High School Journalist Day
Presented by Michigan Office Solutions
The Detroit Red Wings invite Michigan high schools to send one student reporter to the Joe to get an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into the world of sports journalism at High School Journalist Day presented by MOS. Students take part in mock press conferences with Red Wings staff, players, coaches & professional media members. Participants also have lunch, tour the press box and watch a Red Wings practice. After the event, students are encouraged to submit their article about the day for the chance to win prizes.
Invitations are sent out to all high school newspaper advisors who are registered with MIPA so interested students are asked to check with their newspaper advisors to see if your school qualifies.
To learn more about the reporters that cover the Red Wings and what advice they have for those interested in a career in sport journalism, you can download this document entitled “Meet Our Beat.”
High School Journalist Day – Feb. 13, 2015
The Detroit Red Wings hosted High School Journalist Day on Feb. 15, 2015. The annual event, presented by Michigan Office Solutions brought more than 60 students from throughout the state of Michigan to Joe Louis Arena to experience a day-in-the-life of a sports reporter covering the Red Wings.
The event opened with a Q&A session, which featured a four-member media panel of reporters who frequently cover the Red Wings. Kevin Allen of USA Today, Michael Caples of Michigan Hockey, Dana Wakiji of FOXSportsDetroit.com and Ken Kal, the play-by-play voice for the Red Wings, shared their personal experiences and offered advice on breaking into sports journalism.
Students then toured the Joe Louis Arena press box and watched the Red Wings practice. During the practice, the students were permitted to shoot video, snap photos and jot down observations. The tour and practice were then followed by lunch in the Olympia Club.
Following practice and lunch, the students had three mock press conferences with head coach Mike Babcock, general manager Ken Holland and players Luke Glendening, Daniel Cleary and Stephen Weiss. The event ended with a Q&A with members of the Red Wings public relations and community relations departments.
The High School Journalist Day participants then had the opportunity to write an article about their experience at High School Journalist Day for their respective school newspapers. After the articles were published and submitted, three entries were be named the top finishers. The grand prize winner earned a chance to shadow Kevin Allen of USA Today at a 2015-16 Red Wings home game. The second place writer or broadcaster won two tickets to a 2015-16 home game and the third place writer received a puck or photo signed by his or her favorite player.
For more on the 2015 High School Journalist Day, please click here.
2015 Winner: Griffin Schroeder of De La Salle Collegiate High School
Griffin won the opportunity to shadow Kevin Allen of USA Today to a mutually agreed upon game day during the 2015-16 regular season for his winning entry. As part of his grand prize, he will attend morning skate practice, lunch and the home game that day.
A Red Wings Journalist For The Day
On Friday, February 13th, I had a chance to represent De La Salle Collegiate High School at the home of the Detroit Red Wings, Joe Louis Arena. The event? High School Journalist Day.
Battling the frigid temperatures on a cold day in Hockeytown, the Detroit Red Wings organization welcomed aspiring journalists from all over the state into the friendly, and at that time thankfully warm confines of Joe Louis Arena for a day in the life of media personnel.
To be treated as one of the special guests was quite the experience, as my two passions-writing and sports-were combined into one day at my favorite place to be.
Our day started with an introduction by Director of Community Relations Christy Hammond, who did a tremendous job coordinating the event with the help of Michigan Office Solutions in the Olympia Club, where players could be seen going to practice.
This was no time for autographs, however, as the first panelists were introduced.
USA Today’s Kevin Allen, Michigan Hockey’s Michael Caples, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji, and the radio voice of the Red Wings, Ken Kal, were the first to open the floor to questions.
I got the opportunity to ask Allen what sparked his interest in sports journalism from the very beginning.
“I remember being in first and second grade that I already determined that I couldn’t hit the curveball so I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete, and I wanted to be a part of it,” said Allen. “I also liked to write, so I combined both of my passions which were writing and sports and said, what a great way to make a living.”
Allen went on to talk about how he rose through the ranks to his current position.
“I went to Wayne Memorial High School, and in that era, my teachers determined pretty quickly that I was serious about it and it created a lot of writing opportunities for me. I wrote for The Highlight which was the high school paper, and then I went to Eastern Michigan University.”
Allen went on to give his unusual journey through Arizona covering a variety of sports including the Phoenix Suns and Arizona State athletics, before eventually coming back to Michigan and writing for the Port Huron Times Herald.
“My big break was the Detroit Tigers winning the 1984 World Series, and USA Today needed someone to cover that team. They took me and got to know me, and I joined USA Today almost immediately.”
Getting the first question answered as early as I did helped the shock wear off quite easily.
