If you have ever read anything in the print media about the Carolina Hurricanes over the past several years, it's very a good chance that some of it was written by Luke DeCock. Not only is Luke the lead Hurricanes "beat writer" for the News and Observer, he is also a correspondent for The Hockey News and the Sporting News. Personally, the most enjoyable writing that I have seen this season by Luke has been in Lord Stanley's Blog, which he contributes heavily to. It appears that the blog is about to get an extreme makeover, including a name change. I bet that Caniacs are going to love it!
Obviously, we greatly appreciate that Luke took the time to answer our questions. We wish him the best of luck in the future and hope that he continues his outstanding work covering the Hurricanes. If you have any comments or questions, as always feel free to leave them after the interview.
1. When did you start covering the Canes for the News and Observer and what did you do previously to that?
I joined the N&O in the fall of 2000, two games into the 2000-01 season. Before that, I covered Colorado College hockey for the Colorado Springs Gazette (as well as the Avalanche, Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets, Air Force basketball and a whole mess of other stuff).
2. What is your favorite part of the job? Your least favorite?
I enjoy the writing, the craft and the storytelling. That's why I got into this business. To do this job right, it's not about being a sports fan, it's about being a writer. That's what I tell college and high-school students who say, "I love watching games and I want to be a sportswriter!" Buy a ticket. This is a fun job, but it's still a job and you have to love the "writer" part of it, not the "sports" part of it. I'd just rather write about hockey (or football or horse racing or whatever) than the city council.
Most people couldn't handle the travel, but I (usually) enjoy it. But my least favorite part of the job is the grind. There are few days off during the NHL season, there always seems to be a morning flight looming and the games just keep on coming.
3. Who is/was your favorite player to interview? Have you ever had a difficult player to interview and can you reveal who it was?
I've been lucky to deal with a number of thoughtful, affable players on this beat. While I'm certain to leave someone out, Martin Gelinas, Jeff Daniels and Kevyn Adams come to mind as players who are also great people. Jeff O'Neill could and Erik Cole and Ray Whitney can almost always be counted upon to say something interesting or controversial.
Special mention here to Martin Brodeur, who I believe is not only the NHL's best interview but also spawned a whole generation of goalies who are willing to talk on game-day mornings.
I've never really enjoyed talking to Mark Messier, but most players are reasonably cooperative to the degree that can be expected. Cory Stillman can be tough to track down sometimes, but he's invariably thoughtful when you are able to grab him. (Ironically enough, he loves doing sports radio.)
More often, the problems occur when a player says something he shouldn't and then tries to blame the writer, as was the case with a former Hurricanes goalie.
4. In your opinion what could the NHL do in general, and the Hurricanes do in particular, to increase interest in the sport?
I've been on the record that the NHL does a poor job marketing its players and that so much of its advertising is cliched and hackneyed. That aside, getting back on ESPN has to be goal No. 1. The Versus TV deal, at this point, is an unmitigated disaster. I suspect, in his less guarded moments, even Gary Bettman would admit as much.
5. The NHLPA just elected a new president. How do you think that the union can better serve the players?
One, it can serve the players because you could argue that wasn't the case under Ted Saskin. Two, the union may not have a seat at the table but it can use leverage to force changes in marketing and the direction of the league, such as the TV deal (this was the subject of my Sunday column on Oct. 28).
6. If you could make one rule change in the NHL, what would it be and why?
Mandatory visors for players entering the league.
7. A few teams around the league are embracing fan bloggers and giving them press credentials to cover their respective teams. What is your opinion about this, and how do you think NHL teams should handle fan bloggers who ask for press credentials?
In principle, I support the credentialing of bloggers but only if they can meet the established standards of professionalism that adhere to anyone else in the press box. This is my job and my office. I don't want people cheering, wearing Hurricanes gear and looking over my shoulder any more than you want me doing the same in your office while you try to sell software. Unfortunately, the experience so far in the NHL to the extent I've seen it is that few bloggers meet that standard. I would encourage the blogging community to institute some self-policing, because it only takes a few bad apples to spoil it for those who understand, acknowledge and meet the guidelines of professional journalists.
8. Not only do you cover the Canes for the News and Observer, you are also the Hurricanes correspondent for The Hockey News. Do you write for other publications as well and what are they?
I write the Southeast Division preview for the Sporting News yearbook. That (along with the Hockey News) is the extent of my freelance activity.
9. Have you written or considered writing a book and if so, what would it be about?
I wrote a series of children's books on sports, along with my N&O colleague Joe Giglio. Former N&O Hurricanes beat writer Steve Politi and I came up with a book proposal about the Hurricanes after the 2006 Cup run but there wasn't much interest when we shopped it around.
10. It seems that your writing on Lord Stanley's Blog has taken a turn from being mostly "matter of fact" in past years to being more opinionated, critical, and humorous this season. Has that change been a natural process or have you intentionally attempted to give the blog more of a "human touch" this year? Do you dislike or prefer writing on the blog more so than writing formal articles, and why?
We've made a concerted effort to put more material on the blog. To a certain extent, that's by necessity including more unfiltered commentary, so to speak. We're hoping to increase the amount of audio and video available as well, akin to "ACC Now", our signature sports blog. Look for big changes (including the name, but that's all I'm saying) later this season.