Yesterday, we ran the first half of my interview with Denver Post writer Adrian Dater. Adrian has been covering the Avalanche since they arrived in Denver (a topic touched on in his book on the Avalanche - Red Wing rivalry called Blood Feud), and yesterday's questions dealt mostly with a general overview of what it it's like to be a beat writer in the NHL. Today, we focus a bit more on what it's like to cover the Colorado Avalanche. Whether it's in the Post, or his blog or his twitter feed, if there is news about the Avalanche, you're probably hearing it first from Adrian.
Other than the 2 Stanley Cups, is there an Avalanche game or event you’ve covered that stands out the most to you?
Oh yeah, lots. I'll just do a little stream of consciousness here:
- First preseason game ever, on the road in Cornwall Ontario, 1995.
Canadiens-Avs, in some little rink. It was all a blur.
- That same preseason trip, we're at the hotel checking in, and Owen Nolan asked to change some American money to Canadian, and he had what seemed like 40 one-hundred dollar bills in his hand. I started thinking this was a little bit bigger time than my previous assignments not too long ago, things like girls high school swimming.
- When Ray Bourque was traded to the Avs, it was the first true time we reporters would caught completely blindsided. We were in Calgary, and I was having dinner with Rick Sadowski from the Rocky Mountain News. I'm a vicious competitor and regarded the News as the Devil, but Rick was just too nice a guy to not get a long with, so we'd hang out on occasion - usually teasing each other all the time about "did you just hear that?" about some bogus news scoop we'd just had over the other. We sampled some of the Albertan vino at dinner too, and walking back to the hotel up the street, we suddenly saw some cameras, one of which was in Peter McNab's face. We asked, maybe a little slurringly, what was going on and the Avs PR guy said they'd just gotten Ray Bourque. I laughed and said "good one" and then was handed a sheet on Avs letterhead that spelled it all out. I never sobered up so fast. I had a story cranked out in less than an hour, with quotes from a couple of his old teammates from around the league.
Most of the other trades, while it was always fashionable to say that the media had no idea they were coming, the fact is we all had stories hinting at it. The Roy trade, the Blake trade, even the Fleury trade - I had stories all on three saying it was a possibility they'd come.
But not on Bourque, and certainly not on the night of the deal.
- I remember the Peter Forsberg, six-point night in Florida in 1999.
It was even better because Theo Fleury was sitting right next to me and just giving it to the Panther fans who had been giving it to him when it was 5-0 Panthers earlier. I remember Bob Hartley calling him "Mr. Forsberg" the rest of the night.
- I remember sitting at Reunion Arena in Dallas in Game 7 of the 2000 Western finals and thinking, Bourque is going to send this game to OT and the Avs will definitely win this game. But Bourque's shot hit the post in the final seconds, with Adam Deadmarsh not quite being able to redirect it past Ed Belfour himself, and I couldn't believe they lost a second straight seven-game series to that Stars team with the terrible ice, clownish PA man and fans who didn't know a wrist shot from a wrist watch.
- I used to fly with the team at times in the early days, so I remember the nonstop card games always going on. Really, that's all that happens on those flights - cards, crossword puzzles and video games. That's it. The coaches played too, and I still remember the entire plane busting out laughing when Joel Quenneville threw his cards to the ceiling after his partner in a game - Marc Crawford - didn't play the hand right. Q was mad as hell at Crawford, but everybody just laughed.
- I sure as heck remember being in Sweden with the team for training camp in 2001, when 9/11 happened on our third day there, then three days after that Peter Forsberg said he was taking a leave of absence from the team. One major story for the world and one major story on my beat all in three days, all thousands of miles away in a strange land.
It's all kind of a blur to me now. All I best remember is everybody just wanting to go home.
As a beat writer, I know you are often privy to stuff behind the scenes that may not end up in print. How do you decide what to report and what to pass on?
Common sense I guess. Let's say I see a guy who's married, on the road, looking a little friendly with another woman. Do I report that? Well, of course not. First off, it's not news, and second I could care less about that kind of stuff. I've always told players when it comes to anything that happens away from the hockey rink: "Unless it ends up in the police blotter and then I HAVE to write what happened, I could absolutely care less about anything I might inadvertently see on the road and would never, ever write anything. If it becomes a matter of public record, however, then my job means I'll have to mention it somewhere. Bottom line: stay out of trouble, but even if I saw what some others might classify as "trouble", all you'd get from me is a "I didn't see nuthin' as long as it was confined to what it was, and out of the legal system." In that sense, there's an unspoken honor code in a way. Break it at your own peril as a reporter. And, many reporters have their own messy lives - including mine at times over the years - and I know I wouldn't have wanted any of it in the paper at the time.
So, I keep that same point of view when it comes to pro athletes or any human being really.
The Avalanche have a reputation as being a tight-lipped organization. It seems they are making an effort to loosen the reigns a bit in this area. Do you concur with that? And how do you think they compare with
other NHL teams?
