Indulge Me For A Few Moments
February 14, 2009 28 Comments
LOS ANGELES — I hope you will indulge me for a few minutes as I get a bit personal here.
Way back in the late 1980’s, well before the Internet was known as the Internet, I wrote my first recap of a Los Angeles Kings game.
That was a little over twenty years ago and it was nothing close to a solid piece of journalism. The “story” was written and posted on the long-defunct GEnie online service, once owned and operated by General Electric, back in the days of electronic bulletin boards and 2400 baud dial-up modems (thankfully, I never had to use a 300 baud modem).
Back then, just for fun, I was writing up my observations of each game along with detailed descriptions of each scoring play. My game reports had a fairly decent following and eventually found their way onto the National VideoTex Network online service (also defunct long ago).
About the same time, Kings fan Stan Willis, who was in Long Beach, California at the time, was running an e-mail list (often, but inaccurately, referred to as a “listserve”) devoted to the Kings and in between all the messages from subscribers discussing the team, just as you would find today on message boards on the World Wide Web, Willis posted detailed statistics that were hard to find in those days.
I joined up and started posting my game reports to the list and they were a pretty big hit. Eventually, the list grew and moved to another server at Stanford University, courtesy of then-Stanford undergraduate Nelson Lu. After he graduated, Chuq Von Rospach gave the list a home on his servers at plaidworks.com.
It was during this period that I began to polish up my act, so to speak, working to view the Kings as objectively as possible and reflect that in my writing, trying to adhere to the same standards that any journalist would and my writing benefitted from it.
In 1994 (or was it 1995? It’s all starting to blur), Ron Beale, a member of the e-mail list, was a student at Pepperdine University and as part of a class project, he started the Online Kingdom, the very first fan web site devoted to the Kings, and, quite possibly, the first fan site devoted to any National Hockey League team.
Beale invited me to publish my work on his site, and I became known as the “Kourt Scribe.” For those of you who were active on that site way back when, you might remember what the home page looked like at the time (see image at right).
My game stories and “Kings Notes” news stories quickly became a fixture on the Online Kingdom, which is still going strong today.
Over the years, I continued to hone my skills to bring the best game and news stories to the site that I possibly could. New Kings-related e-mail lists eventually replaced the one hosted by Von Rospach and I moved my work there and to the USENET newsgroup devoted to the Kings.
In 1997, just as the World Wide Web was exploding onto the scene, Online Kingdom Managing Editor David Atkinson, without my knowledge, sent a letter to Tim Leiweke, who was the President of the Kings at the time (he is now the Kings Governor and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Kings and Staples Center).
In the letter, Atkinson suggested that the Kings offer me a media credential, which would allow me to attend games and give me access to the team so I could do interviews. I had no idea he had done this until I got an e-mail from Mike Altieri, who was the Kings media relations director (he is now Vice President, Communications and Broadcasting), asking me to drop by his office so we could talk about my work.
Not long after, I headed over to the Great Western Forum—Staples Center was still just an idea—to meet with Altieri, printed samples of my work in hand. Although I doubt he was impressed with what was clearly amateur-ish work at the time, for whatever reason, he offered to provide me with a single-game credential for a handful of the remaining games in the 1996-97 season.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. With access to the team, my work really took off, as I had much more material and detail to work with from interviews with players and coaches, along with an occasional quote from the general manager.
But it has not always been easy as there have been a couple of seasons where the Kings could not offer me a credential because I was not working for a medium that qualified for access (the Online Kingdom) because either their policies or NHL-wide policies governing media access were tightened.
One season I missed because of that was the 2000-01 season, the year of the Frenzy on Figueroa, when the Kings found themselves looking way up at a 3-0 deficit after two periods in game 4 of their first round playoff battle against the mighty Detroit Red Wings, only to rather miraculously come all way back to win the game in overtime, 4-3. The Kings went on to eliminate Detroit, but were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche, in the second round.
