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My Night in the Box

As I had mentioned in a previous posting, a couple of weeks ago I requested and received press credentials from the Washington Capitals for the game last Friday night between the Caps and Hurricanes. Getting credentials is something that I had been very interested in, not just since I started blogging, but really ever since I was a teenager and used to carry around a cassette recorder to hockey games so that I could do demo play by play reports for friends. I guess you could say that at least for one night, I lived a dream.

When I initially contacted the Washington media folk, they were very friendly and gracious. They notified their counterparts in Carolina about my request, and the people from the Canes apparently had no objection, so I was in. I thanked both parties for their approval and started to prepare for the special event.

On Friday night I showed up at the designated entrance at the Verizon Center, presented my ID, and was given my badge along with the directions to the downstairs media room. When I arrived at the room, I signed in and was given a meal ticket. I wasn't very hungry so I skipped the meal, but noticed that it looked like they were serving wings, rice, salad, and cookies. I've been told that the Hurricanes serve the best pre-game meals. Maybe someday I will find out first hand!

There were three rooms in this area, an interview room, a cafeteria type of room where folk were eating, and a side room with some chairs and places for connecting to the internet. The Caps also offered some handouts, and I suddenly found out where sportswriters probably get their statistics from. These handouts contained anything that you ever wanted to know about the Caps and their players. There were pages and pages and pages of information. It was like a media guide on steroids! Being a stat junkie myself, I was in information heaven.

I introduced myself to various parties that I had been in contact with and then talked with a few other people briefly. The atmosphere was pretty quiet and professional, which is what I was expecting. Most people were either on the phone or were online, preparing information to provide for the game at hand. After a short while, we took the elevator upstairs to press row.

The Verizon Center is a beautiful, modern facility. When approaching the press area, there is a snack room and then afterwards down the hallway, 2 levels where journalists sit during the game. There were HD monitors above which were showing different feeds of the game while it was in progress. Each spot at the counter came with a name tag, so I found my designated area and got my laptop cranked up.

As I had posted before, I was sitting with other bloggers and we chit-chatted about a variety of things until the game started. It seemed that most of them had full-season passes while a few had partial season. During the game, there was no cheering or any loud behavior. Everything was professional and people were busy typing away or checking stats, or sharing notes. If I hadn't known their names ahead of time, I wouldn't have been able to tell the bloggers from the professional journalists. Everyone was working and keeping busy.

After each period, we were handed a sheet of paper with the stats for that period. More stats, I loved it! Toward the end of the game, most people started packing up their belongings to get a jump on everyone else going downstairs for interviews with the players. I was a little slow on the take at this point and was one of the last to leave press row. (as you can see from the picture I took while I was leaving).

Once I arrived outside the Hurricanes dressingroom, the first thing I noticed was that several players were already on the stationary bikes. It didn't seem very glamorous at that moment, watching those guys winding down after a tough game. I didn't see any joking or laughing. You would have never even known that they had won the game. Some players were packing up their equipment and getting ready to move on. Some were changing. It was all business like and matter of fact.

A small group had gathered around Peter Laviolette, so I got in close to hear the interview. In my opinion, the coach seemed much more personable and sincere in person, than he does on video. His personality doesn't seem to transcend well online. The Canesvision people were recording the interview, so perhaps it will eventually be on their site.

After that interview was over, Luke DeCock and a couple of other reporters went back inside the dressingroom for more interviews. I just observed and tried to stay out of the way. After a bit, I made my way over to the Capital's room and things were much more active there. I had missed Bruce Boudreau's interview though, so observed for a bit longer then made my way to the exit.

I'm afraid that I don't really have anything astonishing or terribly exciting to report. I primarily wanted to observe and not get in the way, since this was all new to me. There were some positives and some negatives that I took away from the experience but I'm certainly very happy and grateful that I had the opportunity to give it a try.

Overall, I really enjoyed the time and it is something that I certainly would like to do again. I doubt that I could handle the constant travel like the professionals do though. I was pretty beat just by going on this one trip. I can't imagine how gruling being on the road for a week or weeks at a time must be like. Perhaps I can manage a return visit next year, or better yet have an opportunity at the RBC. I promise to work harder next time!