by Patrick Hoffman on 05/17/10 at 11:17 AM ET
We all know that in Canada, hockey is everything. Not only does it include the passion for the NHL, but it includes the passion for all levels of hockey ranging from minor hockey all the way to beer league hockey.
One level of hockey that is extremely popular in Canada is junior hockey. I recently did an e-mail interview with Sunaya Sapurji, the Junior hockey editor for Yahoo! Sports. Sunaya was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to tell us about how she got into hockey, how she got involved in the game as a writer/blogger/editor, where we can find her work, and her thoughts on the playoffs currently taking place north of the border.
PH: How did you get into hockey?
SS: As a kid I grew up surrounded by boys who loved hockey so, in order to survive, I had to know even more about the game than they did. At some point during the survival process, I fell in love with hockey, too. Thankfully I had a very supportive parents whom, despite having little interest in hockey, had no qualms about taking me to watch (OHL) Marlies games at Maple Leaf Gardens or, when I was old enough, letting me drive with friends to Detroit to watch the Wings.
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player?
SS: The Detroit Red Wings—long before they were any good, we’re talkin’ like the Mike Blaisdell early years. It was a dark time. Favourite player was, is, and forever will be Steve Yzerman ... followed closely by Bob Probert and Joey Kocur (the guy won a Stanley Cup after playing in a beer league, how can you not love that?)
In the OHL I grew up as a Marlies fan and my favourite player was a guy named Brian Collinson, who gave me my first autograph. I don’t think he ever played pro, but that’s the beauty of junior hockey.
PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be involved in hockey?
SS: It might sound strange, because I’m not sure how many little girls dream about working in hockey ... but when I was about 10, I knew that I wanted to be a hockey reporter. I was a big fan of OHL Game of the Week and Hockey Night in Canada when I was a kid, so watching it on TV I always thought it would be the coolest job in the world. Almost everything from that point onward was to reach my goal in terms of school, volunteer work, networking, etc., because it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m extremely fortunate because every day I wake up, I still feel that way.
PH: Which outlets have you covered hockey for?
SS: There have been quite a few freelance gigs, but Yahoo! Sports, the Toronto Star, ESPN the Mag/.com, Prospects Hockey magazine, Breakout Magazine, Loosepucks.com, etc.
PH: What was it like covering junior hockey for The Toronto Star?
SS: It was a fantastic learning experience and a lot of fun for 10 years. My full-time job there was as a copy editor on the sports desk so I was only on the OHL beat part-time, as a result it was very hard to balance whatever free time I had to get out to games.
PH: What did you try to provide readers over at The Star?
SS: Junior hockey is full of interesting people and because of the turnover with the players, every year you have new stories to tell, so I hope good stories with an interesting perspective. I’m not an Xs and Os person, so if you’re looking for someone to breakdown the minutia of coaching systems—don’t bother reading my stuff.
PH: You are now the junior hockey editor at Yahoo Sports. How did you get that gig?
SS: They contacted me because they were interested in becoming the premiere destination for Canadian Hockey League coverage. Then they told me they had a Tim Hortons in their building and I was sold. That’s pretty much how it went down.
PH: What will you try to bring readers on a daily basis over at Yahoo! Sports?
SS: The same things I did at the Star, but on a full-time basis. We’re also covering the entire CHL, so we’re basically your one-stop shop for junior from coast to coast. My job is to let people know about the future stars of the NHL, but to also tell the stories of the guys who are going to star in your local men’s league in a few years. Having said that, the CHL is more big business and less “mom and pop” than it used to be, so as much as some people want junior to be full of warm and fuzzy naivety, it can be just as cold and brutal so those stories are part of the repertoire as well.
PH: How about some hockey talk – What are your thoughts on the CHL Playoffs so far? Which teams/players have surprised/disappointed you the most?
SS: I have to admit was shocked that Barrie was swept by Windsor, especially after Kitchener had taken the Spits to seven games in the Western final. Windsor D Mark Cundari was probably my favourite player in that series because he did it all—offence, defence, special teams—and he did it well. He’s continued his solid play at the Memorial Cup thus far as well. I’m also surprised that Moncton blew that 3-0 lead in Game 2 of the tournament considering they’ve been the defensive team in the QMJHL for the past two seasons and have Nicola Riopel in net.
My only disappointment at the Memorial Cup so far is that both Calgary’s leading scorer Brandon Kozun and Moncton’s leading scorer Nicolas Deschamps are both injured. I had been looking forward to see the two scoring champions from each league and I think it would have made a huge difference to their teams had they been 100 per cent healthy (Kozun played hurt and very sparingly in their first game & Deschamps is likely out of the tournament).
PH: Any words of wisdom for Kukla’s Korner readers?
SS: —- Despite what Gary Bettman would have you believe, the NHL isn’t the be-all and end-all of hockey. There are many talented players, coaches and teams right in your own backyard, and it’s way cheaper to see them.
—- There aren’t very many women in MSM print covering hockey and even fewer who want the unglamorous life of a lowly junior hockey reporter, so I’ve always been a strong believer in the blogosphere for people who would otherwise not have their voices heard. So if you want to write, do it—regardless if it’s for one person or one million.
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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.