Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reflections on Covering the Stanley Cup Final

As most of you know, I recently had the privilege of receiving a media credential from the NHL for the Stanley Cup Final, and I was fortunate enough to witness the Chicago Blackhawks clinch the championship on home ice for the first time in 78 years.

I’ve obviously written extensively about what the championship means to the team, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty more thoughts on where the squad goes from here, but at the behest of a good friend of mine, I’m going to take a more personal track with this particular blog post.

To set the scene, she (you’ll know her on Twitter as the incredible @schatzipage) asked me what it was like to be at the arena for the three games that the Blackhawks played at the United Center during the Final, and I figured that instead of giving her a direct message with a partial thought on the matter, I would allow myself the freedom and the space to fully describe the experience.

First and foremost, there was a sense of incredible validation for the work that I have put in over the years. Whether it was with Bruce Hollingdrake at The Hockey Writers, or with Christopher Ralph at Paint it Blackhawks, or with my current job at NBC Chicago, I have been writing about the Blackhawks for the better part of six years now, and to be in the building for such a momentous series in the history of the franchise felt like a reward for all of that hard work that led to this moment.

Aside from the rewarding aspect of it, there was also the sense of awe as I looked around the press room. I am well aware of the bum rap that media members get at times, but when I look at a group that includes Pierre LeBrun, Bob Verdi, and a host of other incredibly talented writers and reporters, I can’t help but feel that I have no place at that table. These guys are rock stars in my eyes, and I have to admit that I was a bit starstruck.

That feeling did pass eventually, and it was replaced by one of motivation and determination. Using the knowledge of how hard I’ve worked to get to this point, I chose to look at this more as a stepping stone than as something that I didn’t feel worthy of, and it has strengthened my resolve to become a better writer and reporter, and I hope that you all see the fruits of those labors over the coming months and years as my career continues.

Of course, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t take every chance I could to step back and take in the spectacle of the event itself. Seeing the city embrace the team, hearing the roar of the arena as goals were scored and as Jim Cornelison sang the national anthem, and just being around these players as they fought tooth and nail for a goal that they have been going after ever since they were kids were all things that I’m never going to forget, and I hope that the photographic and video records of these experiences will be enough to trigger those memories that I made while in that building.

There is one experience that kind of sums that up perfectly, if you’ll indulge the anecdote. Following Game 4 of the series, the Blackhawks had just tied things up and were justifiably jubilant about doing so. Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad were in the media room to do their interviews, and I naturally wanted to ask a question so that I could write up a story for NBC.

What follows perfectly illustrates how I feel in having played a small part in the narrative of this series. When I asked my question, I obviously got the answer I needed to write a post about Saad’s role on the team, but I got a lot more than that. First, my wife said she heard me ask the question on CSN Chicago’s postgame coverage. Then my buddy DJ said that he heard me ask the question on ESPN 1000 following the game. Finally, the Blackhawks’ Snapchat account just so happened to capture the moment that Saad was answering my question, with my big goofy head taking up the bottom portion of the screen.

That’s when it hit me that this was more than just simply doing my job as a reporter. I was part of something much bigger than myself, and I am deeply grateful to have gotten this opportunity.

I think that ultimately is going to be my biggest takeaway from the entire experience. Meeting and reconnecting with all sorts of different writers was cool. Getting the validation that this particular press pass came with was deeply appreciated. Beyond all of that, just playing a bit part in the bigger drama of the Stanley Cup Final is something that I will always feel profoundly lucky for, and I’m going to savor every memory that I possess.

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