The Blogosphere & NHL Teams

I chimed in a little on Twitter after reading the latest from Puck Daddy and the NHL Teams desire to go anti-blogger.

I’m going to speak from my experience as a credentialed member of the New Jersey Devils and the NHL.

First, this blog is not credentialed in. My credentials are specifically for Inside Hockey. There has only been one time where I had to post an interview on the blog, rather than Inside Hockey. This came in agreement from both the Devils and Inside Hockey before I posted it on here.

That interview was with Zach Parise, so the Devils allowed this one time exception.

Even though I am credentialed for a website, we do have separate rules than the print media, because websites are still a new advancement in media for the NHL and NHL teams. I may have the same privileges as the beat writers once I arrive in the press box, but I do not have the same privileges to be a seasoned reporter.

This has more to do with teams not completely embracing the new media aspect. While the New York Rangers have come under fire as not allowing bloggers in, Inside Hockey is a credentialed website for the NYR.

But to be honest, there are very few teams that allow in bloggers or sites like Bleacher Report.

The difference between the blogger and the hockey website has more to do with fan writers that are free to write as they please versus writers that are subjected to strict rules. Even though I have a separate, personal blog that offers more of the director’s cuts and other musings, I make sure to point out throughout the site that these are my thoughts, my musings, if you want the reporting you have to go to Inside Hockey, Fox Sports and MSN.com.

While I am aware that I can request credentials for this blog, I don’t. Why? Because I prefer the strict professionalism and respectability that comes with Inside Hockey. I prefer having an editor look over my content to make sure it stays within the league and team’s guidelines to cover the game of hockey.

Even this blog has to stay within those guidelines, because the NHL and the New Jersey Devils monitor what their credentialed members write. Many members of the traditional media are embracing the blogosphere as well, because the numbers for print journalism are down. Most hockey fans prefer to get their hockey news from the web, especially social networking sites like Twitter (because the news can be reported faster in 140 characters or less versus writing a 500 word article on the same subject).

Each year when it’s time to apply for credentials, there are rules (including new ones) that are given to my editor and passed down to me. These are the rules that must be abided by or the credentials for not only myself, but for Inside Hockey, could be revoked.

I have to keep the parent (Inside Hockey) in mind because I am representing a website that I believe in that has helped me tremendously in my career, allowing me opportunities that I may not have received if I was trying to be credentialed in through the blog alone.

In the past, I have had my credentials checked by a visiting team’s Communications team. The Montreal Canadiens come to mind. I had requested an interview with Georges Laraque shortly after he banned all media. I asked the MTL Communications Director if I could speak to Georges. He checked my credentials and then went to talk to Georges.

In less than three minutes, Georges came into the interview area and did a great 10-minute interview with me.

The Canadiens were so happy with how the interview turned out, they were much nicer to me the next time they came around to Prudential Center, making sure I was in front for the coach’s interview.

Keep in mind, the Canadiens are like “Fort Knox” as someone said to me today. That has not been my experience with them at all. I can’t speak highly enough of their Media Relations staff. After all, they got me an interview with a player that had banned all media.

I know there are a lot of qualitative bloggers out there that are trying to get into the press box. Many teams have rules that do not allow bloggers. Not all teams are like that though. Both the New York Islanders and the Nashville Predators come to mind.

New media is very new to the NHL and NHL teams. Some teams will only credential in websites that have a proven record of professionalism. Many teams have a prerequisite of how long that site must be up and running. It has to produce plenty of qualitative material on a continuous basis.

I will admit that there are times that I do read content that I know is very fan based. I am not a fan of those kind of fan based content sites. I also believe that they should not be allowed into the press box. Why? Because the fan opinion tends to have zero content on what is really happening with the team.

You have to stop being a fan of the team in order to cover the team. Every single seasoned reporter will tell you that.

When I first started covering the Devils, I was not their fan. This is the funny part of the story of my career that those who know about it, laugh over all of the time. After all, they say that I’m the person former disgruntled New York Rangers go to.

