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Press box keeps everyone informed

by Jen Sharpe
Few people know the Edmonton Oilers like Steve Knowles. For the past 22 years, Knowles has researched statistics, produced game notes, and manned the Rexall Place press box, communicating every home goal, penalty and significant milestone for the media, scouts, and management in attendance.

Though technology has changed some aspect of his job, Knowles’ game days start early and finish late. Every game is different, but Knowles has fine-tuned his routine. Check out his schedule below:

The day before the game -- Knowles creates a package of game notes, including Oilers points of interest, team statistics, individual statistics, head-to-head statistics and milestones. According to Knowles, one of the biggest advancements in recent years has been the development of a standard NHL statistics template, which all the teams now use to create their game notes. This template simplifies the notes not only for the team staff who have to create them, but also the media who have to dissect them.

7:00 a.m. -- Knowles arrives at his office and updates the statistics based on previous night’s results.
8:00 a.m. -- With assistance from Communications Intern Kevin Murray, he prints 125 sets of game notes, 100 sets of the NHL stats packages, and 75 sets of newspaper clippings from local, national and international/visiting media, all of which has been gathered by Murray.

8:30 a.m. -- Knowles or Murray drive to Rexall Place (a 15-minute commute) to deliver 50 sets of each package to home and visiting dressing rooms, as well as media and broadcasters at the morning skate.

9:30 a.m. -- Knowles finalizes game day credential requests, including 3-10 for visiting media and varying numbers for scouts and other media.

"The number will vary game-by-game," he said. "Opening night was a bit heavier than usual, and when we play Calgary we get a few extra media. Canadian teams also often carry a larger media contingent than some of the American cities do."

Between 30 and 50 local media also attend each Oilers home game; however, most of those media members hold season press passes.

11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. -- Knowles completes other duties around the office, begins to compose game notes for the following game (for back-to-backs), or heads home for a few hours on the weekends.

3:30 p.m. -- Knowles returns to Rexall Place with the remaining game notes and stats packages and sets up information in the Media Lounge.

4:00 p.m. -- The Press Box team (five game-night staff members) sets up the press box, ensuring TV monitors are set to the appropriate channel, printers are ready and everything else is in order.

5:00 p.m. -- Staff member Tommy McCaskill mans the desk of the media lounge and receives payment for the media meal (free for visiting personnel). On average, 110 media and staff partake in the media meal, but on opening night, Oct. 12 against Colorado, McCaskill tallied 130 customers.

"In the 2006 playoffs, when we got to the Stanley Cup Final, we served 250 meals," Knowles recalls. "In 1990 when we played Boston, we had to eat in shifts."

6:30 p.m. -- Press Box staffer Jason Penner and off-ice officials supervisor Don Whidden collect scratches and starters from the coaches in each dressing room. Penner and Whidden return to the press box and notify broadcasters, the public-address announcers, and the game-production staff of finalized lineups. The finalized lineup card then is photocopied and distributed throughout the press box prior to the puck-drop.

7:00 p.m. to final buzzer
-- Knowles announces goals, penalties, and other vital information (including streaks and milestones) on the press box in-house P.A.

"After (game P.A. announcer) Mark Lewis announces who scores the goals or gets the penalty, I’ll repeat that in the press box with some updated statistical tidbits," Knowles said. "For example, if someone extends their scoring streak, I’ll make sure the media is aware of that."

Near the end of the first and second periods -- McCaskill updates the out-of-town score sheet and the staff distributes it throughout the press box.

"We used to get Sports Ticker, which came across on ticker tape, and then he would have to handwrite it down and we’d photocopy that," Knowles said. "But now with, we can get all our out-of-town scores printed off the computer and distribute them in two or three pages rather than eight."

At first and second intermissions -- Press box staff distributes statistics reports and game sheets throughout press box.

In the third period -- Knowles coordinates the Three Stars selection (selected by media panel, the TV broadcasters, or a fan vote).

Late in the third period -- Knowles communicates via headset the Three Stars to staff at both bench areas and all broadcast booths, as well as the P.A. booth.

Following the game -- The press box staff receives the final statistics report and game sheet from NHL off-ice officials. The sheets are distributed throughout press box, the media lounge, the broadcast trucks in the loading dock and both locker rooms.

Jen Sharpe is the Digital Media Content Specialist for the Edmonton Oilers.

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