In the sport of hockey, if there’s one thing professional NHL athletes are REALLY good at off the ice, it’s delivering cliché answers, when fielding questions from media reporters (unless maybe you’re P.K. Subban).
I’ve dedicated four years of research at this reporting position at various networks, and I’ve deducted that it’s simply a fact—and I guarantee every hockey guy would agree with it, too. If you’re going to be an NHL reporter, prepare to get a lot of cliché answers, no matter what question you ask. I like to give the players a hard time about this fact every time I go in for an interview in the locker room, I say, “alright, time for some softballs… you’re not going to give me any clichés are you?” To which they smirk, and say… “yeah, I probably will.”
In fact, I think if I were to throw a curveball at intermission in a live game interview and ask these guys something completely non-hockey related, such as, “Hey, welcome, what’s your favorite color?” that they may still actually give me an answer like, “Well obviously, we just have to be better at taking away time and space… better gaps… ya know… we’re just going to take it one shift at a time. Good things happen when you put the puck on net, we just need to put together a strong 60 minutes, so we can hopefully earn a few good bounces in the end.”
It would be something to that nature, and I find this consistency in every player’s answer very entertaining.
This holds true for every NHL locker room and media scrum I’ve participated in ranging from FOX Sports South with the Carolina Hurricanes, to even sporting an NHL Network mic at the Stanley Cup Championship in 2017, and to now with NBC Sports Chicago covering the Blackhawks. I’m of course just poking fun with good intention, and I am not writing anything here that I wouldn’t tell any of these NHL players. In fact, they would probably laugh with me and agree that it is all true.
Yet, it’s such a dichotomy, because off-camera these NHL guys have some of the most colorful and funny personalities. I wish I could bottle up those hidden moments and display them for everyone to see, because it’s hilarious.
With this preface, you can imagine my excitement to host the kids’ presser at the Blackhawks Convention this weekend, when Corey Crawford, Brian Campbell, Jan Rutta and Chris Kunitz were put on the hot seat. Not only would they be asked hilariously blunt and unavoidably unique questions, but this would be the perfect opportunity for their personalities to really shine. This would be improv at its finest, and about as open as a media forum could get. I couldn’t wait to witness the amazing entertainment that was about to unfold… to see the personalities that often come out off-camera.
Here were my favorite moments from the kids’ presser:
- Brian Campbell admitting to playing with Barbies every day and pretty much all day with his two daughters when asked, “what are your favorite things to do outside hockey?” Well done, Soupy, I know what I’ll be getting you for Christmas this year.
- One kid asked, “What’s your favorite Fortnite dance move and could you give us a sample?” To which there was silence on the panel, as they looked amongst each other confused… no one was young enough to know about Fortnite, including myself. However, I prompted the kids to show us some of their favorites and maybe one of the guys would follow suit. As the youngest member on the panel, I assume Jan Rutta took one for the team here, as he gracefully delivered the Fortnite dance called, “Take the L” (I had to google research what dance move I witnessed). His right hand was in the shape of an L on his forehead, while his left arm grabbed the holster of his pants, and he began to kick his legs out like a mad man. It was hilarious.
- Corey Crawford was asked 95 percent of the questions, and a few of them jumped out, like when he was asked, “Do you ever regret being a goalie?” He laughed and acknowledged, “well, sometimes it’s not fun when you get hit in the wrong places.” One can only imagine what that feels like at the NHL level.
- One child asked Corey, “How can I convince my parents to let me be a goalie?” That one got a few chuckles across the crowd.
- Additionally, we learned about Crawford’s classic car collection when he was prompted with, “what kind of cars do you have, Corey?”
- One of the kids’ asked the newest member of the Blackhawks, Chris Kunitz, who hasn’t skated a day with his new team yet, by the way, “Chris, what’s the best way to beat Crawford?” Welcome to the team Chris, let’s talk about all the weaknesses of your new goalie. Too funny.
- Crawford was also asked (twice), how many goals he’s scored in his career. We had to google it on the spot… turns out he has zero. Chris Kunitz tried to save it by asking, “but how many assists do you have… probably a lot of those right?” (I’m guessing that was in effort to remedy his last answer for his strategy on how to beat his new teammate Corey... high glove). Turns out he only has five assists in his career. Sorry, Chris, maybe you should just buy Corey a car to add to his collection in exchange for his new friendship? Just a thought.
- When all the guys were prompted with, “What’s the biggest hit you’ve ever taken on the ice and how did you retaliate?” We learned that Chris Kunitz and Brian Campbell had some altercation back in the day, which I think the boys resolved on the panel in humorous fashion.
These NHL players are extremely talented on the ice, but what’s more noteworthy to me with this Blackhawks team, is their kind and humble nature off the ice. These guys made each kid that nervously stepped to the mic feel valued and special, treating every question with grace and kindness, and it was a treat to witness.
Bottom line, these NHL players, “just get it,” and continuously go out of their way to make a kid’s day, whether it’s at the convention signing autographs, or gifting free sticks and pucks at the games. This panel reminded me of the blue collar, first-class approach that the Blackhawks culture promotes, which is an admirable one, and a culture I’m glad to be a part of. Whether it’s taking questions from a five-year-old or any adult media reporter, we’re all lucky to work with some pretty incredible athletes that are just really good and down-to-earth people at the end of the day.