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Guy Behind the Guy: Skinner Takes Manhattan

by Mike Sundheim / Carolina Hurricanes
Mike Sundheim
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Nineteen-year-old Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner was invited this year to take part in the 2011 Player Media Tour, the annual joint initiative by the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association to promote the start of hockey season. Hurricanes Director of Media Relations Mike Sundheim will accompany the reigning Calder Trophy winner during the tour, which takes place in New York City from Sept. 8-9. Mike will keep a running blog here, so check back for updates. You can also follow Mike on Twitter for additional real-time updates and photos.

Sept. 9, 3:10 p.m. - Last stop, NBC

The final element of Jeff Skinner's participation in the 2011 NHL Player Media Tour was a promotional shoot with NBC. It included both still and video elements in full home red game uniform. About 20 minutes after he stepped onto the practice ice attached to the Prudential Center, Skinner was done and had completed his media obligations for the tour.

Knowing that Jeff wanted to get some skating in today, the NHL left a little time between his NBC shoot and that of the final skater of the day - New Jersey's Zach Parise. Jeff took advantage of that to get a little extra skating and stick handling in before we pile into a car to battle Friday afternoon traffic from Newark to New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Once there, the Skinners will head to Toronto and I'll be on my way back to Raleigh. Jeff said he planned to drive to North Carolina early next week. If the Player Media Tour is an unofficial start of the NHL season, then it's time to go ahead and get this started.

Sept. 9, 1:35 p.m. - NHL Marketing

One thing that we found out just prior to coming to New York was that Jeff had been selected to be a part of the NHL's own marketing campaign, including some off-ice shoots. So that is why he's currently in a small room, surrounded by cameras and crew members. I don't know too much about what other players are doing, but I can tell you that Jeff's portion involves an iPad and an exercise bike.

I can also tell you that the director is decidedly not funny. With the shooting room so packed with staff, Jeff's dad and I waited in the hallway for the filming to end. In the middle of it, the director popped out and told me that they had stopped because Jeff said he felt a pull in his hamstring.

Not cool, dude. Not cool.

Sept. 9, 12:17 p.m. - Lunch

Finally a little break in the action, as we grab lunch in one of the club restaurants at the Prudential Center.

The first stop after NBC was CBC, where Jeff had photo and video shoots as well as a sit-down interview with Elliott Friedman. From there, we hit NHL images for another still photo shoot. This shoot included Jeff changing into and modeling various Hurricanes shirts and sweatshirts. I'd guess you'll be seeing those shots online soon, and perhaps even at The Eye store.

The final visit of the morning was with TSN, which was a promotional video shoot with all sorts of fun flashing lights and bells and whistles. The director of that shoot found out what so many other people today have discovered: asking Jeff to keep his "game face" on isn't necessarily a good way to keep him from smiling.

We're sharing table with Patrice Bergeron at lunch, where a good portion of the discussion has centered around the amazing 2003 NHL Draft. The Canes, of course, took Eric Staal second overall in that draft, which was held in Nashville. Patrice had to wait until the second round before Boston grabbed him. Like Staal, he made his NHL debut that fall at 18.

Sept. 9, 10:20 a.m. - Rolling along

After the long wait, we're flying now. Jeff is in the middle of his third stop of the morning, a sit-down interview with NBC's Pierre McGuire. At the moment they are recalling All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, which Pierre called the best All-Star Weekend he's ever been a part of.

Before NBC, Jeff did a pair of interviews for NHL Network and then headed into a room with a green screen and a teleprompter. I'm happy to report that Jeff managed to get through all his teleprompter lines without pulling a Ron Burgundy. We we're told about another NHL star (I'll let him remain nameless) who read one line, "Welcome to the official online store of the team name."

But Skinner got through it, and you can look forward to him reminding you that you are, indeed, watching the NHL Network.

Sept. 9, 9:40 a.m. - Hurry up and wait

One of my favorite phrases in hockey, as introduced to me years ago by equipment manager Bob Gorman, is "hurry up and wait." It seems like we're always rushing to get to the rink or the airport, only to sit there and wait forever for the game to start or the plane to actually take off.

