by Tony on 04/05/11 at 04:30 PM ET
Last year I posted a nice interview with former Penguins Director of Media Technology, Chris Devivo.
Well, it’s a year later and I wanted to interview another Penguins employee. This time it’s Sam Kasan, the Penguins’ Director of Content. Penguins fans hear from Sam all the time, they usually just don’t know it. Kasan’s duties require him to be on the Penguins’ traveling staff. He’s usually the man behind the Penguins’ Official Twitter feed, as well as publishing daily Penguins articles.
Let’s see what Sam has to say:
1. So what’s a typical gameday in the life of the Director of Content like?
My normal game day depends on if we are playing in Pittsburgh or on the road. If the game is at CONSOL Energy Center then I have a staff that is a tremendous asset to our coverage and helps me immensely. I try to get to the rink at 9 a.m. to set up for practice and kick off the Penguins Report (our daily blog for those not familiar). At 10:30 a.m. the team hits the ice for the morning skate and we track any lineup changes and other events. After practice we go into the locker room to get players’ and Coach Bylsma’s reactions to the game or any subject of note. Throughout the day we update the Penguins Report and tweet and facebook the biggest news items. Basically as soon as the media learns anything regarding the game we have it on our website and social media before every other media outlet.
About three hours before puck drop I start shifting focus to the night’s coverage on the website (wrap up the Penguins Report, set up the in-game blog and Aftermath, etc.).
During the game I tweet updates while coordinating with our staff on the postgame coverage. Following the game I write the Aftermath and direct the staff on their post-game duties (story angles to cover, players to interviews, questions to ask). Then we edit and post everything on the site as soon as possible. Sometimes we are in the office until well after midnight, which makes for a really long day.
Now if I’m on the road then I’m kind of on my own. We ride the team bus in the morning to practice. I take all the pictures and do all the flip camera interviews that get posted on the site, as well as the usual updates to the Penguins Report. After the morning skate we head back to the hotel where I grab a quick lunch and finish the morning posts.
We take an early bus back to the visiting rink and when we arrive I wrap up the Penguins Report and start setting up the night’s coverage. I still tweet during the road games, but instead of writing the Aftermath I write some type of sidebar story while also doing camera interviews. After the game we take the bus straight to airport and either head to the next road city or back to Pittsburgh (preferably, ha).
2. During road games I would imagine there would have to be a certain amount of professional courtesy when it comes to arena logistics, local press, etc. Without naming names, would it be fair to state that some teams are less, shall we say, cooperative, than others? After all, nearly all of those teams have to come to Pittsburgh some time, right?
I haven’t been to a visiting arena that wasn’t accommodating with our needs. Every team’s staff members do whatever they can to assist us and the other media outlets, but every arena is different and they all have different quirks in which you have to adapt. For instance, I know my cell phone signal isn’t going to work at RBC Center in Raleigh. Or that the Internet connection in Nassau Coliseum is stronger in the media level than in the locker room – so it’s best to post stuff from above. Or that the elevator in Buffalo takes forever, so you have to head to the locker room halfway through the third period. Or that the media level in New Jersey has no carpet so your chair is constantly rolling away from the tabletop. Every rink has its unique quirks and it keeps things interesting. Think about Mellon Arena.
3. Are you pretty much busy throughout game days, whether that is at home or on the road? How much “free time” to do normally get?
We basically spend the entire day at the arena on games days. But there are about two to three hours between the morning skate coverage and game coverage that we have some down time. If we are at home I sometimes play in the afternoon staff scrimmage at CONSOL Energy Center. If I don’t play in the games I’ll probably head somewhere for lunch just to get away from the arena since we spend the whole day there. But usually there are various other projects that we work on during that time, whether it be a story we are working on in advance or even the postseason media guide. There is always something to do to fill the time.
When we are on the road we always take the bus back to the hotel after the morning skate. I finish my morning coverage and then grab a quick lunch. If I’m lucky and have enough time I try to squeeze in a workout before we have to bus back to the rink. But there really isn’t a lot of free time on the road on a game day.
4. The Penguins certainly have a bunch of zany characters. You’ve gotta have a funny story or two that you can share with us minions.
We have great characters on our team and they definitely like to keep things loose around the locker room. Unfortunately I have been caught in the crosshairs of a few pranks and jokes.
A few things come to mind (only a few of which I can share haha). I was standing in front of Talbot’s locker while interviewing Crosby one day (their lockers are next to each other). Talbot couldn’t get to his locker to take off his gear. But that didn’t stop him from taking off his sweaty, nasty helmet and sneakily sliding it onto my unsuspecting head.
