I had looked forward to vacationing in Boca Raton, FL with my parents, uncles, and grandfather for the entirety of the winter months. It was a chance to take a break from sports journalism and turn my brain off. For context, my grandpa is from Boston and he likes to “thaw out” in Florida, so my mom scheduled a stay with the majority of our family at the Boca Beach Club since she accrued a discount on a certain number of nights.
As a young sports journalist with a vested interest in hockey multimedia, I should have known that the NHL GM meetings where in Boca. So imagine my surprise when I walked by a man who looked suspiciously like George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights. I had to do a double-take.
I had accidentally stumbled into the NHL’s general manager’s meetings while I was supposed to be on vacation.
To start, I wanted to confirm that the man I actually saw was George McPhee. A quick Google search confirmed that yes, the NHL GM meetings were here, at this same resort, so I had likely seen McPhee.
This was all at once a dream and a nightmare. For a young sports reporter, this was unfettered access to the people I wanted to one day meet and talk to about why they make the decisions they do.
It was also nerve-wracking. I am a painfully shy person, debilitatingly so, and I’ve had to undergo social anxiety therapy ever since I was little. Being a reporter where you’re forced to walk up to people and talk to them has been a type of therapy. When I’m in reporter-mode, I can go up to anyone and ask them anything and not think anything of it. It’s like a superhero wearing their mask or a special suit, it imbues you with powers you never thought you had and it feels comfortable.
That was not the case here. Combine the lack of preparedness with the fact that not only were the people conducting and covering the meetings were some of my idols, but that my relatives realized who these people were, are incredibly nosey, and kept nagging me to talk to these people, and I wanted to jump in the ocean and swim away.
On my second day of vacation, my uncle John texted me to inform me that TSN, The Sports Network from Canada, were filming right in front of him, and that I should come down and chat with a few of them.
I had to wrap up some work for The Post, but I headed down near the beach bar and completed my work there, with my uncle John and eventually my mom continuing to nag me. “Just talk to them! It’ll be easy! What’s the worst they can say, get lost kid?” they said.
Eventually, that afternoon after I had a chance to decompress and drink some liquid courage, my uncle John introduced me to one of those cameramen he met. That man was Dave Parker from Edmonton. He’d been filming news and sports for 17 years, and, after learning my background in sports journalism, he gave me the chance to shadow him for the day as he filmed the TSN Insiders. The group, including Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger, were covering what they had learned from the meetings, like making helmets mandatory for warmups.
After telling Dave I had taken a video course in my grad program, he put me to work as an unofficial intern. I tested TSN’s microphones and was positioned where Dreger, McKenzie, and LeBrun would be standing to make sure the lighting was correct. Dave and I joked that my sunglasses were an unfair advantage thanks to the sun shining right into the eyes of where the hosts would stand.
I also got the chance to briefly meet Elliotte Friedman during a break and explain who I was. We chatted briefly on the success of the Caps, but he had to run to his own taping with SportsNet, so I stuck with the TSN crew.
In addition to meeting Friedge, I got the chance to watch first hand how a show like TSN Insiders is set up and filmed from start to finish. This included camera and light set ups, and watching the two takes the hosts conducted to produce the show, including notes they had after the first take and points they knew they wanted to make.
The guys talked primarily about why Kelly McCrimmon was a prime general manager candidate, in addition to some of the new changes the GM’s discussed, including goaltender interference and off-sides challenges.
After the show was filmed, I was introduced to the squad by Dave. I explained I was an aspiring hockey writer from Maryland and that I wrote for multiple outlets. We chatted briefly about how Bob had friends out in Ashburn and how they got started in front of the camera. Meeting your idols and having them tell you that continuing to write for multiple outlets and being willing to stick around the camera crew to absorb information was probably the highlight of my vacation.
As Yogi Berra once said, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” No amount of training, not even my masters degree, can prepare you for when an opportunity like this is right in front of you. And that’s one of the coolest things about sports journalism. Most of the time, if you’re willing to ask for help or reach out, there are people out there willing to help if you’re willing to put in the work.
I want to thank Dave and Rafael from the French language station in Quebec for introducing me to all of the TSN Insiders. After being introduced to them, I was able to open up and learn from some of the best in the biz on what goes into making TSN Insiders happen. They didn’t have to talk to me or teach me anything, but they were willing to take time out of their incredibly busy days to help me learn.
I don’t know that I want to be in front of the camera one day. When I think about what I want to do with my sports journalism career, I know that I mostly want to produce things, including but not limited to writing, audio, and visuals. Spending the afternoon with Dave definitely made me consider it, and I know that afternoon is something I’ll take into the future.
Headline photo: Julia Karron
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