Later, I spent a few seasons covering former Kings goaltenders Jamie Storr and Yutaka Fukufuji for the Rafu Shimpo, the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News (Storr is a Japanese Canadian, Fukufuji is a Japanese national). But since 1997, I have had access to the team much more often than not, and in recent years, access has not been an issue at all. In fact, especially this season, my access level appears to have increased, and my work, which now includes one-on-one interviews with the general manager, has reached a new level.
Of course, having some writing ability doesn’t hurt, and the first person who really taught me how to write was my Advanced Composition teacher during my senior year at Culver City High School, Jenee Gossard, one of my very best teachers at any level. Before taking her class, I considered myself to be a horrible writer.
The other was John Mascaro, a lecturer who taught one of the entry-level English composition courses during my undergraduate years at UCLA. He was not tenured faculty or even on tenure-track. But he sure could teach you how to write and he took the skills that Ms. Gossard taught me and further honed and polished them.
The only reason that I know what a “lead” is and have some basic interview skills is because of the pretty solid high school journalism course I took, taught by Nancy Goldberg. Yes, that is the only “formal” journalism training I have.
So why the trip down Memory Lane?
The idea is to give you a little background and mention some of the key players and factors that have contributed to my work, either directly or indirectly. After all these years, it is about time I acknowledged them for the support they have given me over the years, making it possible for me to be a freelance hockey writer.
Indeed, it is both necessary and appropriate that I acknowledge and thank all of these people because just this month, I became a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA), a select group of the finest hockey writers in North America.
Some of you might be wondering what the big deal is about that.
Whether you agree with her or not, whether you like her work or not, Elliott is, without question, one of the premier hockey writers in the world. In 2005, she received the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award “…In recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey,” earning her induction into the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the first woman to receive the award.
Elliott, who has been with the Los Angeles Times since 1989, was one of the first female sportswriters to enter an NHL dressing room, a pioneer, to be sure.
Elliott is a superstar, a legend among hockey writers, and on January 8, when the Kings were hosting the Anaheim Ducks, I was sitting in my seat in the press box during the first intermission. The next thing I knew, Elliott was behind my left shoulder and asked me if I would be interested in joining the PHWA.
Needless to say, I was stunned, and that is putting it mildly.
When I was finally able to speak, I asked her, “are you serious? Why me?”
Then she really blew me away.
“I’ve seen you around long enough,” she said. “I’ve seen your stuff long enough, and I can vouch for you being well-qualified for membership.”
After mumbling something that was probably not even semi-coherent about being interested in joining, she left. I think I sat there for the rest of the game and barely said a word as I was totally stunned—I never saw this coming! I know my colleague, Brian Kennedy, who covers the Kings for Inside Hockey, can attest to my near-catatonic state after speaking with Elliott.
In short, to have a writer of Elliott’s caliber (she is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame…just had to say it again) tell me that I am well-qualified for membership and invite me to join is a tremendous honor, even more than being a member of the PHWA itself. And since I have never been in this for honors, accolades, credit, pats on the back, or even money (although that would really be welcomed), this development comes as an even greater shock.
But the recognition, especially coming from Elliott, certainly tells me I’m doing something right and that is exactly what I intend to continue to do in my work covering the Kings. But before I do, I must thank Elliott for her support and the gracious invitation. It is such a tremendous honor for a small-time hockey writer like myself, one that I will never forget.
To those already mentioned earlier (and since this story is already way too long)…thank you as well. You have played major roles in my work and have helped make it possible for me to do quality work.
To everyone, past and present, with the Kings Media Relations and now Communications office, thank you to all of you as well. Your support has helped me do a better job of covering the team.
Last, but in no way least, to everyone who reads my stories, thank you for your support. A writer needs readers or there is no point. Please keep reading and clamoring for more and more information. You keep writers going and on their toes that way.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled hockey writing. In the meantime, I will be working to continue to be worthy of this honor and I fully expect all of you to hold my feet to the fire, so to speak.
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