The moment I took my vantage point from right behind the Ottawa Senators bench, I knew I was in the big leagues.
When the opportunity was offered for me to take in an Senators practice from the media’s point of view, it came about during the shortened season in 2013. It wasn’t an experience I was going to pass up. Up to this point, the highest level of hockey I had covered was Junior B hockey with the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Brian Morris, the Senators Director of Communications, welcomed me to sit alongside broadcasters from television channels like Sportsnet, TSN and the sports from CTV Ottawa. There’s the personalities of radio, which is now TSN 1200 and news reporters, Ken Warren and Bruce Garrioch for the Ottawa Citizen and Sun. It’s doubtful they notice me, as most of them are on their phones: texting, scrolling or talking.
The players were put through the paces in scrimmages and skating from blue line to blue line among other rundowns. There’s some fun among the players as cheers go up when goals are scored. Coach, Paul MacLean, who is a few months away from his Jack Adams win, keeps things moving as his voice echoes into the stands.
Practice is roughly 45 minutes after which we follow the players into the dressing room. It is here, I am told the room’s number one rule – “Don’t step on the Senator’s logo.”
The day in question was March 27. The Senators had been hit hard with injuries. The buzz among everyone on this day was the return of Craig Anderson and Jared Cowen. The media scrum knew what they wanted, gathering with video cameras rolling as Anderson gives his thoughts, then Cowen. Kaspars Daugavins, who was picked up that day on waivers also got into the scrum.
Next up was the news conference in the Media Centre where Coach MacLean got tossed questions on the morning’s developments. MacLean began his NHL career as a player, most notably with the Winnipeg Jets from 1981-88. I have my chance to pose a question.
SC: Having player experience yourself to now being coach, what do you see as the biggest change in how the game is played?
PM: It’s way faster, and more organized than what I played. The goaltending, coaching and the conditioning level of the players is much better. I think the competition level and how hard it is to play in the league is very similar to whatever generation played in the National Hockey League. It’s still a hard league to play in.”
After almost three hours of seeing how these veteran sports reporters work, my head was spinning; for them, though, it’s just another news day. According to General Manager Bryan Murray, “This is what it’s like here every day.”