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Passing, skating & communicating

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers
I recently conducted a quick phone interview with Oilers prospect Taylor Chorney. It was only my second player interview of the season, and like the first one with Kyle Brodziak, I was impressed by Taylor's friendliness, patience, and genuine interest in what I was asking and why I was asking it.


Now, I realize that the circumstances weren't typical of an in-season interview. After practice and especially post-game, exhaustion, frustration, or disappointment can affect a player or coach's attitude and answers in a scrum or one-on-one. When approaching a prickly person with an especially poky question, an interviewer often gets better results by softening their own tone and language. This doesn't always work, but it (usually) doesn't hurt to try.

I also realize that players (and coaches, management, etc.) aren't required to give good interviews. Sound-bites don't win hockey games, despite what reporters and P.R. staff would like to believe.

But media relations plays a role in the success (and perceived success) of a franchise. The philosophy is that a team that fosters fair and open relationships with writers and broadcasters is going to get more press (and, in theory, better press) than a team that is difficult to cover.


Likewise, a player who is thoughtful, articulate, and perceptive will be a sought-after source of post-game reaction, regardless of his on-ice contributions. The captain, coach, and stars of the game will always have plenty of play on late-night newscasts, but it's the “go-to” talkers that often provide a story's perspective. You know, that little sound-bite that seems to sum everything up and put the ball back in the newscaster's court. I call it the “Back to you, Bob.” (At least, that's what I'm going to call it from now on.)

A player who can BTYB is a gem. Having worked only on the franchise side of sports journalism and never on the press side, I can't say this for sure, but I think interviewers are secretly pleased when a quotable player is involved in a highlight-worthy play. Doubly so if they like the guy. Triply so if it's his birthday. (So simple, but so newsworthy!)

As for Chorney, I've never met him in person or even seen him skate, but it's reassuring to know that he's got innate BTYB ability. Brodziak has it too, so I'm two-for-two in interviews so far this season.


The good quotes won't always come as easily and sometimes they won't show up at all. And I appreciate – no, admire! – the players who make no qualms about clamming up because they prefer their on-ice performance to speak for itself. Sometimes one-word answers are perfect punctuation for an otherwise rambling report. Not that I write those. (Blogs notwithstanding.)

To make a long blog short(er), it's just easier to write a story when somebody is willing – and eager – to tell it to you. And yes, I know that “easy” isn't everything, but with rookie camp, training camp, and 82 games just around the corner, I'll take all the help I can get.


* VIP Steve Taylor has been begging for another shout-out in the Journal. Though nothing can match the newsworthiness of his trip to Hawaii last month, I guess I could talk about his taste in video cameras, which is excellent. Our new cameras are beautiful and feature many 'automatic' settings that I appreciate. So thanks for ordering them, Steve! Oilers TV will be better than ever this season.
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