Darius Kaspariatis (then a NYR) gave me the interview of all ‘screw you’ interviews ever. His screw you was to the NYR. He later ended up heading to the KHL. Darius had the NYR shaking in their boots, threatening to do a tell all to me as far as what they were doing to him (the maltreatment).

The NYR discovered who he gave the tell all to. The NYR were scared of what I would write. I released the story, but had to somewhat censor the article, because I knew a lot.

After the story was released, the NYR sighed with relief and said they were pleased with how it turned out. Darius got pissed at me, headed to the KHL and a year later we ended up working out why I wrote the article the way I did. He said, at the time, it was because I was a Rangers’ fan and that was why I wrote the article the way that I did. He had no idea what transpired afterwards.

I stopped being a fan of the Rangers after that piece. Why? Because I knew too much. A couple of months later, I ended up covering the New Jersey Devils. It seemed like the perfect situation. I wasn’t a fan of the Devils, but I worked hard to come up with qualitative content for the Devils, even though they refused to credential me in.

I didn’t care at the time if they did or not because I was aware that the Devils are the hardest team in the entire league to be credentialed into. I just charged ahead and used what little information I had available to me. I took quotes from the on-air interviews. I bought my tickets for the game and sat there taking notes throughout the entire game. I did my job, thinking that being in the Devils press box would never be an option.

A few months later, my editor informed me that the Devils were credentialing me in. He said that I had proven myself worthy of covering the Devils and they were letting me in.

Being told that is probably one of the greatest accomplishments a rookie hockey columnist (especially a female one) could be given. Since then, I’ve watched my readership and rankings grow.

Of course, I love the NHL’s take on how I got credentialed into the New Jersey Devils. It actually puts a smile on my face to hear their story. If Lou hadn’t let me in, the NHL would have never let me in. It was the story they heard from Prudential Center that afforded me my NHL credentials and even greater opportunities covering the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague.

Oh, and for the record, I have been credentialed into the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Shocking? Oh, I thought it was. Many members of the traditional media were not happy to see me there, but I was there…more than once! That means that the Darius Kasparaitis interview…there are no hard feelings there. I’ve always liked Sather. He runs the team the same way I would if I were in his shoes [I think saying that has now developed a new anti-Michelle Kenneth fan club of Rangers fans...as if they hadn't already started one because of Sean Avery. But some Avery fans get my poking fun at Sean all of the time. After all, the man blushes when he sees me...]

Even though I have credentials, I always make sure that even if my opinions on this blog are strong, that I keep it within the NHL’s and Devils criteria. Sometimes strong opinions get a lot of attention, and I’m just happy that something does happen when I voice my opinion.

I was told the other day that a hockey player (not from the Devils) had heard about me, but had no idea what influence I had in social media and the NHL until I tweeted that he was on Twitter. After 10 minutes, his numbers shot up to over 700 new followers. Wouldn’t that shock you if all it took was one tweet from an individual to boost your numbers in a matter of minutes? Hell, even Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery got a taste of that influence earlier this year when Shanny first got a Twitter account.

While there are a lot of readers of this blog that say that I’m always right about the outcome of the Devils, sometimes you have to ask if the Devils just got that idea from this blog. There’s one player that has confirmed that I don’t predict. The Devils take it from this blog. After all, if you go back into the history of this blog during the coverage of the New Jersey Devils, you’ll find that every single prospect vying for a spot on the Devils that captured my attention in the pre-season, all became NHLers.

Shanny to the Devils…you think that was random? He became a Devil again.

Removal of Jay Pandolfo after he hit #2 in top players I love to hate? He was bought out of his contract.

Devils going on record as giving Jamie Langenbrunner a second chance? Remember fans, I said that if you were in his shoes, you would have done the same. I have a lot of respect for Jamie. I think the world of him. Sometimes people make mistakes. It’s worth forgiving. It was what he did that hit my top players I love to hate…not the individual. I made sure I was pretty clear on that.

