I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a rookie at this professional writing game. Indeed, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my past year with the Canadian Press, it’s that I don’t know how much I don’t know.
Sure, as a young Canadian male I’d watched more hockey than the average person. But there’s no way I’ve seen as much hockey as some of the big name experts like TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger of the CBC’s Scott Morrison, Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.
No, I definitely still have a lot to learn about the game and the sports journalism business in general.
The only acceptable recourse is to keep striving by working at my craft and doing research to broaden my knowledge base.
This is actually a personal belief that I’ve held for a long time. In fact, last month I was asked to speak to the current cohort at Centennial College, my sports journalism alma mater, and I made a point of talking about the importance of continuing the learning process even after school is done.
After all, sports journalists are required to interview athletes and coaches who have dedicated their whole lives to their sport. They know it inside and out. If we want to engage them and extract thoughtful quotes from them, we need to know what we’re talking about.
That’s one of the many reasons I decided to go to the World Hockey Summit. It was the ideal place to meet with hockey people at the grassroots level and learn about the issues facing the sport today. As you can tell from my four-day diary of the conference, it was an incredibly educational experience.
As I announced yesterday on my Twitter feed the Canadian Press has brought me back for another year as their junior hockey editorial assistant, and so I’m getting down to some serious research.
I’ve begun an email-writing campaign, introducing myself to all the media relations people of the Canadian Hockey League.
Whether it’s the head office here in Toronto, the regional offices of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League or the teams from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Prince George, British Columbia, everyone has or will hear from me.
The idea is to discover the stories behind each organization. Many of them have already sent me their media guides or are putting me on their mailing lists. Hopefully, these contacts and these press kits will help me come up with more and better feature stories and add further colour to my game stories.
Already I’ve benefitted from this initiative – this morning I was invited to listen in on the QMJHL’s season-opening press conference.
Amongst other pieces of news, league president Gilles Courteau explained that there is a gentleman’s agreement between the AHL and the Quebec-based association to not spread into New England. I was live Tweeting the call and when I mentioned that tidbit I got a big reaction from many followers.
I’m sure that all this work, all this research, will bear more fruit, I’m just not sure how. After all, I don’t know how much I don’t know. But that’s why I’m doing all this research – to try and improve myself as a journalist.
Hockey Canada is organizing the conference, bringing together hockey organizers, players and coaches from around the world to discuss the future of the game and improve on safety.
In the words of Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson, the Summit will “provide an inclusive forum to table the most pressing questions surrounding our game and work together to find implementable solutions.”
Day 1 was very straightforward. It was basically clear from nine until five, giving all the attendees a chance to register and settle into their accommodations in downtown Toronto.
Tonight there will be a Hot Stove Session at the Hockey Hall of Fame where four panels rotate from room to room, discussing Contracts and Transfers, Agents’ Role in Working with Young Players, State of the Game and Comparisons of the International and North American Game.
Unfortunately, I’ve got previous commitments for tonight, so I’ll be missing out on those talks. They do sound very interesting though, and I’ll try to get my hands on a recap of the discussions to share here.
Tomorrow will start with a continental breakfast at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the National Hockey League’s Canadian office. There’ll then be a three hour session on Player Skills Development.
At one in the afternoon, Rene Fasel, the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, is going to have a half-hour Q+A period.
Next up is the session that I am most interested in: Junior Development in the Hockey World. The reason is fairly obvious – as junior hockey editorial assistant for the Canadian Press, this is my wheelhouse.
It’s going to be a lot of fun and interesting week. Please, check back here tomorrow night or my Twitter feed throughout the day to see what it’s all about.
In addition to writing junior hockey round-ups and watching the Olympics, I spent much of my weekend putting together a feature story for the Canadian Press on Richard Martel's record-setting 570th Quebec Major Junior Hockey League win.
No one is more surprised to be the Quebec Major Hockey League’s winningest head coach than Richard Martel.
Martel achieved the milestone Sunday night when his Chicoutimi Sagueneens beat the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1 for his 570th career victory. With that, he surpassed QMJHL Hall of Famer Guy Chouinard for the all-time record.
