Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

An E-mail Interview with a California Hockey Writer

It’s time for another e-mail interview, this time with J.P. Horrnstra. Hoornstra is a hockey writer who covers the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and the Ontario Reign, which is an ECHL club.

Hoornstra was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he got into covering the sport, his thoughts on the Ducks and Kings and of course, his thoughts on the Stanley Cup Playoff action.

PH: How did you get into hockey?
J.P.: As a journalist, I got into hockey by accident. Through a series of re-arranged beats within the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, I was assigned to cover the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. I knew the sport plenty having grown up in San Jose with the Sharks, but I had covered almost everything—baseball, football, basketball, soccer, NASCAR, NHRA, IRL, AMA, golf, tennis, boxing, softball, wrestling, track, swimming, volleyball, gymnastics, lacrosse, snowboarding, sports media, performance-enhancing drugs and baton twirling (literally)—before I covered hockey.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player? Why?
J.P.: Like I said, I grew up around San Jose, so naturally Jamie Baker and Arturs Irbe and 1993 all hold a special place in my heart. I spotted Jeff Odgers at a recent function and blushed. You couldn’t tell me as a 10-year-old that teal didn’t look good on a jersey. We all get into hockey somehow, and for me it had nothing to do with playing on a frozen pond, Wayne Gretzky, or an original six franchise. (Only later did I realize that without frozen ponds, the original six franchises, or Gretzky the San Jose sharks would be nothing more than a surfer’s nightmare).

PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be involved with hockey in some form?
J.P.: Having said that, I consider myself a writer who happens to write about hockey. (Among other things—I love the diversity of newspaper assignments I get during the summer.) What I like about covering hockey and watching hockey actually have little to do with each other. I appreciate the relatively straightforward nature of hockey’s salary cap. I appreciate the fact that I’ve never met a professional hockey player who played seemingly to collect a paycheck. Most of all, I love the approachability of everyone within the sport. Hockey players are the easiest to talk to among the four major North American sports. If they were all baton-twirlers, I think I’d be a fan. As a spectator, I don’t think there’s a single *type* of hockey player a fan cannot relate to—hockey has fighters, fast guys, players who are all smarts or all heart, goalies who talk to themselves—and the pace and fluidity of each game is completely unpredictable until you see who’s standing on the ice. There’s no team sport quite like that.

PH: What outlets/blogs have you covered hockey for? Tell us about what it is like to be on the Anaheim Ducks beat. What have you learned while on the beat?
J.P.: I write for eight different newspapers: the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino County Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Whittier Daily News.

I cover the Kings now too. Despite each franchise’s very different history and personality, covering the Ducks and Kings are mostly similar experiences. Hockey is hockey, hockey players are hockey players, and hockey coaches are hockey coaches. It’s funny, though—most people outside Southern California probably don’t know (and don’t care) that Ducks and Kings fans hate each other, but it’s true. Kings fans think Ducks fans are a bunch of spoiled, fair-weather fans. Ducks fans think Kings fans should have given up by now (and probably include a few Kings fans who DID give up). The Kings have only truly attempted to build a team via the draft over the last several seasons; the Ducks have drafted decently but, more significantly, haven’t been without a superstar player since Teemu Selanne arrived in 1996. Only one player has ever been traded between the two teams, Jean-Sebastien Aubin. In that sense it’s like any other cross-town rivalry. The difference is, it has yet to capture the imagination of the casual fan. The two teams have never met in the playoffs. If they ever do, it will be interesting.

PH: Now, you also cover the Ontario Reign, an ECHL team located in California. What has that experience been like?
J.P.: Covering the Ontario Reign isn’t night-and-day different to covering the NHL, but it’s close. The team has a brand-new, 10,000-seat arena and are corporate younger brothers to the Kings (both teams are owned by AEG), but otherwise it feels like a mom-and-pop organization by contrast. The team has one head coach and, with the exception of a few months out of last season, no assistants. I see the players in the community. I’m the only media covering the team on a daily basis. I see the same fans at the rink and on Facebook. The ECHL itself is run out of a small office in New Jersey with fewer than a dozen full-time employees. And if you’ve ever wanted to complain about the refereeing in the NHL ... let’s just say that it’s a different experience. Not better or worse from a journalist’s point of view—you take the good with the bad—just different.

PH: You also contribute to HockeyPrimeTime. What are you trying to bring hockey fans with HPT?
J.P.: I started contributing to HockeyPrimeTime.com on the side for extraordinarily selfish reasons—I had just started covering the Ducks and didn’t know enough about the rest of the NHL to be a very good beat writer. So I dove in hoping that, by reading and writing about other teams and players, I could broaden my knowledge and expertise.

I’ve stuck with it because since the Ducks won the Cup, there has been very little recognition given the California teams among the national hockey media. HockeyPrimeTime’s coverage is balanced and professional and I’m happy to contribute to it. The site’s growing, too, and it’ll be fun to see where it goes.

PH: Now for some actual hockey talk - what did you think of the Ducks/Kings this season?
J.P.: The Ducks just completed an underachieving season. You can look at it two ways. Either they won the Cup in 2007 knowing they would run into salary-cap trouble a couple years down the road, and this is simply the duck hitting the fan—or, if they had only kept Chris Pronger, they would have had enough pieces in place to make another run at it this year (like Philadelphia, which actually had about the same regular-season record as Anaheim). Regardless, everyone was disappointed. A lot of what they can and can’t do this off-season depends on the status of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, but regardless the Ducks will need to beef up their defense if they want to improve in the Pacific.

The Kings may have overachieved, even by the standards of some within the organization. Not that they didn’t possess that level of talent, but it was young talent that wasn’t expected to put together a 100-point season for another year at least. They didn’t win pretty; there were a lot of low-scoring, one-goal games that were difficult to write 18 inches about on deadline. But it was rewarding for fans who stuck through the rebuilding process to see kids like Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Wayne Simmonds and some of the other guys do what they did. It sounds like Alexander Frolov is going to leave, so they’ll probably be in the market for a veteran, top-six-type winger this summer. But Plan A is probably to let the kids play and hope they improve as some of the guys I mentioned above enter their hockey primes.

PH: What are your thoughts on this year’s playoff action?
J.P.: As far as these playoffs go, I was disappointed to see Washington leave so soon. They were the most exciting team in the NHL and, let’s face it, it’s more fun to watch a team that puts 50 shots on goal than a team that blocks 50 shots. But we got to see three full rounds of the Canadiens and only one of the Caps. Defense wins championships. Some things never change.

That said, Chicago was probably the second-most exciting team in the league. They can win in river hockey or in an old-school, dump-and-grind slugfest. I think a healthy Philadelphia team can give the ‘Hawks as good a run as anyone, but Chicago is just too deep. I picked them to win the West originally and I’m sticking with it. Also for the NHL, putting the spotlight on someone other than Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin for a couple months can only help the product (as long as Patrick Kane can stay out of trouble).

PH: Any words of wisdom for readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
J.P.: Words of wisdom ... Practice the art of reading books before the Internet completely warps your attention span!

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: anaheim+ducks, j.p.+hoornstra, los+angeles+kings

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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.