Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

An E-mail Interview with a Rangers’ Blogger Who deserves More Readers

Alexander Scharf is a New York Rangers’ blogger for MyHockeyBuzz.com, a separate section on the HockeyBuzz.com web site that is used to supplement what the main team bloggers cover.

With that said, Alexander is someone who knows the Blueshirts inside and out, works hard at improving his craft on a daily basis and someone who could have bright future in journalism.

Alexander was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he became a blogger as well as his thoughts on this year’s version of the Rangers.

PH: How did you get into hockey?
AS: My dad was a big Islanders fan growing up in the 70s and 80s when they had really strong teams and that dynastic run. He was always very enthusiastic about hockey when I was a kid. So he was my primary influence in getting into the sport.

I grew up in Manhattan, so we generally went to games in MSG, starting when I was 6 or 7 years old, and I ended up rooting for the Rangers as a result. I also played a lot of street hockey as a kid; I went to a summer camp where that was the main sport we played. I love the game, there is no other sport like it, and although I am a fan of other sports, hockey was always my favorite by far.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player?
AS: Interestingly enough, I started out an Islanders fan. My dad has a picture of me at age 3 in an ice skating rink wearing Islanders gear, which is very embarrassing for me. It is locked up in a safe somewhere so I can’t destroy it.

But living so close to the Garden, I became a Rangers fan by the time I was old enough to really root for a team. I also liked the Penguins for some reason, I think I liked the jerseys. Favorite players were Leetch, Richter, and Graves from the Rangers. I don’t remember a lot of great players on the team when I was a kid, so those three players stood out. Jeff Beukeboom was also a favorite, I loved when the fans cheered Booooook! for him. I also liked Mario Lemieux, Darrien Hatcher, and Darius Kasparitis as part of the Penguins fandom I had.

PH: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to get involved in hockey as a writer/blogger?
AS: I was never really into writing until I took a creative writing class in 10th grade. The teacher was great and I learned a lot about it, not just in the technical sense but in theory and self-expression.

Eventually, I found that I enjoyed writing as an outlet to express myself. I was never a great verbal communicator as a kid, I guess you could say I was nerdy. This was a less intense environment to communicate in than a face-to-face conversation, and I was really good at it. The obvious next step was to combine my passion for writing with my passion for hockey.

When I started writing for MyHockeybuzz, I received a lot of positive feedback, especially considering that I was only 15 or 16 at the time. That was a big motivator for me to continue to pursue hockey writing.

PH: What is it like blogging for MyHockeyBuzz.com?
AS: Blogging for MyHockeybuzz is really a unique experience because it provides an opportunity for anybody and everybody to write for a hockey website that gets a lot of traffic. Otherwise, it is very difficult for a startup hockey writer, like myself, to get a lot of exposure right away. The fans who visit the site are very knowledgeable and passionate for the most part, so it is nice to write for people who will appreciate it.

There are some negatives. One of the most important things to me is reader feedback, but the comment section for the site is poor. It is also impossible to tell how many people read the articles, and it is difficult to guess because they do not get a prominent spot on the main website of Hockeybuzz.com. I write so that others will read and at times it is frustrating not knowing if people are actually reading.

Overall, though, I feel this is the best place for me to write, and hopefully if I keep at it, I will get to write for the main website.

PH: What do you try to bring readers on a daily basis?
AS: I want people to think for themselves. My goal is to bring up topics of discussion that you might not have though about, and that you might not agree with. Anybody can write a game recap. I try to dig deeper, maybe challenge the consensus opinion.

Most of my articles have been in the form of a single argument, backed up with anything I can find to prove my point of view. I am not always right, but what matters is that I could be, that there is an issue here to talk about.

Recently, I have been writing a weekly “quick hits”  blog, also with the same idea of getting the readers to think. The arguments I make are usually one paragraph long, so the thoughts are not as fully developed, but it allows me to cover a lot of topics and create some more open-ended topics of discussion. They are really designed to be commented on, and it is a shame that is hard to do on MyHockeybuzz.

But what I really want to see and hear is people agreeing or disagreeing, and why. If I could find out every reader’s opinion on what I write about and talk about it, it would be the best thing in the world for me. That is what hockey discussion is all about.

PH: What are your hopes/dreams when it comes to your hockey writing/blogging career?
AS: It is hard to say what my hopes and dreams in this industry, if you will, really are.

It seems like the web is crowded with so many bloggers that getting a really big audience requires you to be unique, interesting, and committed. I don’t see myself ever pursuing this as a full-time endeavor.

For me, it is just two of my passions, writing and hockey, coming together. So if you asked me what I want from this in the future, it is not money or fame or anything tangible like that. I just want to talk hockey. The more people who read, and the more people who discuss the issues, the better.

PH: What do you think of the Rangers’ play thus far this season? What can the team do to improve going forward?
AS: The Rangers have struggled, no doubt about it. I do feel good about the rest of the season because of the way they have struggled.

The defense is an issue, but Sauer is going to be back. You never know with concussions, but the hope is that Marc Staal will be able to return at some point this season. That’s a huge upgrade, replacing any of the Rangers bottom four defenseman with those two guys. When that happens, the team as a whole goes from above average to very good, especially with Lundqvist playing the way he is. It will be really tough to score on that back end.

As far as offense is concerned, there are a few reasons they are not scoring. Sitting in the box for 15 minutes a game does not help, but they can clean that up. The top line is playing well, which was a major issue last year, so it is nice to see an improvement in that area. Marian Gaborik seems primed for a big season. If it seems like they could be scoring more, that is because they seem to be missing by marginal amounts. The pass is off a few inches, the shot is wide by a bit, etc. But the creativity and the opportunities are there. The precision will get better with time. So overall, the Rangers are struggling because they aren’t healthy and they have things to clean up a bit. That will come with time.

The biggest concern I have is the identity of the bottom 12 forwards. Brad Richards alone does not make the Rangers an overly talented team. They have had success in the past by being a physical, tough, grinding team, and that needs to continue for the success to continue. That is how the secondary scoring is going to come, even though the primary scoring is now coming with more finesse. Guys like Dubinsky and Callahan need to recognize that and adjust, and I think that struggle will be the story of the season, and what makes or breaks this team.

But to this point, it has been 7 games, so I am not concerned much about anything at this point. It is a long season, and this is the most talented team I remember for this club, so the future is bright.

PH: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with Kukla’s Korner readers?
AS: This is going to look like a shameless plug, but seriously, check out my blogs. See if you enjoy reading them. I don’t want to force feed anyone my material; that is counter the entire reason I write. But take a look. Obviously, if you are reading this you like to read, discuss and think about hockey. I try to be thought provoking, and you may just find something to pique your interest.

I also want to ask one thing from all the Rangers fans reading this: please hold back the panic. It is so easy for fans of this team to become discouraged; that is basically the story of our fandom. But things are different now, and they will turn around. 82 games is a long season with a lot of highs and a lot of lows. Keep those highs really high, but those lows not so low. At the end of the day, this is a good team, and that is the most you can ask for. Hopefully in the near future our waiting gets rewarded.

Finally, I want to thank Patrick for his support and doing this interview. He was there on Hockeybuzz when I entered the writing scene, and he was a big influence and motivator in pursuing this hobby, especially because I saw how successful he was as a writer. Keep up the good work.

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: alexander+scharf, myhockeybuzz.com, new+york+rangers

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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.