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.
This weekend, when I wasn’t obsessing over the Olympics, I was all about the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It was an incredible couple of days with Moncton’s Nicola Riopel setting a goaltending record Saturday night, only to be topped less than 24 hours later by Drummondville’s Jake Allen. On top of that, Sunday saw Richard Martel become the winningest coach in league history when his Chicoutimi Sagueneens dropped the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1.
But first, let’s talk about goaltending.
As a gross generalization, each league within the Canadian Hockey League produces particularly strong types of players. The Western Hockey League’s rough and tumble style lends itself to defensively minded players who are always ready to drop their gloves. The Ontario Hockey League produces tight, disciplined players who focus on positioning and off-puck work. The QMJHL? It’s all about the goalies.
The league is a factory for superstar goaltenders – Felix Potvin played for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Roberto Luongo played for the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
As good as those two are, they’re not even the best to come out of the QMJHL. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, the two best goaltenders ever came from the league, setting the standard for all netminders worldwide.
So when Nicola Riopel of the Wildcats passes all those names on his way to the second-longest shutout streak in league history it’s kind of a big deal. Riopel’s record ended at 179 minutes 59 seconds Saturday night.
However, it was an even bigger deal when Jake Allen of the Voltigeurs passed Riopel the very next day. Allen lasted nearly ten minutes longer, going 188 minutes 47 seconds without giving up a goal.
Really, it’s incredible stuff, and shows that these two players will be around for a long time.
Of course, it was all over-shadowed by Martel’s accomplishment of winning 570 games as a coach. Martel’s never won the President’s Cup as a head coach, but he did win it as an assistant way back in 1990 with the Sagueneens who were backstopped by a young Potvin.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Martel this past weekend for a feature story, and I was impressed with his humility and dedication to the young men he teaches. I also spoke to league commissioner Gilles Croteau who went on at length about what an asset Martel is to the league and Canadian hockey in general.
What a great weekend for hockey in Quebec.
Friday, Feb. 26 2010
QMJHL – P.E.I. drops Chicoutimi 4-3 in shootout
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens earned a point for their coach Richard Martel, but not a coveted milestone.
Cody Linteau had the only goal in the shootout as the P.E.I. Rocket disappointed the Sagueneens 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night. (See more...)
OHL – Tanski, Hodgson help Battalion defeat Majors
Cody Hodgson's return to the Brampton Battalion could not have been more timely.
Scott Tanski and Hodgson combined for three goals and six points to spark the Battalion to a 4-0 victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Friday night in the Ontario Hockey League. (See more...)
WHL – Bloodoff brothers both score as Kelowna beats Oil Kings
Three streaks came to an end in Edmonton Friday night.
Brothers Lucas and Evan Bloodoff scored as the Kelowna Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Oil Kings in Western Hockey League action. (See more...)
Saturday, Feb. 27 2010
QMJHL – Wildcats edge Halifax as Riopel makes QMJHL history
Nicola Riopel has made his mark in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League history.
Riopel made 21 saves as the Moncton Wildcats edged the Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 on Saturday. (See more...)
OHL – Erie stays in playoff hunt with win over Ottawa
The struggle for playoff spots continues in the Ontario Hockey League.
Anthony Luciani and Greg McKegg scored twice as the Erie Otters dropped the Ottawa 67's 7-1 Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Stanton scores twice as Warriors edge Bruins
The Moose Jaw Warriors have made the most of their time at home.
Defenceman Ryan Stanton scored twice as Moose Jaw hung on to beat the Chilliwack Bruins 3-2 in Western Hockey League action Saturday. (See more...)
Sunday, Feb. 28 2010
QMJHL – Martel wins 570th as Chicoutimi sinks Baie-Comeau
Sunday was a record-setting day in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Chicoutimi Sagueneens' head coach Richard Martel earned his 570th career victory, the most in QMJHL history, as Chicoutimi sank the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1. (See more...)
OHL – Lopes scores two as Majors prevail over Oshawa
The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors are firing on all cylinders as the playoff window is closing on the Oshawa Generals.
Ryan Lopes scored a pair of goals and defencemen David Corrente and Blake Parlett had four-point games to power Mississauga to a 7-4 triumph over Oshawa in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)