DETROIT – Despite slippery road conditions and heavy traffic, students from as far as Charlevoix, Mich., made the trip to Joe Louis Arena on Thursday to attend the Red Wings High School Journalist Day presented by ITC Holdings, Corp. Seventy students, mostly upperclassmen, from across the state represented their high school newspapers to experience a day in the life of a sports journalist.
Mock press conferences, a press box tour and a viewing of practice from the stands were the most anticipated activities of the day, but what the students really took away from the event was a better understanding of what it takes to be a part of the sports journalism industry.
“I loved it,” Royal Oak High School senior Elena Bassin said of the event. “It was everything I thought it would be and more."
The event kicked off with a mock press conference of four media panel members made up of USA Today hockey reporter Kevin Allen, Michael Caples of Michigan Hockey, sports columnist Bob Duff of the Windsor Star as well as radio play-by-play broadcaster and the voice of the Red Wings Ken Kal. Each member touched on their own personal journey to get to their current job along with the sacrifices and long hours needed to land those competitive positions.
“When you’re able to do a job for 40 years like I have and enjoy going to work every day, it just doesn’t get better than that,” Allen said. “But when you get in this business, you have to accept some things. One, it’s a lifestyle almost more than a job. You have to accept the fact that your hours are not the same as everyone else’s and that it impacts your whole life…All of us who are on this panel have had to compete against other journalists to get our jobs so that element makes it a little bit different than other jobs, but it’s an amazing job.”
Following the media panel Q&A, students were given a tour of the Joe Louis Arena press box and the opportunity to view practice from the stands while taking action photos and jotting down observations.
After a quick lunch, students had the chance to put head coach Mike Babcock on the spot by asking questions about his experience in the sports industry, his coaching tactics and even his recent Olympic gold medal. However, it was Babcock’s opening monologue that stuck with them after the event.
“Let’s just say you want to be a journalist,” Babcock explained. “Most of you don’t know what a journalist does. My daughter wanted to be in business so I got her an internship one summer. Three days into her internship, she didn’t want to be in business anymore. There’s a whole bunch of kids who go to college thinking they want to be doctors and lawyers and end up doing something else. So my point to you is that you have to find out who you are and it’s great to have passion. You need passion to have success, but a plan works too.”
Former Red Wings forward and Special Assistant to the General Manager Kris Draper then took the stage to field students’ questions about his career, the current Red Wings team and media. Three Red Wings players – forwards Luke Glendening and Tomas Tatar along with defenseman Jonathan Ericsson – followed him with a 45-minute mock press conference.
As a Grand Rapids native and graduate of University of Michigan, Glendening emphasized the importance of getting a good education because he didn’t know whether he would make it to the NHL or not and wanted to have something he could fall back on. When asked what they would do if they were not professional hockey players, Glendening said that he would be a teacher, with Tatar chiming in that he would be Glendening’s student.
The Red Wings then invited the participating students to write an article about High School Journalist Day, which will be judged by the team’s PR department. Three winners will be selected with the top article winning the opportunity to shadow USA Today’s Kevin Allen at a morning skate, lunch and Red Wings home game in 2014-15.