Paul Martin not having such a solid spot to remain with the Devils after he said he wanted to wait and see who was named coach? He signed in Pittsburgh.

And then there’s Ilya Kovalchuk. Devils building a team around Kovalchuk? What happened?

Buddy Oakes from Preds On The Glass said that this blog is like the Director’s Cut of my articles. It gives more insight into why the articles were written the way they were written, and why I left out certain items.

I am very adamant that this blog be about my journey in life…and apparently the NHL and the Devils are a part of that journey. They have both become part of my passion. Am I a Devils fan now? No.

But I am passionate about the team I write for because they find me worthy enough to write about them. That is a great honor, especially since they are the hardest team in the league to get credentialed into. The fact that they feel I’m good enough to cover their team is a great honor.

Knowing that the players like this blog…I always ask, “Why?” But to hear Zach Parise say he doesn’t read what’s in the news and then not 10 seconds later starts quoting stuff from my blog, and then gets called on it…the smirk on his face afterwards…priceless.

The Devils Media Relations team has also been amazing in helping me develop stories for Inside Hockey. I’m not one of those post-game writers. I prefer writing about the human side of hockey rather than a post-game analysis. After all, how many writers in the press box are writing that same story? Sometimes the Devils need a different edge and a different story out there about the team and their players.

They’ve been great about giving me special multimedia content and pictures for Inside Hockey. If I can’t make a press conference, they’ve been great about sending additional materials to me to write up on Inside Hockey.

Truthfully, I like that the Devils get involved in the type of content I write about. I like that it’s the ‘fun’ stuff to write about and they suggest certain types of special interviews with the players. I think the fans like it even more that they get to see the hockey player in a different aspect.

You see, building up your reputation, including the site you write for is very important if you want to be credentialed into the NHL. As one reporter told me last season, as long as you have everyone’s respect, you have it made in the NHL. It’s also important to have the respect of those who matter the most.

For those bloggers trying to make it in, I’d suggest moving your content to a more credible website. You can blog, like I do and many other reporters are doing these days, but if you’re serious about covering this game, then try to move on to a more prestigious website that has a relationship with the NHL and teams across the league.

Stop being a fan of your team. Once you stop being a fan, you can view the game through the eyes of the players and the team. You won’t understand that until you stop viewing the game through the fan’s eyes. Learn to view the game through the coach’s eyes and through the player’s eyes.

One of the greatest things about the NHL, they allowed me to study every aspect of the game that I could while I was in Prague and in Chicago for the Winter Classic. I was hanging out in the most obscure places watching what it takes to create a hockey game. That, to me, is just as amazing as the game itself.

I learned all about the game from the guys behind the scenes that set up the arena, the cameramen, the trainers, the assistant coaches, and most of all the coaches and players. You learn more when you listen and take the approach to the game as the student willing to absorb everything around you. There’s more to hockey than just the game itself. There’s a lot that goes into what it takes to put on one NHL game. Fans overlook that whole process.

Since I got into hockey, I’ve studied every single aspect that I possibly can about the game. I read training books on how to play hockey. For the longest time, I even did all of the same off-ice workouts to understand the mechanics of what it takes to become an elite hockey player. I studied the on-ice movements. I could even tell you if a player was drunk or hungover on the ice (trust me, I learned about that the hard way when I showed up to workout with a trainer hungover…I know what that drunk sweat looks like).

So bloggers of the world, if you really want to cover this game like those who put in all of the hard work…learn from those who made it in. Look at their content. Learn the game the way they learned the game.

I’ve only been into hockey since the lockout…that was 2005. I had two hockey columns by 2007. Within four months of my Devils column, I was credentialed into the New Jersey Devils. Three years later, I’m considered one of the top hockey columnists.

How? A lot of hard work. Hard work gains respect. Respect leads to credentials. Credentials lead to bigger opportunities.

You keep doing your thing until you get noticed. Don’t go running around demanding to be noticed. Let the world find you.

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