Many lessons learned at Red Wings High School Journalism Day
April 30, 2011 • Nick Barnowski, Sports Editor
Filed under Sports
I suppose I hadn’t started out on the greatest of terms with Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
Although I doubt he remembered that I was the one he asked to watch his laptop while he tied his daughter’s skates before a game at the Novi ice arena, it was now my turn to confront the Stanley Cup champion coach again.
This time in a press conference.
The journalist part of me started out fine. “Coach, I noticed you guys were working on the power play a lot during practice. I was just wondering what things you were doing to try and get that going again?”
Then, the fan in me came out.
“I know it’s been kind of slumping the past couple of games.”
Babcock’s face turned serious. “Well, I don’t think that’s true,” he replied, which was enough to make me sit down and give the microphone up right away. Lesson learned: choose your words wisely.
It was one of the many lessons I learned at Red Wings High School Journalist Day on March 8.
The event, put on by Christy Hammond and the Red Wings’ public relations staff, was designed to give aspiring high school journalists a glimpse of what the media environment is like for a professional sports team. A group of around 70 students made the trek to Joe Louis Arena to take part in question and answer segments and watch the team practice.
After registration, which included an official arena press pass and a packet full of Red Wings stats and information, Hammond introduced the first panel, featuring Jennifer Hammond of FOX 2, Kevin Allen of USA Today, Ken Kal of 97.1 The Ticket, and Bill Roose of DetroitRedWings.com.
The group provided insight into the media world, with a slant toward the Detroit sports scene.
“It’s a new experience each and every day, and it’s a job you can really express yourself in, be creative, and have fun while doing it,” Kal, radio voice of the Red Wings, said while talking about his job. “A lot of people think that the radio guys, the TV guys, the writers, just show up an hour before the game and broadcast the game and go home, but that’s not the case at all.”
The four member panel shared their advice on what it takes to break into the business. Each panelist worked in a different media field, which made their opinions especially valuable.
“You won’t survive in this business unless you’re willing to compete,” Allen said. He is a national hockey writer and is the current president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. “You want to be better than your competition. You got to find a way to be different so that people want to read you.”
Roose, who feels that “more and more folks are going to leave the traditional news room to work for teams,” also shared some advice for the group of students.
“You have to be accurate. You have to spell player names right. You probably should get two sources to confirm your information before you post it. Speed is a necessity, but accuracy should be before speed.”
Kal agreed with that assessment, saying, “Make sure that when you finally get that story out, that you have that right information.”
Working for FOX 2, Hammond’s job changes daily, which is why her minors in English and journalism are so important to her success. Passion and determination led her from taking a job for free just to get a talent tape out to covering sports for one of Detroit’s major TV stations.
“If you have the passion, it will fuel you all throughout your career,” she said. “Be willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if you have to take a step back or sideways to get to the ultimate goal.”
While each of them took a different path to reach their goals, the principles needed to achieve their dreams echo the atmosphere that the winning tradition in Detroit created: hard work, determination, and passion.
Nobody understands that more than Coach Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland, who were the next panelists after a tour of the Joe Louis press box and the opportunity to watch practice.
Though I only asked one question, the two blended their answers with sharp attention to detail regarding on-ice events and how experiences the team goes through can be applied to life.
Babcock talked about how he tried to “open doors” for himself at a young age, which led to many chances to succeed.
“I wanted to be successful, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but if you keep opening doors, you open opportunities for yourself,” he said.
A successful hockey coach (the only coach to win an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal, and a Stanley Cup), he would make a very good life coach as well.
“As long as your doubts are momentary, that leads to a speed bump to get you going a little bit faster and working a little harder,” he said. “People are dying to help you if you have the courage to ask.”
Star forward Henrik Zetterberg, big-hitting defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and 400-game winner Chris Osgood were the players to take part in a question and answer session. The players talked about winning the Stanley Cup, the team’s biggest rivals, and pranks pulled on other players during their time with the team, to much appreciation.
“It’s not the game that’s stressful, it’s the leading up to the game that is,” Osgood said. “Thinking about what could happen are some of the things you have to get out of your head.”
Hammond, the community relations coordinator, and Rick Bowness, the public relations coordinator, also answered questions from the group of high schoolers.
The experience and lessons learned throughout the day cannot be measured. Rarely is an opportunity available to learn more about the profession you’ve expressed serious interest in, especially in a setting like the one the Red Wings created. It was more than a taste of the environment I hope to work in one day.
Hopefully I’ll be asking better questions, too.