After a 45-minute Q and A, we were taken into the calm, empty Joe Louis Arena, where walking through an empty concourse was certainly a first. We were given a tour of the press box, where the booth of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond was a definitive highlight.
Spaces were reserved for not only officials of the Detroit Red Wings, but for scouts from all over the league. Playoff teams, bottom-end teams, coast to coast. Trade deadline season was in full swing.
Soon after, it was practice time for Mike Babcock’s group. Coming off of a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh that Wednesday, practice was up-tempo as it was loose. Guys made fun of each other, got made fun of, and looked to clean up their efforts for the next day’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
One can see highlights of practice on a news report or on the Red Wings website, but to experience it in person and see how the players prepare was a fresh, new experience.
The brightest star in breakaways was surprisingly veteran Dan Cleary. He scored twice, once on starting goaltender Jimmy Howard, the other on the recovering netminder, Jonas Gustavsson.
“How do you like that Jim,” Cleary said. The proud Newfoundlander was referring to assistant coach Jim Hiller, who was joking with him before the drill.
A critic of the guy myself, this experience helped me see how valuable he is as a personality.
After a lunch that included (surprise) Little Caesar’s Pizza, it was time for another Q and A, this time with Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock. There was some definite shock, but it wore off as I stepped forward with my question.
I asked Coach Babcock how this team draws parallels to the 2009 Detroit Red Wings, whom Babcock referred to as he described the current version of the team early on this season.
“Well this [team’s] much younger. I don’t know if this one has as much high-end skill, but it seems to find a way to win games and do a lot of good things. We have a lot of young players going in the right direction, but do we have a young Datsyuk and Zetterberg? I’m not sure. Is that Nyquist and Tatar? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m going to watch and find out just like you. We win games. I don’t even know how good we are yet, but we seem to win games so let’s keep winning games and let’s find out how good we are.”
General Manager Ken Holland was the next panelist, who was nice enough to join us in the midst of the trade deadline craze among other responsibilities of running an NHL team.
Being into sports management myself, this was quite the thrill to hear from one of the best in the league.
When I asked the Wings’ general manager about what goes into picking a player in the NHL Entry Draft and how the braintrust works together, he gave a brief description of the process that has netted the Wings superstars and rising stars that have kept the tradition of Hockeytown alive and well.
“We’ve had two key decision-makers for a long time,” Holland said. “In the ‘90s, the decision-makers were Ken Holland and Jim Nill. When I became GM the decision-makers became Jim Nill [assistant GM] and Joe McDonnell [head of amateur scouting]. When Jim Nill left to take the General Manager job in Dallas a couple years ago he took Joe McDonnell with him, so Jeff Finley, who was our Western scout, became our chief scout.
I went outside of the organization and hired a guy by the name of Tyler Wright to be our director of amateur scouting. So Tyler and Jeff work together to make the final decision. The first couple of rounds they’re going to make the final decision, and then you start getting into the draft. They can’t see everybody. The deeper you get into the draft you’re counting on your area people, and your area people are going to earn the respect of the chief decision-makers by decisions they’ve made in the past. I used to scout, I scouted for 12 years and I understand how tough that job is. Anybody can scout. It’s hard to find players.
It’s all about scouting, drafting, and then you take your work plus your gut instincts, then eventually make a pick. I’m big on player development. Once we bark out a name at the draft, we focus on getting that player from the draft table onto the Detroit Red Wing roster, for the most part, we’re looking at five years. You’ve gotta make good decisions, then you got to do a good deal of player development.”
Not so brief after all, but hearing from one of the best in the league was quite the experience.
The last Red Wing personnel Q and A for the day was with three Red Wings players. The three chosen may not be among the stars of the team in many eyes, but they sure had some colorful personalities.
Forwards Stephen Weiss, Danny Cleary, and Luke Glendening fresh out of practice were able to give some good insight on what it’s like to be an NHL professional. While the average fan sees them on the ice most of the time, hockey players are humans too, and it was enjoyable to get to see and know that side of them.
“If you’re going to be a collegiate athlete, you must be at the top of your crop,” said Luke Glendening, a walk-on at the University of Michigan. “When you get there however, you’re just a small fish in a big pond and people are working even harder than you are. See how much harder you can continue to work. Don’t take anything for granted.”
Cleary touched on his time in Detroit.
“Hockey’s given me everything I have,” Cleary said. “I love getting up playing, practicing, being with the guys, love ripping the guys, getting ripped. I’ve been in Detroit for ten years. Being a Red Wing is a special thing and there’s nothing like it with the way you’re treated and with expectations. We we’re built from the top down. We’ve had great ownership, Ken Holland has been a staple of how a GM should run a club, [and] we have a great coach and coaching staff just all the way down. [It’s a] great place to play.”
