As I sat on the home bench at Blue Cross Arena and gazed out onto the ice, I could only wish that I was a lifelong Americans fan, for surely what I was experiencing was the dream of any Rochester hockey lover. There I was, covering the Amerks game for the Campus Times, an 18-year old college student with the vast resources of a professional sports organization unexpectedly at my disposal.
Let me back up a little bit. My entire Amerks adventure was really the result of a bit of luck. My first assignment for the CT was the UR football team’s opening game versus St. John Fisher University back in September. I asked the man sitting next to me in the pressbox what paper he worked for, and he replied that he was the main hockey correspondent for the Democrat and Chronicle. After a bit of conversation, he encouraged me to cover the Amerks for the CT and gave me the contact information of the director of press relations.
Fast forward to Nov. 1. After months of telephone tag and missed e-mails, I was finally trudging through the snow on my way to the arena for my first game covering the Amerks. I was nervous not only of being mugged while walking through downtown at night but also because I had no idea what I was doing, my sportswriting experience being limited to high school and Division III college.
Once inside the arena I was directed to a gate where I picked up my press pass ? a piece of paper with my name on it and the director of press relations signature. Now, my past experiences with press passes have basically amounted to not getting kicked out of the pressbox when the pizza came. However I soon learned that with this flimsy piece of paper I could go pretty much wherever I pleased in the arena. This point was illustrated when I made a wrong turn through some door and suddenly found myself blinded with bright light when suddenly a man’s face was violently smashed on a plastic panel three feet from my face ? this definitely was not the pressbox.
After asking a random guard for directions I was led to an elevator where a man looked closely at my pass and hit the button for the fourth floor. Once there I was ushered by a large man who again scrutinized my pass. “U of R huh? You better write something good about us,” he said as we walked down a hall. It sounded like he was only half joking.
Once in the pressbox things became easy. I was introduced to the director of press relations, shown the freezer where they kept drinks and taken to my seat ? complete with phone. After every period an intern would distribute stats, basically doing my job for me. As the game came to an end the other reporters made their way downstairs to the locker rooms.
Having only television and movies as a reference, the locker room was a little bewildering. The players I had seen on the ice from up above were now walking around with loads of laundry, riding a stationary bike and talking with members of the press. I saw the man from the D & C, from whom I was sort of taking my leads from, go into a small room with a bunch of other reporters and cameramen. Inside, the coach conducted the press conference you see coaches make on ESPN, except in real life the room is tiny and the media shoves the cameras right into his face. I wanted to stay and look around more, but still completely at the mercy of the 72 bus, I had to head back to Eastman. Exiting the locker rooms, I passed through a gauntlet of people in varying levels of restriction. First were the family members of the players, then the players’ girlfriends ? amazingly attractive Anna Kournikova look-alikes ? and finally, as I exited into the cold night air, fans waiting to get autographs as the players leave for the night. I was upset to have to leave so quickly but comforted by the thought that I could return anytime I wish.