by Patrick Hoffman on 12/04/10 at 07:00 PM ET
As someone who watches, reads and listens to a lot of hockey, I can tell you that one of the best in the business is Rob Simpson.
Rob has been around the game for many years and has worked for many different outlets. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into the game, what outlets he has worked for and he provides us with his thoughts on what the New York Rangers have done this season since he covers them for MSG.com.
PH: How did you get into hockey?
RS: In general, I fell in love with it when I was five-years-old, when I started skating on our neighborhood pond with my older brothers and friends in 1969. The pond was shaped like a rink, only smaller, and was frozen for four straight months. I still remember my brother’s best friend taking a slapshot off the back of his head, (no concussion controversy ensued). By the way, not sure I understand the global warming skeptics. I thought climatic shifts historically took epochs, like 10,000 or 20,000 years, not 30! That pond is probably frozen now for a total of four or five days a winter.
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team and player? Why?
RS: No choice: Red Wings. Started getting dragged to the Olympia when I was six, and I still have the ticket stubs. Gordie Howe remains my idol for all the right reasons, old time hockey and what an unbelievable gentleman. I’ve had the honor of talking with him and interviewing him a number of times. He even co-hosted a couple funny show-closes at All-Star Games with me when I was doing Leafs TV. Never forget them.
PH: When did you know that you wanted to work in the hockey media?
RS: Probably when I was 16 or 17 and already covering the Pistons and Red Wings under the table. But then I went to college and screwed around doing other stuff, like working, before getting back into the sport about 14 years ago.
PH: Tell us about some of the outlets you have covered hockey for and what your various responsibilities were.
RS: Host, producer, reporter, writer, or 3rd man between Leafs TV, Boston Bruins (NESN), NHL Network, limited MSG-TV a couple seasons ago as emergency back-up.
But before all that, the minor league times is when all the truly bizarre stuff occurred. Some of the brawls, the characters, the fans, and the buildings were priceless. I remember calling games with longtime color guy Bart Hull (Brett’s little brother) for Idaho against Bakersfield down in Cali. For a couple seasons, their rink was built on a stage inside a huge theatre. There were six rows of seats along one side of the rink, but the theatre seats themselves made up the great majority. The boards at that end were clear.
So you could sit and eat milk duds, juji fruits and popcorn, and watch a hockey game. The length of the rink ran from the front of the stage all the way to the back of the house, away from the “audience”. He and I used to climb ladders, dodge sand bags and spotlights on the catwalks, and sit in a spotlight perch about 25-feet above the benches. After a fight near the end of a period, the Bakersfield guy would walk off the ice through the clear boards and exit stage left to cheers. He’d wave and stuff. The road combatant would leave through the same gate, but go stage right to his dressing room, while being booed. We called it “hockey, the musical”. Ask Keith Gretzky about it, he was Bako’s coach then.
PH: We’ve seen you on TV, heard you on the radio and read you online. What is your medium of choice? Why?
RS: First and foremost, I’m a hockey play-by-play guy, mostly radio, and I’m five times better at that than I am at any of this other stuff. I’ve done a lot of TV and enjoy the creative process. I usually self-produce and write my TV stories and shows, which speeds up the decision making. I love reporting on hockey and cranking out extra material when the belief is it can’t be done. But the play-by-play is the purest, just you and the game. Oddly enough, despite hundreds of relationships via other gigs, I’ve never done pbp of an NHL game. I’m looking for a chance. Jonesing at this point might be a better word.
PH: Tell us about what you are doing right now, hockey-wise?
RS: I’m writing on a daily basis for MSG.com, which is a great opportunity and an interesting challenge. I’ve written long form, books, but never really short-form features on a daily basis. It’s a cool deal, and the other writers I get to hang around with are awesome.
I’m still filling in at NHL here and there. I was hosting some NHL.com programming but I’m not sure of my status there. Radio side, Gregg Baldinger has invited me back to do some NHL Lives again which is terrific and very kind. I’m also sitting in with Scott Ferrall on Wednesday nights and hopping on with Boomer and Thistel on Thursday’s with “3 Questions From Simmer”. Fun with trivia. Those guys are great.
PH: What was it like doing a documentary on hockey in Ireland? Tell us what led you to do it, what you experienced and whatever else comes to your mind.
RS: Tremendous, man those people are friendly. But then again I’ve never had a bad experience anywhere in Europe (knock on cranium).
I’m happy to report those kids in the Republic will get a new rink in April, with hopefully more on the way after that, scattered around the country. We’ll see. They’re limited in hockey playing population, but they love the game as much as anyone.
PH: Would you be interested in doing a documentary on hockey in other countries? If so, which ones and why?
RS: Yes. I have one idea in the works. Good potential. Top secret, could tell you but would have to start throwing rights.
PH: You’ve seen a lot of the Rangers this season. In one word, sum up their play. Why does that word fit the Rangers’ season thus far?
RS: Work. They’re limited in terms of high-end talent obviously, especially up front, but they’re buying into Torts system and playing hard. They hit, they block shots, they cycle, they pinch, and most of the time they get good goaltending.
PH: Overall, who have been your biggest surprises and disappointments in the NHL this season?
RS: That seems to change every other week. For awhile it was LA, now it’s Dallas out west. Columbus was cruising till Detroit said, “yeah, whatever”.
Atlanta in the east. Montreal some. Rangers a smidge. Byfuglien on D. NJ being THAT bad. Check back again at New Years, it’ll change. Bruins will rally, etc.
PH: Any last words for readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
RS: Keep loving the game, enjoy the action!! And I know you guys cycle a lot of pucks, but you should start working msg.com into the offense. Me and Maven are working hard. A lot of angles not normally covered. In a certain way, lot of “educational” stuff. Thank you. All the best.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.