“When I started in the QMJHL I just wanted to be involved in the hockey community,” said Martel. “I thought I’d have a job for a long time, but not for 20 years.
“I’m very proud to be a coach in the QMJHL . . . I feel privileged — very privileged.”
Since it was written for syndication, it's been picked up by several newspapers and websites including the Globe and Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Guelph Mercury, the Halifax Metro and SportsEast.ca.
I was really pleased with this article and I hope you enjoy it too.
Friday, Jan. 8th 2009:
QMJHL: Remparts top Baie-Comeau, give Roy 200th coaching win:
Patrick Roy has waited a long time for his 200th victory as the coach of the Quebec Remparts.
Antoine Tardif stopped 26 shots as the Quebec Remparts smashed the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 6-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night. (Read more...)
OHL: Jenner scores OT winner as Oshawa beats Peterborough
Boone Jenner knew how to cap off a thrilling game for the Oshawa Generals.
Jenner scored short-handed, 2:27 into overtime, to lift Oshawa to a 4-3 win over the Peterborough Petes in Ontario Hockey League action Friday night. (Read more...)
WHL: Warriors ruin “Eberle and Teubert Day” for Pats
Friday may have been "Jordan Eberle and Colten Teubert Day" in Regina, but it wasn't their night.
The Moose Jaw Warriors thumped Eberle, Teubert and the Pats 5-2 in Western Hockey League action Friday, putting a damper on the festivities. (Read more...)
Saturday, Jan. 9th 2009:
QMJHL: Roy, Cape Breton shut out Halifax
Olivier Roy is moving up in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League record books.
Roy made 31 saves as the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles blanked the Halifax Mooseheads 2-0 Saturday night. (Read more...)
OHL: Kadri scores shootout winner in wild game
The London Knights barely survived a wild night against the Erie Otters.
Nazem Kadri scored in the shootout as the London Knights outlasted the Erie Otters 8-7 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (Read more...)
WHL: Borrowed goalie can’t get Prince George past Seattle
Even bringing in some help from the Everett Silvertips couldn't help the lowly Prince George Cougars.
Charles Wells scored twice and added an assist to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-1 win over Prince George in Western Hockey League play Saturday night. (Read more...)
Sunday, Jan. 10th 2009:
QMJHL: Martel wins 223rd game as Chicoutimi downs Baie-Comeau
Richard Martel is now the winningest coach in Chicoutimi Sagueneens history.
Antoine Roussel scored twice as Chicoutimi sank the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (Read more...)
OHL: Wolves score five in second period to down Generals
The Sudbury Wolves used the Oshawa Generals to rebound from Saturday night's loss.
Eric O'Dell and Eddy Leitans-Rinke both scored twice as part of a five-goal second period, leading the Sudbury Wolves to a 7-4 win over the Oshawa Generals in Ontario Hockey League play Sunday night. (Read more...)
I thought that this was a very interesting week in the Canadian Hockey League.
As usual, the play on the ice was exciting, but there were also a lot of quirky things going on during the games.
First of all, from Saturday’s OHL report, the London Knights/Erie Otters match-up must have been incredible to watch. I assume that the London crowd was silenced when Erie scored five (!) unanswered goals to force extra time.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have it on TV in the sports department, and we didn’t have a stringer at the game. Otherwise, I would have been able to have an even more interesting story, because the game score indicated that Erie’s last two goals were empty-netters, including one on the power play.
That’s right, according to the game sheet, London pulled their goalie when they were up by two. You can imagine how much this confused me from my cushy seat at the Canadian Press.
Since then, the game sheet has been fixed to show them as even-strength goals.
Saturday night was also interesting in the WHL, with Prince George borrowing a goalie from the Everett Silvertips. The Cougars had been rolling with only one goaltender on their roster for a t least a week, so I suppose it was inevitable that they’d need an extra ‘keeper.
I’m just 26, but I’ve never seen that happen in an organized hockey game before.
With the junior hockey trade deadline on Monday there was also a lot of action off the ice with players changing teams. I mentioned this on Twitter, but the Chicoutimi Sagueneens have traded away many of their best players including Jacab Lagace and Nicolas Deschamps. As far as I can tell, the Sags are preparing for the 2010-11 season.
