Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

Get With the Program

This past weekend, I was luck enough to do an e-mail interview with Chris Wassel of The Program. Chris was kind enough to take time out of his busy weekend to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he got into blogging, his thoughts on the New Jersey Devils and of course, his take on the Stanley Cup playoffs;

PH: How did you get into hockey?
CW: The funniest thing was I literally got into hockey only because I loved the sheer violence of it. I know that is not the answer some fans like to hear but for me, that is what did it for me. I grew up in the 80’s when hockey was a little more high scoring but still featured players who wanted to literally knock some blocks off. I played competitive hockey from when I was 6 until I was 22 and still play a little here and there to this day. I have not only been hooked ever since that one day in 1981 when I knocked a 6 year old over the bench, I have been HOOKED!

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player?
CW: My favorite was and always is the New Jersey Devils. Now for favorite player, that is undisputed “Warrior King” Scott Stevens.

PH: At what point did you know that you wanted to be involved in hockey as a writer/blogger?
CW: A little less than 5 years ago, I decided to give blogging a shot more as a dare and more because I was playing less and less. I did not love the sport any less but the injuries just kept taking a toll. After yet another high ankle sprain (my 5th in 4 years), that was the true goodbye to playing consistently so I started writing more or less as a dare. When one of my first articles happened to be mentioned in some Devils circles, I thought maybe I was on to something.

PH: Tell us about how you came up with the NHL Arena Forum. What were you trying to give readers with that site?
CW: The NHL Arena forum was more or less founded by a small group of like minded hockey fans. The weird thing was it was not my idea, I just sort of added to it.  It’s kind of a misnomer that I was some kind of founder, the reality was I was just a member who rose to prominence there. The goal was to always give the readers a place to voice their hockey opinions but do it in a respectable way. Ultimately I did leave in October of 2008 due to creative differences but I would like to think I left some kind of imprint there.

PH: Tell us about the HockeyProgram.net. How did you come up with it?
CW: Out of the original NHL Arena Program needed to come something newer and more edgy. On the surface, The Hockey Program did not appear to have that edge but quickly garnered one. It was just a transition that was needed and something to break free a bit from the mold.

PH: What are you trying to bring readers who visit your site?
CW: Simply we bring something that not every site will give you…a little of everything with a nice helping of fantasy hockey knowledge for the common fan. People love numbers but a little too much and our goal is to let the reader form their own opinions while being opinionated ourselves. We like to give the readers ample chance to talk about the issues of the day without feeling intimidated.

PH: What other hockey outlets have you blogged for?
CW: Let’s see, I am currently developing a fantasy hockey department over at Inside Hockey. Also, I do some fine work over at RotoRob (The Wire Troll). I am currently the New Jersey Devils beat writer over at The Examiner. I even find time to pitch in at the Red Light District, Fantasy Pros 911, and that is pretty much it.

PH: Now for some actual hockey talk - why did your New Jersey Devils fail to succeed in the playoffs?
CW: There was no HEART. For whatever reason, the captain of this team was still grumpy. Clearly Jamie Langenbrunner was not the same player after his supposed “confrontation with Jacques Lemaire in late March. Add in the fact that this team could never get it going against a team that clearly did not want to play 5 on 5. The 61 PP chances combined by the Devils and Flyers were ultimately the Devils’ undoing. When you cannot get any flow, sometimes you just do not get any bounces either. It’s not like Martin Brodeur played all that bad but the team could not score. When you do not score, you generally do not win. I still think Ilya Kovalchuk was the best player on the team but the reality is it would take a miracle to keep him in red and black.

PH: What do the Devils need to do to improve next season?
CW: The biggest thing is to start improving within. Even if it means taking a small step back and not winning the division, the best thing for the Devils is to get at least a little younger. The last 5 years the New Jersey Devils have been one of the five oldest teams in the league. That can not continue. Ship out the old and especially Colin White, Jay Pandolfo, and if you have to Jamie Langenbrunner as well. Zach Parise should be wearing the C at this point as it is his time to lead this team. If the Devils do not resign Ilya Kovalchuk, they will need to find a sniper again.

PH: What do you think of the action that is occurring in the playoffs right now?
CW: The action is a bit surprising. I mean who knew San Jose would be the first team to advance to the Conference Finals. I did not pick them and I will be the first person to admit it. The Sharks showed me something and Joe Thornton finally woke up in the playoffs. Could it be a sign of things to come? It might. Chicago is frustrating Vancouver to no end just like last year and Pittsburgh is starting to pull away a bit from Montreal. Boston so far is the real surprise. They looked dead in the water all season and now look like a team to contend for the Cup. Funny how the more things change, they completely rearrange themselves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

PH: Come June, which team will win the Cup? Why?
CW: I still say Chicago. They just have too much offense and defense that can overcome some shaky goaltending. I think Pittsburgh can come out of the East or Boston but neither can play Chicago for 7 games and come out victorious at least right now. Surely this could all change. All it takes is a few injuries and things can twist just like that. But as of this moment, Chicago has to be considered a favorite or at least co-favorite with Pittsburgh.

PH: Any words for Kukla’s Korner readers?
CW: Simply I just wanted to thank them for reading my mindless take on the sport of hockey and why I love it so much. Seriously I want to thank them for just reading what I have to say. I always enjoy the honor and respect the privilege of being able to convey my thoughts and have them read. The first rule is to respect and know your readers. The second rule is to keep them riveted. Hopefully this does at least one or both. Of course a big thanks goes out to Patrick…the man works harder than just about any. The readers should really appreciate what he does on a day in and day out basis.

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: chris+wassel, the+hockey+program

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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.