On December 26th, I had the amazing and fortunate experience of being a reporter for a day for my favorite hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. That night the Lightning played the Columbus Blue Jackets and won 5-2. I was able to see the game of hockey from an entirely new perspective, the media’s. There were many differences from attending a game as a fan and a member of the media.
The first difference between going to a hockey game as a fan and a member of the media was the entrance. Normally when I go to games I enter the arena through the main entrance, walking through Thunder Alley and traversing up the stairs to enter Amalie Arena, but this time I entered through the press entrance, which is on the other side of the building. Instead of being in line with my fellow fans, I was I standing in a line made up of members of the media. As soon as I walked into the arena I received my all-access game night media credentials. After marveling at my media pass for about a minute, I realized that I was hungry.
The second difference between going to a hockey game as a fan and a member of the media was the food. Instead of walking around the arena and getting Outback, Holy Hog, Dippin Dots, or some other food, I was able to eat where all of the media, referees, and NHL officials ate. The cuisine consisted of salad, lasagna, meatballs, bread, and regular ice cream. After enjoying this delectable, meal we made our way down rinkside to watch warm ups. One interesting fact about warm ups is that the official time that the players take the ice is 6:29, not 6:30, not 6:28, but at 6:29. While watching the warmups I noticed that the players enjoy messing with unsuspecting fans, by shooting pucks at the glass or taking their sticks and hitting the glass scaring the fans. None of these are malicious acts, they are all in jest. Immediately after warm ups concluded I made my way up to my seats to watch the game.
The third difference between going to a hockey game as a fan and as a member of the media was the seating. Members of the press do not sit amongst the fans, they sit in the press box. The press box is at the top of the arena. It is above all of the fans seats. I was able to see the entire ice. It was amazing. There are two sides to the press box, the Lightning’s side, where media members of the Lightning sat, and the away team’s side, where media members of the away team sat. I had to sit in the away team’s side because the Lightning side was full, and I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was wearing a lightning jersey. Right as I walked over to their side, every member turned and looked me at the exact same time, but they gave me no trouble. I actually enjoyed sitting on their side because I got to be able to see their reactions to the Lightning dominating Columbus. Although there were many benefits to sitting up there, such as the view, free food and drinks, and a private bathroom, there was one negative. I was not able to cheer for the Lightning at all. Media members are required to be impartial and professional, so that meant I could not show any emotion, regardless of what happened. I was so used to conducting myself like a fan, on the first goal scored by the Lightning I stood up and cheered. Then I remembered that I needed to be professional, so I sat down and conducted myself accordingly. Once the game came to a conclusion I made my way back down to the depths of Amalie Arena.
The fourth and final difference between going to a hockey game as a fan and a member of the media was the post game. As a fan, once the game ended I would walk out of the arena, get into my car and go home, but as a member of the media I went down to the lower level and attended Jon Cooper's post game press conference. That was a really interesting experience. I was able to sit among the the reporters and other media. Although I was not able to ask Coach Cooper any questions, I was able to listen to the other questions asked and hear his responses. The press conference ending signaled that my one-day stint as a member of the media was over. It was fantastic. Over the course of the night, I took many pictures to remember. I won’t ever forget this once in a lifetime experience.