Friday, January 18, 2013

Media Guide to Interviewing a Hockey Player

Why hello, fellow sports media-ite. How are you doing? That Te'o stuff was pretty crazy, right? And Armstrong? Don't even get me started, or else you'll have 3000 words on your desk by sunrise!

But now that all that is done and the NFL is drawing to a conclusion, we're all going to have to confront the scary elephant in the room: the return of the NHL. Now I know most of you aren't too familiar with hockey and are even a bit intimidated by the mystical being, but, fear not, for I am here to help aid you through this difficult time.

Chances are most of you will not have to worry about this silly league. You may have to post a box score here and there (people still do that, right?). You may even have to attend a game and comment on how cold it was! If you're one of the lucky ones, you'll only have to mention the NHL in passing (if this is the case, may I suggest a never-not-hilarious line like "I didn't even KNOW the NHL was back!"). But, God forbid, the hockey team in your region may have a good season. If this is the case, you could very well be one of the unfortunate souls that have to cover this "sport." (see what I did there *winky face*, oh I could just type a winky face. Actually, I like this better. This must be what they mean by "alternative" comedy.) The unluckiest of them all will have to...interview a player.

Now, I know many of you believe hockey players are a strange, crooked-faced beings (and a lot of them are, LOL!), but I'm here to provide a course to interviewing the shadowy figure that is an NHL player.

Tip one: Lead with your knowledge of the game. 

Obviously this is tough, since no one outside of Canada knows anything about hockey, but there is hope. There are the three universal things that everyone knows about hockey: hockey players are tough, hockey players are unusually nice (it's creepy, if you ask me!), and other people say hockey is much more exciting in person (I'm skeptical. I've never been to a game, but if I can't see the puck on TV, how am I going to see it in person?).

Leading with knowledge of the game will tame the foreign beast. He will accept you as one of his own and maybe even invite you to a game (IMPORTANT: come with an excuse already in mind). Failure to display proper knowledge of the game may result in angering the Poutine-eating mongrel and will almost always result in violence.

Suggested questions: Why are hockey players so nice? Why are hockey players so tough? (follow up: how many teeth have you lost? - both hilarious and informative!) What makes hockey so exciting in person?*

*This question is particularly ingenious. While it seems like you're complimenting the sport -- therefore appeasing the "abominable snow man" (trademarked, don't use it) -- you're actually allowing your true condescension of the sport leak through the suggestion that hockey is so boring on TV! But don't worry, the hoser won't notice!

Tip two: Be overly nice.

As mentioned before, angering a hockey player can quickly turn into a violent crime scene. To avoid this, make sure you are overly complimentary about everything: his clothes, his speech, his youth, and even (and I know this is going to be tough for some of you) his sport. He doesn't need to know about the sarcastic, scathing article you wrote on the irrelevancy of the hockey lockout three weeks ago (great job, by the way!). If he's foreign (almost a certainty), make sure you compliment his accent. If he's American (yeah right!), make sure you make a comment on his slight Canadian accent (ALWAYS FUNNY!).

Suggested questions: (if foreign) How did you learn English so quickly? (if American) What's your accent all a-boot? (again, the hockey player will not be able to detect your clever, xenophobic remark)

Tip three: Lie through your teeth.

Even if you know more about hockey than the average Joe, your knowledge will only get you so far. So much about hockey is unknown to literally EVERY single person with an American birth certificate. Soon, you'll run out of questions and realize you've only been interviewing for two minutes.

Eventually, you'll be a little flustered, but don't worry, the lies will just naturally flow out of you! Pretend you've been on the hockey bandwagon since the beginning. Tell them how excited their playoff run is making you and the entire city! Who cares? We don't believe Canada has developed technology to access any articles you've written in the past, so don't worry if you've written anything particularly disparaging lately.

Suggested questions/comments: I've been trying to bring hockey to *city* since I moved here, but why aren't others grasping the excitement that is hockey? I really think the *insert hockey team name* are going to be the new *insert NFL team* in this city! (try REALLY hard not to laugh)

Tip four: Get information!

You've been given the rare opportunity to cover hockey, may as well try and learn something about the mysterious game. You can guarantee your audience knows almost nothing about the game, so no question is stupid. That being said, try and figure out some of the true mysteries of the game. Really dig deep and try to ask questions that get at the true intricacies of the game.

Suggested questions: What IS icing? Is it hard to jump over the boards during a change? I can barely stand up on ice skates, how do you even move in those things? Does it get lonely in the penalty box?

I know this is a tough time for sports writers. We tried to time the Te'o thing perfectly to make the NHL's return as irrelevant as possible, but, in the end, hockey still technically exists and that's an unfortunate reality we all have to face. Hopefully this guide will help you write the one, page-nine article you may have to write this season. Even if it doesn't, I'm sure no one will notice. It's a good thing they had a shortened season this year, am I right? Anyway, keep your head up, we're only a couple months away from a real sporting event: the NFL combine!

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