Media throngs are sure to gather whenever Sidney Crosby is available. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
They say time flies when you’re having fun, so when I take a moment to stop and smell the roses it’s hard for me to realize I’ve been at THN for nearly three years now, but easy to recognize it’s because I’ve had an absolute blast.
Through trips to three NHL drafts, an awards show, an all-star weekend, the first playoff game in Columbus and short adventures to Barrie for the Ontario League final or down to the Air Canada Centre for a pre-game skate, I’ve had the great opportunity to interview some great people and players.
The first media scrum I was a part of came days after getting hired. Down at the ACC for a Penguins-Leafs tilt in November, I was to get audio from a few of the visiting players. The crush of cameras, notepads and microphones was eye-opening, but when Sidney Crosby sat down at his stall I got in there front and center as 'The Kid,' 21-years-old and fresh off winning the Hart Trophy, handled a barrage of questions with a calm ease.
You can say that was my ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment.
While all NHLers have been trained in how to handle the media to the point where some get caught up in a tidal wave of cliches, it’s neat to interview junior players to see the contrast. This past spring, I was in Barrie shooting two segments with video producer Ted Cooper. We were focusing on draft-eligibles Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler and you could immediately pick out who was the projected No. 1 overall and who was still settling into the pro atmosphere of major junior and out of the top prospect spotlight.
When Hall came out, it was easy to see he had done hundreds of these before. Looking you straight in the eye, Hall answered precisely, quickly and with maybe a cliche or two tossed in. Fowler, on the other hand, came off as a kid still acclimating to the attention stardom brings. His answers were a little more drawn out and raw, but delivered with an enthusiasm I’ve rarely seen. I know I wasn’t his first interview, but it’s neat to be able to remember Fowler like this, before media training changes his demeanor forever.
This past winter, I wrote a feature for the website, called A Ref’s Life, that looked at what it takes to be a professional whistle-blower. Immediately, I was blown away with how open and friendly the guys were. They all had great passion for what they did and, for the most part, were eager to tell their side of the story.
One night, Kelly Sutherland was passing through Toronto, so instead of going directly to the dressing rooms after the game I headed down to the referee’s room. This place is unlike the media crush I previously described.
First, it was difficult to find and I must have been pointed in three or four different directions before I found it. Second, when I got there, it looked like a storage area. Amidst all the clutter was a non-descript door with two men standing out front. When I told them I was there to meet Sutherland, one told me he'd be out shortly. So I looked around for a bit until I heard “Hey Rory” from behind me. I turned around to see Sutherland standing there with a smile and an outstretched hand, but what was really surprising was that he was shorter than me. (To give you an idea, at a towering 5-foot-7, I was always the smallest kid on my hockey team.) Sutherland skates alongside the world's best and gets in the dirty areas on a nightly basis, but you’d never guess it by looking at him.
Last winter, while the Vancouver Canucks were in town, I was at the morning skate at the ACC to shoot a video on the Sedin twins. While growing up, one of my best friends had a pair of twin sisters. I’ve been told there is a way to tell the difference between the two, but to this day I can’t decipher who's who. So when I was in the dressing room preparing to talk to the Sedins, part of me wondered how I would ever be able to make sure I got the right one.
Ahh, name plates. Thank goodness for nameplates. When Henrik came out and stood at his stall I went up for a one-on-one and started asking him about how he continued to score while his brother was out with an injury. “You'll have to ask him,” the supposed Henrik replied. Puzzled, I tried to ask again, thinking he had misunderstood me. “You'll have to ask my brother,” the twin said, as he sat down and, understandably, looked a little annoyed. At that moment, Mikael Samuelsson, who was sitting next to the twins, started laughing, pointed up to the nameplates and explained one of the trainers had switched them just before. A good sport, Daniel laughed it off as I apologized and he stood back up to do the interview properly.
There are many good people in the hockey community who make an already enjoyable job that much more exciting. Everyone has tales to tell and stories to share and it’s hard for me to believe I’ve got nearly three years of them stored.
They say you don’t stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing. If that’s true, I don’t think I’ve aged a single day.
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