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Friday, May 23, 2008

Personal Column

It's gripping for the people of record too

Only now is it really hitting me. Now that I've had a chance to really slow down from everything and not have to peek back up at another pressing commitment.

Upon taking three hours of my Friday afternoon to watch the proceedings of Stanley Cup Final media day on the NHL Network, I naturally recall when I myself was on site in Detroit back in December writing up Friar Puck's participation in the illustrious Great Lakes Invitational for this site.

And if I watched the three hours of nonstop Penguins and Red Wings interviews with just the right mindset, it will serve to hone my hunger for more of that sliver of authentic professional journalism action I tasted at Joe Louis Arena.

There's any and every reason for a aspirant sportswriter to liken his or her pursuits to those of the very citizens they chronicle. You pick and look up to your idols from the major league ranks of the business. In a hockey-specific case, you thirst to feel your diction matching the flaring flow of those NHL prospects down at ice level.

And, of course, you look for those breaks that could ultimately cement your foundation to reach the top level. When those breaks come along, you approach it the way a Phil Kessel or a Milan Lucic approaches his first training camp and pre-season game slate.

When the stage is for real, as the Joe Louis Arena press reservation sure was for me that weekend, you're in a meticulous limbo between molding into the crowd and emphasizing why they let you in and feeding off of your veteran peers so as to pick up the axioms of competitive game day coverage.

To be honest, after picking up my official pass and following an usher upstairs, I only took a glance over the monumental building's beautiful red bowels for one-fiftieth of a second before -no, amidst- plugging in the computer and stringing out a few fistloads of pre-game notes. There was no time to be as awed as I rationally should have been.

Between the whistles, how much different was it really from, say, when I used to set up shop over the bleachers at the state-of-the-art barn of Shattuck-St. Mary's?

One major thing: I had company, and plenty at that. The Michigan student radio tandem to my left, and a young stringer for Michigan Hockey Magazine to my right. (Incidentally, the latter of those three was there to get the scoop on Friars' blueliner and Michigan native Matt Taormina. Filling her in on the Friars and analyzing the action of all four tournament games made for productive, energizing conversation.)

Back downstairs in the conference room, what was so different about thrusting analytical questions to a player/coach at the podium with dozens of other reporters itching to do likewise?

Other than making sure you've got something concise and intelligent primed for delivery, nothing.

There's another playing-to-reporting parallel right there. While you want to rest assured that you didn't stumble or ask something that was comparable to a blind giveaway in the neutral zone, there's no sense in comparing/contrasting yourself with the rest of the horde. Certainly not at this step; especially since the augmented audience below the press box peering down at the players did not automatically increase my reader's ruck.

All I knew was, the PC hockey SID and the Red Wings media office read just enough of the Free Press to convince them I could claim a vacant seat in the press box. That's enough to make me think of the now-declining Bruin Glen Murray, who back in 1992 was summoned away from his junior club in Sudbury, Ont. for one clash with the Quebec Nordiques, inserted a goal that night, then hurried back to the OHL for the rest of the season.

It's something. It emboldens your ego. It nourishes your desire to do more of it as well as the self-assurance that you can hack it in that environment.

From one angle, those covering the Cup who clustered their fill of preliminary notes Friday are only different from me and the reporters-in-training I befriended in experience and accordant credibility. I have to crack a little grin just thinking that come face-off for Game 1, somebody will be in press chair #67 kneading descriptions of Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk's functions.

Who, for love of the game, wouldn't want some sort of a role in that?

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