After the early wake up and a quick breakfast at Prudential Center, we've had plenty of time to see every SportsCenter highlight from last night. I did take advantage of the break to grab a few interviews with my Flip cam, which the good people of CanesVision will hopefully find a way to make look better when I get back.

Waiting time is finally over. We're off to Jeff's first stop of the day - a sit-down interview for NHL Network.

Sept. 9, 7:20 a.m. - On the bus

The bus carrying half of the guys here for the Player Media Tour has left the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan to begin the trip to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The home of the New Jersey Devils is the venue for day two of our stay here, which involves marketing shoots for the National Hockey League as well as time with the league's national television rightsholders.

We're essentially trading places today with the other half of the players involved in the tour, which was at Prudential Center yesterday but will head to the NHL's NYC office today. When we're done today, Jeff is going take advantage of the ice to get some skating done on his own, before he and his father head to the airport for their trip back to Toronto.

The Skinners enjoyed taking in Rock of Ages last night on Broadway. Not a bad couple trips to New York this summer for a 19-year-old and his dad. They saw a game at Yankee Stadium together in June and a Broadway show together in September.

Sept. 8, 2:50 p.m. - Sports Illustrated

The final stop of the day was at the Sports Illustrated offices in the Time & Life Building. When we first arrived, we were again guided into a big conference room, though this was definitely the largest and most packed one of the day. After watching a slideshow of the great SI photography from the Vancouver Olympics, there was another roundtable discussion. Given the venue, it wasn't surprising that it was by far the most hockey-focused chat of the three afternoon tour visits, ranging from the KHL and yesterday's plane crash to NHL participation in the Olympics and concussions. Obviously Boston's Patrice Bergeron, whom we enjoyed spending the afternoon with, had some experience and insight on the latter topic.

After the roundtable, we went to an auditorium in the building, where Sports Illustrated photographers had set up a shoot for the players at the tour, for use in the magazine's Hockey Preview issue. As usual, Jeff had trouble not smiling when told to not smile. And, in a fun twist, a photo booth was involved in the process, which produced some interesting results to look forward to, both from Jeff and from all of the other players we saw give it a try.

Tonight, the Skinners have plans to take in a Broadway show, Rock of Ages. I saw the show a few years ago myself, since my wife's high school friend, Jeremy Woodard, has been in the production since it opened. Jeremy is Garner native and huge Caniac, so he was excited that the Canes' Calder Trophy-winning forward would be at tonight's performance.

Tomorrow starts early - a 7:15 a.m. bus to Prudential Center for a day of photo and video shoots with the NHL and its broadcasts partners.

Sept. 8, 2:10 p.m. - GQ

Stop two on the off-site part of the tour was the Conde Nast building and the offices of GQ. Like the Wall Street Journal visit, it was an opportunity to sit at a table with a group of writers and editors so that they could meet the players and explore ideas for future pieces. Zach Parise joined the WSJ group of Skinner, Lundqvist, Richards and Bergeron for the meeting. Eight GQ staffers were in the meet-and-greet, in a conference room lined by blown-up versions of the last seven GQ magazine covers.

There was a good back-and-forth between the players and the GQ folks, talking about everything from rules changes to misconceptions about hockey players. The players also got to ask questions of their own, sparking an interesting conversation about how cover subjects and images are chosen.

Perhaps the lightest moment came when Jeff was asked about what it was like to be the "Bieber" of hockey and get marriage proposals from "throngs of girls," which his player counterparts clearly enjoyed. He also showed his age a little when the players were asked about their favorite hockey movies. Lundqvist and Richards didn't hesitate to go with Slap Shot. Jeff said he'd only seen "pieces" of Slapshot, and that he liked "The Mighty Ducks."

Sept. 8, 12:05 p.m. -
Wall Street Journal

Jeff was one of four players selected to take part in an editorial meeting with sports staff from the Wall Street Journal. The Rangers' Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist, as well as Boston's Patrice Bergeron, also made the short walk with Jeff from the NHL's headquarters to the WSJ's offices, located in the same News Corp building that houses Fox News.

