Print Edition: January 30, 2013
I don’t claim to be different from any other hockey fan in Canada. I follow the daily headlines and scores, watch five to 10 games per week on Centre Ice and spend countless hours online reading articles and interviews from around the various hockey leagues.
Perhaps my favourite hockey-related pastime is reading and responding to other hockey fans on a message board that I’ve been visiting regularly since 2007 – Calgarypuck. Yes, I’m a Flames fan. I grew up in Cranbrook, British Columbia (about 90 minutes away from the Alberta border). It was a small town that was comprised of three parts Canucks, Oilers and Flames fans with a pinch of Canadiens and Leafs supporters and a sprinkle of various other die-hards. Turns out, I became a Flames fan largely because my dad was. These days, it’s an embarrassment to reveal which team I root for, but that’s the life of a sports fan sometimes.
Going to school in the mornings after the Canucks beat the Flames was rough. It was all in good fun, but there was the daily bickering and heckling between the two sides. We were able to coexist peacefully … for the most part.
In 2007 I discovered Calgarypuck, an internet forum with a collection of Flames fans and hockey fans that came together to discuss a myriad of hockey news and rumours. While I had been reading Calgarypuck for a couple of years, I only decided to sign up and contribute when the Abbotsford Heat came to town. I would regularly post updates of the happenings in Abbotsford for other fans to read– a simple give and take of information.
Heat training camp opened up at the end of September and I decided to attend regularly because (let’s face it) as a Flames fan my team seems to think the hockey season ends in April and I was starving for hockey. Anything hockey. I would go onto Calgarypuck and let people know what drills were being run and which players stood out.
In the beginning of October, I received an email from a fellow named Paul Esau. He claimed to be the sports editor of the The Cascade newspaper. He liked my observations of the Heat training camp and told me they could use it for the newspaper. I was ecstatic. As a journalism student and hockey fan looking to become a sports writer, this was one hell of an opportunity. I gladly accepted his offer.
Ever since, I’ve been contributing to the paper’s Heat Report on a weekly basis. It has its perks. The media pass is certainly the best perk of them all. I get to watch free professional hockey in exchange for providing content to The Cascade. It’s a hockey fan’s dream.
Of course, like anything, this new job took some getting used to. The NHL scouts in the green room were kind of rude at first. After they knew I wasn’t going away, the “Hey! Look at the rookie!” remarks and subsequent chuckling receded. Wearing a blazer was tough to get used to. It just didn’t feel right. Going from snapbacks and hoodies to dress shirts and hair gel was different. It gave me a glimpse into the life of a professional, until I got to the press box and I was the most overdressed one there. Awkward.
I was able to meet several different famous hockey people in the last five months. Well, kind of. I actually just observed them from a distance because I was too nervous to actually go up to them and introduce myself. I’ve stared creepily at Stan Smyl, Jim Peplinski, Craig Conroy, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Charlie Simmer, Mike Gillis, Jay Feaster, Brian Burke, Alain Vignault and the list goes on.
Interviewing players was the most nerve-racking thing I had to do. It’s all about making a good first impression and getting them comfortable enough so they won’t keep giving you those awful cliché hockey responses. After a few times stumbling over my words and struggling to get the right questions out, I was able to coherently inquire about the game. It took about half a dozen times of sitting in the post-game interview room like dupe before I acquired the testicular fortitude to ask a question.
My most embarrassing moment came during the second game I attended. While all the media members were sitting in the post-game interview room listening to the players and then the coach discuss the game, my phone vibrated and let off a loud DING! notifying me of a text message. Except my phone wasn’t in my pocket, it was on the table about six inches away from Heat head coach Troy Ward. My face immediately flushed and I tried to use a mixture of praying and telepathy to let whoever sent me the text message know not to call me. I missed the entire rest of the interview because I kept repeating in my head, “please don’t call, please don’t call.” Thankfully, they didn’t and thankfully, I don’t think anyone noticed (turns out it was Paul Esau, checking in with me to see how everything went).
The transition from fan to hockey writer was challenging at times. In the press box, cheering is frowned upon. I broke that rule a few times, but it was all part of the transition. As a fan, you feel you’re part of your team. Cheering and yelling at your TV is a normal practice as a fan. As a sports writer, there was an initial bump of objectivity that I had to overcome.
I learned great writing tips from a couple of the regular media people. These tips were invaluable to me, especially as a beginner in the sports journalism trade. I quickly learned that being a new sports writer was more about sitting and observing than trial and error.
Now, I’ll be moving on from writing the Heat Report for The Cascade. I’m greatly appreciative of Paul Esau and the rest of the staff for providing me with a starting line in what I hope to be a long career in sports journalism. They took a risk by plucking a stranger off of an internet message board and I couldn’t be more thankful that they did. Thank you to all the people at the The Cascade for taking me on and thank you to the readers for reading.
This column will be the last by Mike Cadarette, the best Heat reporter this paper’s ever had. Apparently someone over at the Abbotsford Heat recognizes talent when it walks into their building twice a week, because Mike’s been officially hired into the Heat’s media department as a “rising star” (or maybe a coffee-making intern). As the guy who’s worked with Mike most closely at The Cascade I really hate to see so much talent leave, but then again, I’m very happy to see an arts major get a job he loves, working with a sport that he’s scarily obsessed by. Remember, if Mike Cadarette— the man who grew the ugliest Movember moustache I’ve ever seen—can get a real job, then the world is truly a place of unlimited opportunity.
Good luck @MCaddd