Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 06/20/08 at 11:21 AM ET
Today is the opening of the NHL Entry Draft, and Erin Nicks and Patrick Williams are covering the event in Ottawa for Kukla’s Korner. Earlier this week we asked Erin a few questions about her life and love of hockey, and today it’s Patrick’s turn.
Patrick is the ideal journalist to cover the NHL’s draft weekend, given how much time he spends with and writing about the up-and-coming stars. His beat is the American Hockey League—writing for the likes of Slam! Sports and The Hockey News, among others—and so he’ll be seeing a lot of some of these draft picks in the coming years as they rise into the AHL and beyond.
Patrick, what is the main difference between working in the media in the NHL and AHL?
Everything in the NHL is a lot more tense, and the egos (and not simply those belonging to the players) are decidedly larger.
That is not to say that the AHL is not a serious environment. Far from it, in fact. But every moment in the NHL is tense, right down to the morning skate.
Will you confess to having a favourite NHL team?
I can’t say that I really have a favourite NHL team. A lot like Erin, there are certain players whom I like to see do well and prosper. When I was younger, I was a big fan of Craig Duncanson, a name that probably still makes older Los Angeles Kings fans wince.
Now most of them tend to be AHLers with whom I have spoken on a number of occasions. Steve Valiquette might be the brightest player in hockey, and if you want to hear somebody break down the art of goaltending, he is an invaluable resource (he also has a bunch of classic tales from his season in Russia).
Since I deal with coaches on a regular basis, I’ve developed a lot of favourites in that regard—guys like Claude Julien, Scott Gordon, John Stevens, John Anderson and so on.
What’s your perfect hockey job?
I think that owning a junior team would be a lot of a fun, and it would be a chance to view the hockey business from a very different angle. Owning a team in the Q in Mont Tremblant would be quite the gig. I would even kick in dough to build the arena.
Any embarrassing, humorous, horrid media moments to share?
I spent parts of three seasons around Michel Therrien while I did work in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Therrien most definitely brought an NHL-style persona to the AHL. Being around a personality like Therrien made every reporter a better reporter, and he kept everyone on their toes. Watching Therrien size up and then thrash a media member whose knowledge of the game he did not respect would make anyone wince.
What’s your worst travel story?
Several years ago I had had a Saturday night game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton followed by a game at Rochester the following evening. What was rain departing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton around 11 a.m. turned into snow around Syracuse, turning a trip that should be a little more than three hours into an ordeal lasting about six hours, and yours truly nearly skidded off an off-ramp just before reaching the hotel in Rochester. Snow and winter travel are the norm for a hockey writer and rarely an issue, but this storm was bad by any standard.
And your best travel story?
Touching down in Winnipeg one evening when the temperature hovered around -40C (do not bother trying to convert that into Fahrenheit—the temperatures are nearly the same). The wind chill was around -55C. I happen to like super-cold weather, and winter temperatures that actually make Winnipeggers take notice is surely memorable.
How about your ‘spookiest’ travel route?
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on the way to Norfolk, Va. is no treat. It is a very lengthy bridge (a good solid 20 minutes of driving) that essentially skirts the Atlantic Ocean. Crossing it at 2 a.m. when it is foggy and/or windy is not very enjoyable.
Can you tell me what you’ve enjoyed about attending the NHL Entry Draft in the past?
The NHL Entry Draft is the closest thing to a trade show or industry convention that the hockey world has to offer. It attracts people from every level of hockey and from all corners of the hockey globe. I enjoy the opportunity to chat with people from, say, the college hockey world, which is a place with which I am not very familiar. The chance to pick other hockey minds is always enjoyable.
Is Steve Stamkos really the “It” guy of the 2008 Draft, or do you like someone else?
I could hardly pick against Stamkos, who truly is the consensus pick. But Stamkos aside, Luke Schenn intrigues me. Then again, I have always had a soft spot for tough, reliable blueliners who have done their hockey apprenticeship in the WHL.
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