Maybe a little. Listen, the Avs take a lot of heat at times, especially from guys like me, but they also do a professional job with that they do. They don't tell the media much, but they almost never out and out try to deceive them. Some teams do. Pierre Lacroix was just always very, very secretive in his dealings, and that philosophy has carried forward. Yes, it created plenty of tension at times over the years, and Lacroix and me and others at the Post have had some very loud conversations about it all. But Pierre has mellowed some, obviously partly because he's not the GM anymore. I have a cordial relationship with him and have always respected him. Didn't always like him, nor him me, but respected him and I hope he has with me too.
Other teams are usually more "open" to the media, but that doesn't mean they always tell them a whole lot. Usually when the Avs want to say something to the media, it's for something pretty big and they do a good job of getting everybody what they need after, say, a big trade or whatnot. Some teams are actually worse with the media it seems, but it's up to the media in those cities to show they won't take it. One thing I learned early on in this business: if you let them, you'll get bullied around. You have to stand up to the bully after a while and things surprisingly go a lot smoother after that.
If my math is right, there have been 174 different players to wear an Avalanche uniform up to and including Darren Haydar, and you’ve covered them all. Did you have any favorite players? Are you particularly close to any former Avs today?
That's great you had the number like that. That really is something when you think about it. So many players, with so many stories to them. Obviously, some created a lot more than others.
I'd start with an obvious choice to many probably, with Joe Sakic. I've only had my picture taken with one player all these years, and it was with No. 19 on his retirement day. I guess "friend" would be the term I'd use with him now. No, I don't go over to his house and eat dinner and socialize in that way, but anytime I see him there's always a warm mutual hello and a catching up on our lives and families. Avs fans obviously know what a class act he was and still is, and all I could do is tell you it was all genuine with him.
I also have become fairly tight with Claude Lemieux over the years. We had a tough year or two after some stories in the '97 season came out, but time heals old wounds all right. Anytime I see an "Original" Av, I always feel a kind of kinship with. After all, we all were starting something new together - they with a new team and city and me with a brand new career covering all of it. I also feel I can call guys like Shjon Podein and Dave Reid at any time and talk, and Curtis Leschyshyn is another favorite. We're twitter followers, and you should follow him too: cleschyshyn.
It seems like players today are more polished when it comes to dealing with the media, especially the youngsters. Guys like Duchene, O’Reilly and Galiardi already seem really composed when it comes to handling journalists. Do you agree that there’s been a change over the years in this area?
I've heard that a lot, but I don't know if it's changed all that much. To me, the young rookies still are pretty shy and say pretty much the same things then as they do now. "Just tryin' to earn a spot on the team, know I gotta work hard and nothing's gonna come easy for me" are pretty much all Ryan O'Reilly said prior to camp, just like a guy like Stephane Yelle did back in the '95 Avs camp.
Duchene is a little different case, because he's just so smart for his age too. He's verbal and knows how to put a sentence together, so he's a little more of an advanced situation. But yeah, there also is more media "training" for players maybe now. But mostly it comes down to "don't say anything that'll get you in trouble." But most hockey players have never had that problem.
It seems like you’ve really increased your presence on the blog in the last few years. Was that a conscious effort on your part, or something that has just come about naturally?
Well, glad you asked that question too, because it gives me a chance to brag a bit and sound very self important. The blog All Things Avs has been considered a "success" at the paper, perhaps a big one, I'm not quite sure of the level.
I enjoy to blog because basically I enjoy to write, and I love to write my opinion too. So, voila, a blog where I can write as long as I want, in the style I want, was pretty much a natural to a type of newspaper guy like me. Yes, the blog has gotten me in trouble a couple times, and by now it's old news and we've all "moved on" to borrow a favorite athlete cliche, but overall it's been a pretty good traffic driver. On a normal day, one or two entries will now usually get between 5-10 thousands hits overall. Of course, that number still seems pretty wimpy to me, because I'm never happy with much of anything I do. I mean, Bill Simmons could probably literally just fart into his keyboard and it would quintuple my traffic in one hour. So, there is always someone bigger, the lesson continues.
But I'm happy with the blog now and I keep thinking about ways to make it more interesting. The video additions this year were obviously a big hit with a lot of fans, although, yes, I know my interviewing technique often blows. Most of my better questions still seem to be when the camera's off. I'm workin' on it. I'm also starting to post more links, including a few I've done for this little old blog of yours here. You'll start to see a much bigger emphasis at the Post on sports blogs very soon, and mine was supposedly used as the guinea pig example for others to learn from.
So, I have Avs fans to thank for that. And that includes YOU, David, Keene resident. I mean, I still can't believe that one of the biggest, if not biggest, Avs blog has a guy from KEENE NEW HAMPSHIRE, the TINY little N.H. town I partly grew up and later went to college. WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT?
I want to thank Adrian for taking the time to provide such thorough answers. This was my first attempt at an interview and I really enjoyed it. I hope the Mile High readers enjoyed it as well!