By Ben Kung - Leland High School
Being an avid sports fan and a dedicated student of journalism, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to fuse the two worlds together and live the life of a professional sports writer. Thanks to the San José Sharks organization, I got that chance during their first-ever High School Sports Writers Day.
The evening at the HP Pavilion began with something that always piques my interest – great food. The 10 other high school journalism students and I settled down in the pressroom filled with professional sports writers, photographers, news reporters, and members of the press to have a quick dinner before the game began. While digging into our salad and lasagna, we exchanged smiles and greetings with these professionals who were just as interested in our presence as we were in their careers, all the while maintaining our poise for the cameraman who had been videotaping us for an upcoming episode of Shark Byte. The meal not only helped the 11 of us break the ice with one another, but with the media world as well.
Following dinner, Ken Arnold and Jeff Cafuir, our guides for the evening, took us into a conference room in the Sharks main office, where we had the privilege to meet and speak with both the Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager, Doug Wilson, and the Sharks beat writer for the San José Mercury, Vic Chi. Mr. Wilson imparted to us insight regarding the ins and outs of being a General Manager for a professional sports organization, and discussed some of the particulars about the Sharks franchise itself, from its philosophies about hiring and drafting to its prospects for the remainder of the 2005-06 season. He left us with a statement that helped me understand just why he has become the successful and respected individual that he is today – because of his first-rate character.
“You make a living by what you earn…you make a life by what you give,” said Mr. Wilson. “I would ask that all of you give back to the community when you grow older.”
Mr. Chi had much to share with us as well. As a graduate of Northwestern and a successful professional writer for the San José Mercury, Mr. Chi focused more on giving us advice about pursuing a career in journalism. He discussed both the joys and responsibilities of being a beat writer, as well as some of his highlight experiences while on the job, like touring Tokyo, Japan with the Sharks during the 1998-99 season when the National Hockey League (NHL) held two international promotional games there between the San José Sharks and the Calgary Flames.
After our interviews with Mr. Chi and Mr. Wilson, we quickly toured the arena and then began the journey up four stories in the HP Pavilion to the press box, where we were seated near professional members of the media, NHL scouts from around the league, and staff members from the Sharks organization to watch the well-anticipated game between the Sharks and their conference rivals, the Dallas Stars. Being new to the sport of hockey, I was a bit lost in the action at first – it was much faster-paced than I had expected it to be! But after a few minutes of getting used to the speed of the game (and the temperature of the arena), I wanted to stand, yell and cheer along with the thousands of Sharks fans in attendance as though I hadn’t missed a beat.
Though the Sharks faced disappointing defeat after three intense periods, a grueling overtime session, and a blood-pumping shootout, the loss did not make our post-game interview with defenseman Kyle McLaren any less interesting. We asked him a wide variety of questions, spanning from his struggles to become a professional hockey player to the adjustments he thought the Sharks would have to make in preparation for their next game. He answered our questions with poise and clarity, leaving the twelve of us aspiring sports writers with a very positive impression of the Sharks’ players as down-to-earth, easy-to-approach individuals, even in light of a tough loss.
As our evening as sports writers drew to a close and we began bidding one another and the Sharks staff goodbye, I am certain that each and every one of us was thanking our lucky stars for being graced with the opportunity to experience the world of professional journalism by the San José Sharks organization. For aspiring young sports writers like us, these positive experiences are invaluable in terms of building our understanding of the profession, solidifying our confidence about our futures, and helping us grow as individuals. Through its first-ever High School Sports Writers Day, the San José Sharks organization did all this and more, demonstrating once again just how proficient it is at touching our community – this time, by inspiring young adults like me.