When I left high school, I had one plan for my life. That plan quickly gave way to another, completely different plan (something I might write about here later). I worked retail for a year, figured things out, and decided to go to journalism school.
All my life I had been avoiding journalism school, because I did not want to go to Carleton, because I did not want to be constantly asked if I was my father’s daughter. During that year off, it dawned on me that journalism might just be where I belonged, and I applied to Loyalist College. I went down to Belleville, took a tour of the school and felt completely at home.
When I started school in September of 2001 they asked us where we wanted to be in two years time. My answer was easy, I wanted to work at The Hockey News. I wanted to be a sports reporter, I wanted to be a hockey writer. I wanted to take my two great passions and fold them into one.
In Print Journalism at Loyalist, you work through the first few months learning how to put together a newspaper. After you learn, you do it.
In January of 2002 I joined my classmates on our first try at putting together the weekly student newspaper. We were a thin staff, waiting for some more students to join us once they completed their pagination assignments (Anne was such a hard-ass). I think the staff that week consisted of an editor, a photo editor, a dark room tech (worst job ever), two reporters and one photographer. I was excited to have been named one of the reporters (though admitedly disappointed to have not been named editor).
I remember very well going through story meeting, getting my assignments, swapping an arts story for a sports story with Krista, the other reporter that week (I don’t understand arts reporting, I just can’t do it). Suddenly I was called over to the fax machine and Scott, one of my profs, asked me if I would go to a press conference. He handed me a press release that I have kept to this day – Jason Spezza had been traded to the Belleville Bulls.
I started jumping up and down in the middle of the newsroom.
This was the next big player coming to my town and I got to cover it, along with all the national sports media that would descend on Belleville that evening.
I took a friend and a camera out to the Bulls’ practice that afternoon, dropped her off to develop the film (I think the school switched entirely to digital the year after I graduated), and headed back to the arena, full of adrenaline, for that evening’s press conference.
I found the room with the national media stuffed into it – the Yardmen was completely unprepared for this much press – and sat down to wait for the Bulls’ press officer and the man himself. It was during this wait that I heard the woman from The Score protest when one of the other pros in the room called the thing a press conference rather than a media conference – she said the term was bias towards print media, and exclusionary of broadcasters. This was when I knew I didn’t like her – a feeling that was confirmed when she tried to take over the press conference and not let any of the rest of us get a question in edgewise.
It wasn’t long before the cameras were set up and the press officer came in to let us know that Jason was coming in, but he was “pooped” after a long day, so the press conference would be sort. I wonder to this day if Jason knew that he was too “pooped” to talk for long.
The press conference itself was nothing extraordinary, but I remember that I got two questions in – despite the Score woman being in scrum mode and trying to shut me out – and I made Jason Spezza laugh (which I remember as a highlight, even though I have yet to see an interview with him in which he didn’t laugh and I now know his nickname is ‘Giggles’).
I was so proud of myself that night – it was my first day as a real reporter, my first real press conference, my first meeting with a real hockey player, and I got a good story out of it. I am even prouder of the final result – the page I layed out with that story, and the single greatest alignment of puns I ever put on one page. My headline ‘Apple of the Bulls’ eye’ was followed with the subhead ‘Team on target with trade.’
I still have that in my photo album too. I kept it on my fridge for the longest time.
Other highlights of my brief career as a sports reporter:
- Meeting, interviewing and getting hugged by Brian Kilrea, who remains one of my heroes
- Seeing Chris Neil and Magnus Arvedsson get into a fist fight at a Senators’ practice
- Making Jaromir Jagr laugh
- Seeing Jaromir Jagr in his underwear (if only because I can tell people that I saw Jaromir Jagr in his underwear)
- Interview Olaf Kolzig, one of the most well-spoken players in the NHL
- Selling my first freelance article for the Kingston Whig-Standard
- Getting into dozens of Bulls’ games (and one 67’s game) for free and practicing my sports photography
- Driving to Barrie on the spur of the moment to cover the Bulls-Colts playoff game (and interviewing players in tears after their loss in said playoff game)
- Driving to Welland on the spur of the moment to cover the Lancers basketball teams loss in the playoffs (and watching an Algonquin player miss at least 8 freethrows and single-handedly losing their game)
- Finally learning more about volleyball and football
- Covering a rodeo and a demolition derby (while I was living in Alberta)