Obviously, the QMJHL stories from Friday and Sunday were naturals as round-up toppers. First of all, you can’t go wrong talking about Patrick Roy. He’s easily one of the top three goalies, ever, and he’s probably going to become an NHL coach within the next three years.
Then you have Richard Martel becoming the winningest coach in Sagueneens history. He’s one of the great coaches in the QMJHL and deserves accolades for his 223rd victory. However, as a writer/editor I also knew that with Chicoutimi in the midst of a firesale they likely won’t be at the top of a round-up any time soon.
Also, I’m not sure how much longer I could resist calling Martel a “model” to his players.
One other thing to note: I did not write any WHL stories on Sunday because my shift would have been seven or eight hours long. Instead, one of my co-workers wrote it. You can see it here: WHL: Reddick nets two goals as Americans blank Bruins.
As I’ve mentioned on my bio page, I work at the Canadian Press as a Junior Hockey Editorial Assistant. (The Junior denotes the level of play, not my position.) It’s a really fun job that lets me pursue two of my loves: writing and following sports.
It’s also nice because at parties people get all excited about what they assume is an exciting, glamorous job.
Inevitably, they ask me how it all works. I figured I would break it down for my readers.
Every Friday and Saturday night I go to CP’s newsroom for about 9 p.m., just as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s games are wrapping up.
Covering the QMJHL is very straight forward.
All I need to do is create a “round-up” from their website’s detailed game sheets. As long as no games are postponed or go to a shoot out, I can do this in an hour to an hour and a half. Here’s one I wrote on Jan. 3: QMJHL: Martel wins 222ndgame as Sagueneens beat Remparts.
As I’m finishing my QMJHL writing results from the Ontario Hockey League will begin to trickle in.
For most OHL games, CP has freelance writers on location that we call “stringers”. Stringers email in copy that I read over, format, and then put on the wire as a 150-400 word story. We also receive copy from member papers. For example, we often get material on the Kingston Frontenacs from the Kingston Whig-Standard.
Once all the stringer and members have sent in their work, I write separates for any games that didn’t have a reporter on location. Like my QMJHL round-up, I rely on the OHL’s website for my information.
When that’s all done I cobble all the OHL stories together as a round-up. Here’s an OHL overview from Jan. 3: OHL: Bulls rally from early deficit to defeat Generals.
By this point it’s around midnight and some Western Hockey League games will be done.
The WHL is tricky because it is spread over three time zones, so I have to keep my eye on the scores page of their website constantly. Often times there will be a game in Brandon, Man., or some early games in Regina or Saskatoon that will require my attention before I’m even done the OHL.
Covering the WHL ramps-up the amount of work I have to do.
Again, I rely on stringers and members to supply me with copy for separates, and I bolt it all together to make a round-up. Here’s a lengthy one from Jan. 2: WHL: Giants win chippy game against Chiefs.
An extra wrinkle in my WHL work is that I also have to create box scores for “agate”.
What’s agate? I’m glad you asked.
Agate is defined by Wikipedia as “a unit of typographical measure. It is 5.5 typographical points, or about 1/14 of an inch. [...]. An agate font was commonly used to display statistical data or legal notices in newspapers. It is considered the smallest point size that can be printed on newsprint, and then read legibly.”
In other words, when you flip to the back of your sports section and look at all the box scores and standings, you are looking at agate. The standings of all three leagues are updated in agate, but the WHL has individual box scores done in agate as well.
The WHL is the most involved of the three leagues in the Canadian Hockey League. It’s got the most teams, the most fans, and therefore requires the most coverage. In small towns like Prince Albert, Sask. or Kennewick, Wash., the WHL is the biggest show in town.
More often than not, the small arenas that host WHL games are sold out.
When all is said and done it is between 2 and 3 a.m. and I have written or edited between 16 and 18 separate game stories and put together three round-ups. That sounds like a lot, but it’s actually not so bad – typically between 2,200 and 4,000 words. The stories and agate appear across Canada, in parts of the United States, as well as on websites like TSN.ca.