Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

An E-mail Interview with Kent Wilson of Flames Nation, Puck Daddy and More

There is no doubt that sports blogging has come an extremely long way over the past few years.

This is especially the case when it comes to hockey blogs. One example of that is Kent Wilson. Kent has been around the hockey blog world for several years and has written for SBN’s Calgary Flames Blog, FlamesNation.ca, Hockey Prospectus, Houses of the Hockey, and now, the ever popular Puck Daddy.

Kent was kind enough to take time out of his busy blogging schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he became a hockey blogger, how he got involved with different outlets and much, much more.

PH: How did you get into hockey?
KW: I started playing when I was about 8 years old. My dad had been into hockey when he was a kid as well, so like a lot of Canadian kids, that’s why I took it up. I played for about 8 years and eventually coached and scouted players when I was no longer playing.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player? Why?
KW: I have always been a Calgary resident and therefore Flames fan, so most of my favorites come from the crop of elite teams Calgary put together in the late ‘80s. Lanny McDonald was an iconic figure in Calgary, so I liked him when I was a new Flames fan, but then I eventually moved on to Theoren Fleury. His skill level, tenacity and success against long odds made him a natural choice.

PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be involved in hockey as a writer/blogger?
KW: After the lock-out a friend and I kicked around the idea of starting a hockey podcast since we liked to argue about stuff between ourselves and with others. Instead of jumping right into it, though, he suggested he started a group blog first. We did and ended up being the only guy to consistently contribute stuff. It snowballed from there.

PH: How did you get the managing editor gig at the Nations Network?
KW: After writing at my own site for years and then landing some freelance gigs here and there, I was approached by both SBNation and FlamesNation at some time in 2008-09 I believe. SBN asked me to establish their Flames site and I accepted. FN also asked me to join as a contributor. I said yes there too, but mostly poured my efforts into getting Matchsticks and Gasoline on it’s feet.

Once M&G was established, the owner of FN contacted me again and offered me the managing editor position. I decided to leave SBN despite a year+ of hard work to get it up and running, but I don’t regret the decision in retrospect

PH: As the managing editor at the Nations Network, what are you looking to provide readers on a daily basis?
KW: My goal is to bring critical, incisive analysis to hockey, but still retain some of the things that make blogging entertaining and unique in the media landscape: irreverence, community, etc. We also try to incorporate aspects of mainstream media that are valuable: namely access, source information and broad distribution.

Basically, my goal is to take the things that work from both ends of the blog vs MSM divide and combine them into a workable hybrid.

PH: You have covered the Calgary Flames for awhile. In your opinion, what does the team need to do to get into the postseason this year?
KW: The Flames need to get healthy and they need to get lucky. The don’t have the horses for a legitimate run at things, but like any team in the league they can get hot for a 10 or 20 game stretch. If that happens, they might be able to finally chase down another post-season appearance.

That said, this is the weakest iteration of the Calgary Flames that we’ve seen in the last 3 years - and they finished 10th in the west the prior two seasons. If not for Kiprusoff channeling his 2006-07 self for a two months span starting in January, the club would already be well out of the race.

PH: You recently started blogging for Puck Daddy. Tell us about how you got that gig.
KW: Sort of a long, winding road. I contributed to the Score’s Houses of the Hockey (Now Backhand Shelf) for a bit more than a year where I was able to write similar pieces to the one I recently published at Puck Daddy. When Justin Bourne took over as the Score blogs managing editor they cleared out the existing editors including myself.

Recently I realized I missed the sort of platform/opportunity the Score gave me to write about things a little beyond the scope of the Flames (or pure stats, like what I produce for Hockey Prospectus). I knew that Greg was aware and supportive of some of the work I had done at the Score, so I contacted him and asked if there might be some room for me there. And things went from there.

PH: What will you be looking to do over at PD?
KW: I’m known as a “stats guy” (for good reason) but I also have a degree in psychology. Ironically, stats was my least favorite aspect of the degree - I vastly preferred the qualitative and theory aspects instead. My house is littered with left over text books from my university days and a few years ago it struck me how often the things I learned in school applied in various ways to hockey analysis: be it in terms of player valuation or how coaches/GM’s or even fans perceive the players and the game itself. It was that angle I began to work on at the Score and I was gratified to see it find an audience.

There has been a lot of seminal work in other areas using this sort of science including economics. After I began writing about inherent biases in human thought and how they affect hockey, I found books like Risk and Future Babble by Dan Gardner, Black Swan by Nasim Taleb and Sway by Hoffman and Hoffman that confirmed the topic/angle to me as worthwhile.

On that front, I recently began reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman who is perhaps the most influential psychologist when it comes to identifying the short-cuts and biases in human cognition. I referenced it in my recent PD post. 

PH: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Kukla’s Korner readers?
KW: Just that I think we are living in incredibly exciting times when it comes to media production and consumption, particularly in sports. Five years ago, I never dreamed of making a career out of writing about hockey, but the shifting media landscape and the efforts of people like the owners of the Nation Network (as well as other great writers who challenge and inspire me daily) have opened up heretofore unknown opportunities. And while neither bloggers nor the established players seem to know quite where all of this is headed, I think that we are already seeing some really good, really unique coverage and analysis as a result.

I’ve been incredibly lucky in this journey so far and I appreciate both those that have given me an opportunity to turn a hobby into a career as well as those who have read and encouraged me along the way.

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: flamesnation.ca, hockey+prospectus, kent+wilson, matchsticks+and+gasoline, puck+daddy

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About Goal Line Report

Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.