys tell me what's going on in your lives. Steve Shutt?

Steve: Business-wise, we're putting the ice in in Columbus, and Minnesota. And just on the fun side, starting up our Legends tour. See us across the country.

James: Alex?

Alex: Trying to get a job with Steve. [laughter] The band's kind of quiet right now, we're on a bit of a hiatus. We're not sure about what we're going to do in the near future, but I've got a couple of other projects that I'm working on, as Geddy is, and just enjoying life. It's nice to be home for a change after thirty years of touring.

James: We know what you're doing, Scot. Who's the hottest young team in the NBA, Sacramento or Toronto?

Scot: Sacramento, come on. We've got this little thing called the 'bench mob'. We come off the bench, and we go to work in there. You'll see us in action tonight.

James: All right. Jacques Villeneuve supposedly married his girlfriend Dannii Minogue. Well, supposedly married her New Year's, then apparently he didn't marry her. It's the age old question: should we bother to care anyway? Should Jacques' life, or the life of any athlete be in the papers, the private life?

Steve: It's part and parcel. It all goes with it.

James: Did you have any romances or anything that got in the papers?

Steve: Not that I'll tell my wife. [laughter]

James: What about a musician?

Alex: Well, we always went to church, and made sure that we were very good. [laughter]

James: Do you care about stars' private lives?

Alex: No, absolutely not. But like Steve said, it's all part and parcel, I suppose. Well certainly with a celebrity, and especially an entertainment celebrity, it seems to be more high-profile. But you know, what you do in your profession is one thing, what you do in your private life is another, and I think there is a division between the two, and it's important to keep that.

James: Scot, if you were dating Dannii Minogue, you'd probably want it on the sports page.

Scot: The people that want to be in the news are the ones that talk about it, and...

James: Thanks a lot, we've got to go guys.

Scot: ... Wa b-b-bye! [laughter]

[Advertisement displayed while a bit of Different Stages' Closer to the Heart is heard. Cut to a short clip of the Closer to the Heart video as the song continues.]