This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but due to Internet problems it’ll be the first of two today…later on this evening I’ll be doing the first part of my EIHL preview with a team-by-team look at the Erhardt (Southern) Conference.
First of all though…
Tuesday was the official Coventry Blaze media day. Now, those of you envisioning a packed room of journalists shouting questions at a bunch of hockey players are going to be disappointed. British hockey simply isn’t popular enough for that.
A British hockey media day is a strange experience. The atmosphere resembles nothing so much as the first day back at school after the summer holidays, as the media people catch up with friends they haven’t seen all summer, and the team staff run around in a kind of organised chaos sorting things out while the players are on their usual morning practice. There’s an extra wrinkle added to the mix by the fact that most of the Blaze players this season were a) new to the team and the city and b) had only flown in at most three days before after talking to each other exclusively through the Internet and social media.
The first part of a media day consists of the players all getting their official photos taken for the team website/promo pictures after they’ve finished practice, which means that it’s all a bit fragmented as the players drift through the door as and when they’ve finished showering and changing, not quite sure who the people are, who they’re going to meet and what they have to do. They often seem surprisingly nervous, especially as you have to bear in mind that the North American players have more than likely gone through similar days several times before. Although it’s likely that they’ve never done so in an empty sports bar roughly ten second’s walk from their changing room before.
From the media part, this is often if not always the first time we’ve seen the new players arrive, which leads to a unique game called “Guess The Import” as we try and match any pictures we might have seen to the player. Agitator Gerome Giudice was the first player we recognised amongst the new players, followed by the massive figures of Mike Egener and Benn Olson. Defenceman Jerramie Domish was distinguishable by the fact that over the summer he appears to have grown a Kimbo Slice tribute beard that was truly horrific both in size and colour, while watching Dustin Cameron and Michael Schutte trying to conceal their delight at being given a young, attractive girl as their interviewer was entertainment in itself. Note to hockey media: if you REALLY want to get a player to open up, hire a good looking girly to interview them.
However, as the players drift in and Rob Coleman (who you may remember from earlier posts as the Blaze marketing executive) directs them to where they need to be, you can sense a relaxation in the room as the early first-day-at-school nervousness dissipates. Players split off from the main group (it’s notable already that the team cluster together-you can see the bonding process has already started) and settle down with the media, most if not all of whom are writers for the club magazine Ignite (in fact, there wasn’t a single representative of local media there as far as I could tell) and begin to laugh and joke as they interview.
Then, the headshots are finished and me and interviewer Stuart (who’s someone who wil also appear in the blog periodically) settle in for a group of quick video interviews for Blaze TV. Benn Olson, the Blaze’s main tough guy, is like many enforcers off the ice-quiet, polite and answers questions readily.
Two minutes later, he’s gone and coach Paul Thompson is next. He makes a few veiled comments about ex-Blaze player Rob Farmer, who that morning has signed for Braehead Clan in Scotland. The answers are delivered professionally but both Stuart and I sense that Farmer has left a sour taste in Thommo’s mouth by his rejection of a return to Coventry (Farmer left half-way through a two-year contract, and signed for Braehead on his return from a failed trip to a Kazakh team without having the courtesy to inform the Blaze that he hadn’t accepted their offer first.
We also hear that forward Shea Guthrie has been appointed captain for the season, with Russell Cowley and Mike Danton being given the A’s-however, we’re told not to mention this anywhere as there’s a press release scheduled for later on in the day. The first media embargo of the new season!
Meanwhile, the rest of the team have begun to drift away after being told their time is theirs once again…they will have a gym session before their first game in Cardiff on Wednesday night. Sam Smith is the final interviewee for us, and then, as he drifts away and people begin to pack up two hours after the morning has begun, Stu, Rob and I check the footage we’ve got and work out whether or not it can be used.
Then, it’s off to our “normal” jobs…and, for me, planning the Elite League preview and preparing further before the first live broadcast against Sheffield this coming Sunday. For the team, the season has officially begun.
And another media day has been successfully negotiated.
Stay tuned-later on today I’ll have the first half of this season’s EIHL team-by-team preview up. It’ll be a good one, too.