Monday, November 06, 2006

Pour l'amour du hockey

By Jean-François Bégin
Originally published in French by La Presse
Translation by Pete Evans


They inhabit the Maritimes, Toronto, Washington D.C. and Hockeytown, USA. Some are in their fifties, others have just barely entered the working world. A few are journalists, but most have probably never held a notepad in their entire life. But they are united by one thing: their love of hockey. And their desire for a personal soapbox to talk about it.

While big papers like the New York Times and LA Times are slashing their hockey coverage, hockey blogs are growing like mushrooms in the web's fertile ground.

Little by little, they are in the process of finding a niche between traditional media websites and the discussion forums that preceded them. Severeal are written by fans — see Battle of Alberta for example www.battleofalberta.blogspot.com — where Oilers and Flames fans meet to battle each other without any real pretensions of objectivity.

Others are written by journalists in the course of doing their job. That's the case for Sans Ligne Rouge (no red line) www.cyberpresse.ca/section/CPBLOGUES, the blog that my colleague Francois Gagnon has had for a year at Cyberpresse. "I love it," he says. "I've found the instantaneity that I loved when I was doing radio reports, but in print this time."

In fact, that are probably as many types as there are hockey blogs. "The common point between all these blogs, is their inexhaustable passion for hockey," says Eric McErlain, the man behind Off Wing Opinion (www.offwingopinion.com) one of the most-respected hockey blogs. "We love this sport. We wouldn't write every day if we didn't like hockey."

BORN FROM THE LOCKOUT

A few, like Paul Kukla (www.kuklaskorner.com) make a living from rehashing the hockey news they cull from a litany of sources, while adding their own thought on the subject.

A former ad sales man for a Detroit radio station, Kukla, 50, was taking care of his ill mother when he launched the precursor to his current blog in February 2005, while the lockout was in full force. "I did it because even here, in Detroit, we weren't being informed on what was happening in the dispute between owners and players," explains the Wings fan who saw his first game in the old Olympia stadium in 1961.

One and a half years later, the man who describes himself as a "search professional" works 70 hours a week on his site, which he updates several times a day. His blog, one of the most linked-to, according to Technorati, became his source of income thanks to ads he sells on the site. "I spend my days doing research on the wires, and I listen to the radio constantly, especially Canadian stations, to try to collect information I share with my readers," he says.

James Mirtle's blog began a little differently. A graduate of Ryerson's Journalism program in Toronto (much like Paul Kukla), Mirtle is 26 years old. He works at the Globe and Mail, where he quietly learned his lessons on the sports desk, while occasionally writing on university sports. But, good Canadian that he is, he longed to write more about hockey. "I'm just a young guy who is trying to find a place in the sports media," he said. "I thought blogging would provide me with an opportunity to write about the NHL, something I can't do at the Globe yet because it takes years of experience."

Appearing in December 2004, his eponymous blog (mirtle.blogspot.com) quickly got noticed for its quality. "What I like about blogs is their versatility," he says. "A blog entry can be anything from a photo with two lines of text, or a simple list of hyperlinks, or a chronology, or a full-length profile — or anything you want it to be."

He likes blogging so much, he says, that if the Globe ever makes him a beat reporter, he'll insist on having a blog (he already contributes to the Toronto paper's communal hockey blog). "Having a dialogue with your readers can only help you in your professional capacity as a journalist," he says.

A FUTURE FOR JOURNALISTS

By virtue of reading blogs, and as interesting as the aforementioned ones are, we still hear frequently about the death of conventional media, but it's not coming any time soon. Most blogs, in fact, depend on journalists, on radio and on TV for their information.

"To me, blogs are a complement to traditional media," Lyle Richardson says, a PEI-based blogger who is better known as Spector at www.spectorshockey.net. "We the bloggers often criticize the mainstream. But frankly, I get the impression that most bloggers woudn't survive life in the traditional media."

Richardson devotes most of his blog to trade rumours. But the rumours he comments on are those that find their origin in newspapers and from specialized websites like tsn.ca — not those that emanate from oft-critiqued blogger eklund (www.hockeybuzz.com.)

"Anyone can hide behind anonymity and make allegations without base and without citing sources," Richardson says. " I think most hockey fans are smart enough to tell the charlatans from the legit sources. That's why I generally pay attention only to rumours reported by the mainstream media, because at least they have journalists with accreditation and contacts."

And that's a blogger saying that.

THE MONTREAL CANADIENS AND BLOGS

About 10 blogs are devoted to the Oilers. Same thing for the Senators. But the Habs, by comparison, are not as well-represented. We only counted three, including Francois Gagnon at Cyberpresse. The others are Habs Blog (www.habsblog.com) and Sisu Hockey (www.sisuhockey.blogspot.com) which are both in English.

2 Comments:

At 2:46 PM, November 06, 2006, Anonymous iwocpo said...

Great stuff James. Naturally, my favorite part was Spector's slam on Dwayne Klessel.

 
At 2:58 PM, November 06, 2006, Anonymous Habs Blog said...

Wow, I made the papes.

Too bad not an english paper as I doubt I'll gain many English readers from La Presse.

 

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