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PHT at Wachovia: My first day in the media

Everyone has a first time. First step. First day at school. First day at college, away from the parents. First sip of a brewski. First..well, you know.

Yesterday was my first day as a member of the credentialed media.

Despite what they might say, most members of the hockey media were one-time hockey fans just like you and me. Covering the sport from the vantage point of the media means entering a world you never thought you would have had the chance to. Despite outwardly being as calm, professional and as even-keeled as possible it’s still amazing to think you have access to speak with players you’ve been watching, playing the sport you’ve devoted so much time to.

I had the opportunity to attend yesterday’s game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings as part of NBC’s Game of the Week coverage. It was a two-part trip; for one, I had the chance to meet with and visit with the NBC production crew with whom Pro Hockey Talk has been working so closely with each week. I also had the chance to cover the game for PHT from the press box and the locker room, getting some inside access to a big game with major playoff implications.

First off, I want to point something out. I know that the NBC broadcast catches a fair amount of flak from hockey fans, but I can tell you that this is a group of people that truly care about putting the best product they can on your screen. It’s not easy to cater to the hardcore hockey fan while trying to present the game to the casual viewer as well.

Of everything that happened yesterday, getting to meet Doc Emrick was easily the highlight. The man has command of the room, despite how low-key he is. Everyone around him has tremendous respect for the man and it was easy to see why: he treats everyone exactly the same. He knows everyone’s name and he acknowledges every person he comes across. Truly and honor and a delight to meet the man.

The other part of the trip was covering the game from the press box. For every fan that may be jealous of the media getting to see every game, know that they aren’t seeing the game from the best viewing angle. We were pretty much looking straight down on the ice from the highest spot in the arena; I couldn’t see the ice unless I put my laptop screen down and leaned forward. Not complaining, far from it. Just saying.

Aside from the free popcorn and coffee, not much else to share about the press box. Some observational notes: the Red Wings scouts sitting behind me were very vocal, and it made watching the game that much more interesting. They were outwardly critical of anything happening on the ice; very entertaining. It was also great to get to see a number of long-time media members in person, after following their work for so long.

After the game, came the part of the day I was dreading: the locker room. I’ve covered a number of NHL events before, but never a game, and was unsure exactly what the eitiquette was for approaching players in the locker room after the game. Obviously, they’re tired, sweaty and just want to take a shower and go home but we also want to get some nice quotes from them. That’s just how it works. And post-game generally isn’t the best time to get good stuff from players, unless you’re just looking for some stuff about the game that was just played. Or if you’re talking to R.J. Umberger, I hear he’s great for post-game quotes.

I needn’t worry, however. With a such a big game being played, in Philly no less, there was a large contingent of media present. When I got down to the locker room, there was already sizable crowds around Dan Carcillo and Chris Pronger. So I just joined them. What I found funny was that as soon as Pronger started talking, after Carcillo had talked for a bit, he was instantly deserted for the defensemen. It was just a mass exodus from one side of the locker room to the other.

I couldn’t get close.

Image (1) Pronger-thumb-300x400-8600.jpg for post 703

Everyone is crowding around Pronger, while Brian Boucher quietly takes his pads off right next to them. No one even approaches him.

When everyone left Carcillo’s locker, I stuck around to see if I could get some extra one-on-one stuff. He was very talkative, and I was able to get some great quotes from him about what was going on during the scrum he was having with Tomas Holmstrom. I headed back up to the press box to type up the quotes for the recap, only to find out that my recorder didn’t record anything. Not a sound, not even static. The file was there, when I was recording the red light was one, I could see the time ticking away...just no sound. That’s what I get for using a brand new recorder, I guess.

I took notes, but the last thing I wanted on my first day with credentials was to get accused of mis-quoting a player. So I used what I had, and was unable to use what I wanted.

To finish, here are a couple of lessons I learned yesterday:

-If you dress nicely, you will not be mistaken to be a member of the media. Nope. In fact, you will constantly be asked if you are the PR director for the Flyers.

-Ever been the brand new kid at high school, starting at a brand new school in the middle of the semester? Everyone knows everyone, everyone knows where to go and you don’t know jack. I’ve been there when I was 16, and I was right back there again yesterday.

-If you get lost, ask someone. They’re helpful.

-Carcillo is nowhere near as big as I thought he was.

-Never, ever bring a brand new recorder to the biggest day of your life.

-If you dress nice, act professionally and keep to yourself...players, PR and the team will treat you just fine.