Although I take a lot of pride in the writing I have to do as a junior hockey editorial assistant, that’s one of the smaller parts of what I do. Most of my weekend is spent editing the work of other writers.
The vast majority of game stories published by the Canadian Press have been written by reporters on location called stringers. Our junior hockey stringers send their work in to our office in downtown Toronto.
It’s then reviewed, changed (if necessary) and put out on the wire.
From start to finish the process should take approximately 5-10 minutes from the final whistle of a game. The better the stringer, the faster the turnaround.
So what do I look for in my stringers?
Speed – Thanks to the Internet I’ve got a pretty good idea of when the game ended. The longer it takes for a stringer to get the story to me, the more anxious I get. Why? Because if I know the game’s over, so do our readers and clients, and the news business is all about the quick and efficient spreading of information. If we’re not fast, we’re letting our consumer down.
Accuracy – Obviously, all that speed is wasted if there’s a mistake in the story. Having the correct score, players, spelling, even the date (yes, people mess up what day of the week it is) is all crucial. More than anything else, accurate copy is what makes a good stringer. If I have to check every stat on the Internet, you're not doing your job.
Clarity – My biggest pet peeve is when I can’t make heads or tails of what’s happening in the story.
A good stringer will have the final result, every scorer’s name (and how many points they had) and every goaltender’s stats in the first three paragraphs of their story. Basics like the team names, records, the league and the day of the week should be in the first paragraph.
Don’t hide the scorers at the bottom of the piece, or scattered throughout. Get down and dirty as quick as possible.
Simplicity – Straightforward writing goes hand-in-hand with clear writing. Don’t tell me that someone “tallied” or “netted” or “potted” a goal when you haven’t used “scored” yet. Even “Greg McKegg had two goals” sounds better than “McKegg potted two goals”.
A lot of stringers get a case of nerves and over-describe the play. Keeping it simple makes it easier to read and doesn’t clutter the reader’s mind. It also makes it less likely I’ll need to edit your masterpiece.
If you’re ever writing a game story just take your time and go with the simplest descriptions. Let your reader’s imagination fill in the blanks. Your personal style will shine through no matter what you do.
Fortunately for me, my crew of stringers was on fire this weekend and provided me with lots of great, easy to read copy. All of them met those four expectations, and it made my life much easier.
On to the round ups!
Friday, October 29th, 2010
QMJHL: MOSHER EARNS RARE SHUTOUT AS ROCKET BLANK MOOSEHEADS
It turns out that Evan Mosher is something of a late bloomer.
The 20-year-old goaltender made 28 saves as the P.E.I. Rocket blanked the Halifax Mooseheads 3-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.
OHL: CIZIKAS POWERS MAJORS OVER KINGSTON
Casey Cizikas had a goal and set up two others Friday to power the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a 5-1 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs in Ontario Hockey League play.
Three minutes after setting Devante Smith-Pelly's opener, the 19-year-old Cizikas scored a short-handed goal to put the Majors up 2-0 with six minutes left in the first.
WHL: WINTERHAWKS BEAT ROCKETS IN NIEDERREITER'S RETURN
It was a rough homecoming for Nino Niederreiter on Friday night.
Brad Ross had the eventual winner as the Portland Winterhawks flew past the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 in a very physical Western Hockey League game.
Saturday, October 30th, 2010
QMJHL: BETY, MOOSEHEADS SURPRISE WILDCATS
Charles Bety and the Halifax Mooseheads are making the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League a little more competitive.
Bety had back-to-back goals as the Mooseheads upset the Moncton Wildcats 5-2 on Saturday night.
OHL: KERBASHIAN'S HAT TRICK HELPS SARNIA DOUBLE UP BRAMPTON
Kale Kerbashian saw his teammates reel off three-straight goals and figured he should join in on the fun.
Kerbashian had a hat trick to help the Sarnia Sting beat the visiting Brampton Battalion 6-3 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night.
WHL: KOPER'S SIX POINTS LEADS AS CHIEFS ROCK PATS
The Spokane Chiefs just kept coming on Saturday night.
Levko Koper had two goals and four assists to help Spokane light up the Regina Pats 11-1 in Western Hockey League play.
Sunday, October 31st, 2010
QMJHL: CHAMPAGNE IS OVERTIME HERO AS REMPARTS EDGE DRAKKAR
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar were close to a major upset Sunday afternoon, but not close enough.
Joel Champagne scored in overtime as the Quebec Remparts narrowly escaped defeat against Baie-Comeau to pull out the 3-2 win in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: SHUGG'S FOUR-POINT GAME IGNITES MAJORS TO WIN OVER SUDBURY
Justin Shugg scored three times and added an assist to guide the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a come-from-behind 7-5 victory over the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League on Sunday afternoon.
Chris Doyle had the eventual winner for the Majors (11-2-0), while Casey Cizikas, Jordan Mayer and Gregg Sutch also tallied.
WHL: ELLIOT'S LAST MINUTE GOAL LIFTS BLADES TO WIN OVER HITMEN
Stefan Elliott scored the game-winning goal with 59.1 seconds left in regulation to lead the Saskatoon Blades to a 5-3 win over the Calgary Hitmen in the only Western Hockey League game Sunday afternoon.
Curtis Hamilton added a empty netter for his second goal of the contest for the Blades (11-4-0), while Darian Dziurzynski and Braeden Johnson also scored.
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.