There was a time when I fell asleep on the team plane and woke up with black fingernails. I later discovered that Fleury had some fun with a sharpie.
One favorite memory of mine was when we were all out for a team dinner. There was a chess set in one of the rooms and I moved a piece jokingly. Then Pascal Dupuis moved a piece on the other side. So I countered and the next thing you know the two of us were locked into an intense game that last about an hour. To make matters worse, the whole team gathered around us and were “commenting” on our every move – Malkin was particularly vocal and hilarious. We both were really nervous and felt the pressure. I (and everyone else) thought I had won the match until Godard pointed out a block move. That was my downfall as Dupuis beat me a few moves later. I still haven’t forgiven Godsy for that haha.
5. One thing I’ve always admired about Sidney Crosby is his demeanor during the constant barrage of press scrums. With the exception of his recent absence due to his concussion, are there times when your staff has to curtail his media availability?
Actually, no. When he’s healthy Crosby rarely gets a “day off” with the media. The burden that Crosby shoulders is absolutely unbelievable. There isn’t a day that goes by (when he’s healthy) that he doesn’t talk to the media. On game days he speaks twice (after the morning skate and after the game). No matter what happens in the game (whether it’s a 8-1 win or 8-1 loss), Crosby sits waiting in his locker stall for the media to enter the room.
Sid has the maturity and perspective of someone well beyond his years. He’s never overwhelmed and willingly accepts it as part of the role and responsibilities of being the team captain and face of the franchise. Even more impressive is that he’s always cool under the pressure. It’s not an easy thing to do having to talk to us media every day, particularly after a tough loss, but Crosby handles every question with class and professionalism.
6. People like yourself, Tom McMillan, Katie O’Malley and Chris Devivo have been extremely helpful and gracious to us lowly bloggers over the past couple of years, whether that’s been with arena tours in its early stages or with press credentials to several games this inaugural season. As we head into Consol Energy Center’s first playoff round, do you feel your staff is ready to accommodate the extra requirements that come with NHL Playoff hockey?
It goes without saying that CONSOL Energy Center is a major, major improvement over Civic Arena. The fans only see one aspect of the new building. For the staff, everything in the place is a huge upgrade from the facility to offices, and for the communication department in particular, the media level and media workroom are state of the art.
One of the biggest upgrades has been going from the Civic Arena press box to the CONSOL Energy Center media level. You’ve been a guest for a few games so you know firsthand how extraordinary the media level is. There were a lot of issues seating media at Civic Arena just because the number of seats were so limited. But now we have a lot more room – so we will be much more accommodating and functional for media for years to come.
7. Last question. I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Kasan (kidding, of course). You incorporate music videos into your gameday articles, and yes, the Penguins’ fanbase is a relatively young one. But where’s the love for us oldtimers? No Van Halen (Roth-era only, of course)? No AC/DC? No Aerosmith? No Led Zeppelin? Come on Sam, show these youngsters how the big boys did it.
Haha. Well I did play AC/DC’s “Back in Black” when we traded for Kovalev. And I played the Foo Fighters covering “Stairway to Heaven.” Doesn’t that count for something?
I was born in a younger era of music. I try to keep an eclectic mix of sound for the Penguins Report, but all the music is stuff I listen to and tends to be more popular with the younger crowd. And the majority of our fans and website visitors are the younger demographic, so yes in a way I am catering to the audience.
I know that most people are reading the Penguins Report for hockey info and updates on the team, but the song just adds a little entertainment and spice to the day. I’ve actually been really surprised by the response from the fans. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments, recommendations and requests. Even members of the media have approached me about songs.
There are times when I’ve posted a song that had a personal, special meaning to me. And to have other people tell me they felt the same way or that it reminded them of time period in their lives shows the universal power of music. I believe a song is the best way to capture the emotions of a moment. It’s truly dynamic the way one three-minute can conjure up those emotions.
This may break your heart, but I’m not a Van Halen fan (of any era, sorry!) I think David Lee Roth left the band before I was even born! [Tony’s note: This may break our friendship, Sam.] Maybe you can convert me to become a fan. I was raised more on the Nirvanas, Weezers, Radioheads, Green Days and Bad Religions from the mid and late-90s. Those were the bands and genres that influenced my musical tastes.
Maybe next season I’ll dedicate an entire week to “oldtimers’” music and you can pick the songs. Deal? [Tony’s note: I’m gonna hold you to that.]
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