I couldn’t believe it. In just a couple of minutes, I was about to walk into the arena where the best team in the NHL resided.
Sure, I had been inside the Tank before, but never through the media entrance. The moment I stepped into the building, I knew that this was special. Not only was I out of the freezing cold, but I was also given a media pass that could get me places where I had never gone before.
This opportunity would never have been given to me had it not been for the San Jose Sharks, owners of the best record in the NHL.
Sharks Fan Development Coordinator Jeff Cafuir, started this program, High School Writers Day, a few years back in an effort to give back to the community. As a result, I was given a chance to experience the life of a professional sports journalist in all of five hours.
The night began with an exceptional dinner in the pressroom surrounded by many other professional sports journalists either covering the Sharks or the visiting Columbus BlueJackets.
After dinner, Cafuir led us through the maze of business offices on the bottom floor of the Tank. It was amazing really. Had I not known that I was in the Tank, I would’ve thought that we were in any old business, except for the Sharks decor that almost every cubicle sported.
Finally past the business offices, we walked into a room where we were informed that we were about to speak with former Shark beat writer and current Yahoo sportswriter, Ross McKeon.
McKeon was quite frank with us in saying that, “even though Internet changes, journalism itself does not.”
Having worked for the newspaper for 31 years, and Yahoo for the past fourteen months, McKeon is most definitely experienced in his field, and eagerly explained to us the ups and downs of journalism.
In order to get to the top of the ladder, McKeon explained, journalists must “show integrity, stay fair, and quote accurately.”
McKeon really opened my eyes to the field of journalism. I always imagined it as the carefree job, where a writer could just write to his heart’s content, while interviewing the next NHL Hall of Famers.
The biggest requirement, however, was not based on skill. McKeon told us that as potential future journalists, we need to retain a passion for the sport and telling stories about it, and that we need to know the sport inside out. That passion, I already have.
After speaking with Ross McKeon, we were in for another surprise when we had the privilege of meeting Sharks GM Doug Wilson. To me, meeting Doug Wilson was like a dream come true.
After watching the Sharks do so well over the past few years, I was now talking to the mastermind behind all the magic. As Wilson eagerly answered our questions about anything in general, I learned a great many things about the life of a typical hockey player, and how hard it is to be in his position.
I also learned how hard it is to deal with the pressure of being a General Manager for a team as good as the Sharks.
McKeon and Wilson, along with Cafuir himself, also informed me of the rules of the press box, where I was soon to be watching the game in. Apparently, we were not allowed to cheer for the Sharks, even after a big goal. Wilson actually made that mistake once, and never appeared in the press box again.
After the heart-to-heart talks with McKeon and Wilson, Cafuir led us, once again, through the maze of business offices and through an elevator in order to reach the press box. Even from the highest point at the Shark Tank, I still felt the intensity of the crowd.
But as I looked down at the Shark faithful, I gulped in realization that the fall from the rafters to the crowd would be at least fifty feet. A not so very comforting distance. Yikes.
Fortunately, I overcame the thought of a drop of death, and settled down to see the beginning of the game, on our own side of the press box, virtually isolated from anything else. It was simply amazing.
Put simply, the game was great. There is one difference between watching the game on TV or listening to Dan Rusanowsky on the radio or actually watching the game from the Tank itself. The fans. The rafters actually shook every time a player scored a goal, whether it was Patrick Marleau, Jeremy Roenick, or Joe Thornton.
However, the best part wasn’t seeing Evgeni Nabokov make jaw-dropping saves every couple of seconds. It also wasn’t the big hits that Doug Murray applied on a helpless BlueJacket team. No, it wasn’t the fact that the Sharks won the game; they could have done that at any time.
The best part of this whole overall experience was talking to the players after the game.
As the most wonderful dessert to cap our night, we high school writers were granted the opportunity to speak with Sharks defensemen Dan Boyle and Doug Murray, in addition to being able to listen in on Sharks Coach Todd McLellan’s post game interview.
Boyle himself said that this team was much better than any other team he has been on, which includes the 2004 Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning. That really says something, as all of us are looking forward to a Stanley Cup Champion Sharks team in the near future.
Writers’ Day is definitely a night that I will always remember. Growing up in San Jose, a city where hockey was never even heard of before the Sharks came to town, I will always remember my hometown roots. And as the Sharks continue their quest to begin their dynasty, I will continue my quest to proceed with mine.