Eight sports writers and editors from the Wall Street Journal are a part of the meeting, which has mostly taken the form of a roundtable discussion about issues ranging from yesterday's KHL plane crash to the the CBA. There were also some more direct questions to the individual players, including Bergeron talking about his time with the Cup and what that tradition means to players.

As for Jeff, he had an opportunity to talk about adjustments to playing in the NHL at 18, and what it was like to play in the league he'd been watching as a fan just a year or so prior. He took note that even this present moment - sitting in a room at the Wall Street Journal with three of the league's biggest stars - was another eye-opening one for him.

Sept. 8, 10:45 a.m. - Parise switch-a-roo

Things are rolling along on Sixth Avenue, as Jeff is sitting in with Sports Illustrated now. We had a near collision with New Jersey's Zach Parise heading into SI's room at the same time, but the crisis was averted as Parise slipped into's booth next door. We've also finished up spots with the NHLPA and, and we are nearing the part of the day when we leave the NHL's office to visit several New York-based publications at their own locations.

An update on my last post about Jeff playing NHL 12: he did decide to take on some live competition during a break between interviews, rather than just playing against the machine. It was Jeff Skinner and the Carolina Hurricanes against John Tavares and the New York Islanders in virtual action at the RBC Center. The Canes emerged victorious despite netminder Cam Ward dropping the gloves (and not fairing very well) against an Islanders skater during the second period. Final score was 2-1, with Anthony Stewart and Brandon Sutter providing the scoring.

Also, Henrik Lundqvist is here. So the rest of us feel a little more underdressed and a little less good-looking at the moment.

Sept. 8, 9:25 a.m. - Skinner scores! And fights?

Jeff finished up interviews with the New York Times and the Globe & Mail. With a little break between interviews, he's taking advantage of the wall of Playstations set up in a corridor of the NHL's offices. The game of choice, naturally, is EA Sports' NHL 12, and Jeff's team of choice is of course the Carolina Hurricanes. Locked in a scoreless battle with Columbus in the first period, the Canes got on the board with a goal by (who else) Jeff Skinner. (I saw the replay. It was really just a tap-in for No. 53 after a great play from Eric Staal).

Then, in the second period, video game Skinner must have really been feeling it, when he picked a fight with Blue Jackets defensemen James Wisniewski. Let's just say, it didn't end well for the guy in red. Hopefully it's a lesson learned virtually to prevent any real-life repeats.

Sept. 8, 2011, 8:15 a.m.

This actually marks Jeff Skinner’s second trip to Manhattan for media in a four-month span. Earlier this summer, Jeff and his father, Andy, went to New York for a photo shoot with, the online branch of America’s most popular teen lifestyle magazine. It involved a visit to the John Varvatos store in NYC, and resulted in this online promotion for the 2011 NHL Awards. Though he made several other stops on that mini-media tour in June, this September trip is much more extensive, and involves stars from across the NHL.

Jamey Horan, the NHL’s Vice President for Player Development & Event Communications, and his staff are in charge of putting together the itineraries for the players for the annual Player Media Tour. Jeff’s schedule is quite impressive, and includes time with the New York Times, Globe & Mail, Sports Illustrated and ESPN, USA Today and all before lunch today at the NHL’s offices. Today’s itinerary also involves off-site visits to several major New York-based publications, which should be a lot of fun.

Friday’s tour events will all be at the Prudential Center, home to the New Jersey Devils, and are focused on providing video and images for the league and its broadcast partners. From what I’ve been told, he’s been selected to be one of the players featured in the league’s marketing campaign, which should make a lot of Canes fans very happy.

One thing we did do in preparation for this trip is create a little nine-page media kit for Jeff, featuring some of the different types of interviews and shoots he did during his first NHL season, as well as his media guide bio for 2011-12. You can see a low-res PDF of that kit here.

Jeff is still finishing his summer of torture at the hands of former Hurricane Gary Roberts in Toronto, so he and his dad flew to New York from there, right around the same time I was en route from Raleigh yesterday. I’ll try to update this page throughout the next two days, via new web guru Michael Smith (follow him on Twitter), who will be tested in his first three days on the job with all of my Blackberry typos.

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