Stephen Weiss talked about cracking the lineup and staying there.
“The first thing is establishing yourself as an NHL player and trying to make sure you stick around,” Weiss, the veteran forward said. “Once you break that point you establish yourself personally and then it’s about winning a Stanley Cup. It’s what you dream about when you’re a kid. Dan’s gotten a chance to do it, and I know he really wants to get another one, so do Glenny and I. [We] want to get a taste and see what it’s all about. You get goose bumps just talking about it.”
After the players went about their business, Kyle Kujawa, Detroit Red Wings Public Relations Coordinator, and the aforementioned Christy Hammond, Community Relations Manager, were the final panelists of the day.
With the journalists and I still in high school and most of us on the way to college sooner rather than later, the advice given by Kujawa and Hammond can do nothing but help.
Kujawa went to Grand Valley State University and got an internship with the local Grand Rapids Griffins, a big break in his journey to Detroit. He stressed the importance of getting to know people in the business and taking advantage of opportunities given, especially at that age.
“The thing that always worked for me is not passing up any opportunities,” Kujawa said. “During high school I worked at Compuware Arena and thought that was a great way to get into sports and be around the game. My opportunities with the Griffins and now here were the case of being at the right place at the right time, so the best advice I can give is to talk to people, get to know people, and you never know what will come to you. If you want to work in sports, don’t just limit it to hockey, either.”
Hammond graduated from the University of Michigan and ended up with her dream job right out of college for her favorite team, a rare feat for anyone in that position.
“I’m very blessed that that worked out, but it’s also not really the normal path people tend to go,” Hammond said. “Usually they have a tendency to sign in a different department for a different team or sport. Our PR Director started in tickets and then marketing, media relations manager before getting his ultimate dream job as the PR Director for the team. I got an internship with the Plymouth Whalers doing game night stuff, I wrote for the Michigan Hockey publication, and was interning here and also with the U of M athletic department. I knew what I wanted, I worked for it, but at the same time I got lucky when I graduated and then two years later the Community Relations Manager went elsewhere. If she hadn’t left, I wouldn’t be working in sports today, so part of it is getting lucky and also putting yourself in the right position. I can’t stress it enough. Internships. Internships. Internships.”
A final thank you goes out to the Detroit Red Wings organization and for the invitation to the event, Michigan Office Solutions for putting on the event, all the panelists, and Miss Hammond coordinating the event. To get to experience a combination of my two passions under one roof was memorable as it was enjoyable.
It was a day to remember and I was honored to represent Red Wing Danny DeKeyser’s alma mater, De La Salle Collegiate High School, at an event as prestigious as this one was.
2014 Winner: Mallory Weil of Holt High School
Mallory won the opportunity to shadow Kevin Allen of USA Today to a mutually agreed upon game day during the 2014-15 regular season for her winning entry. As part of her grand prize, she will attend morning skate practice, lunch and the home game that day.
A Day Living the Dream
Red Wings Hold Teen Journalist Day
As journalists, we spend countless hours conducting interviews with our fellow students, athletes and coaches. Rarely do we ever get a chance to step into the professional world and interact with professional athletes. So when I was presented with the opportunity to attend the Red Wings High School Journalist Day, I jumped at the chance.
Coming into this day I didn’t know what to expect, truthfully. I obviously knew there would be a panel of journalists and that Coach Babcock and some players would be there, but that’s about it.
The biggest piece I took away from the day was how professional it all was. As students, we truly entered the sports world as journalists and we had to play by the rules, no exceptions. I distinctly remember being warned that if we asked any player for an autograph or picture, we would be escorted out of the building. I think that’s when I knew it was the real deal. It’s the truth, though: when you’re on a job you have to hold a certain level of professionalism.
The day was held as any other press conference would be. We’d wait our turn, ask our questions and jot down the information we were seeking. Or in my case, I was short-handing everything that the panel said. I mean, this panel was made up of journalists with years of experience and knowledge, such as Windsor Star sports columnist Bob Duff and USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen. When they spoke, I wanted to take down everything they said and soak up any information I could take.
“It’s hard to make it, but I enjoy going to work every day. You accept the lifestyle; the hours aren’t always the same. It impacts your home life and you’re competing with other journalists, but I also get exciting and great opportunities,” Duff said.
I’ve wanted to do this job since I was in the sixth grade. I didn’t think anything could persuade me further, yet the excitement expressed through his voice when he talked about the places he’d gone and the moments in sports history he’d witnessed he hooked me. I was so intrigued by what they all had to say and share.
The best advice you can receive is brutal. When you hear it, it almost makes you second guess everything. But it doesn’t. In the end, it makes you want to pursue the challenge, explore what it has to offer. If nothing else, I took away four tips from the panelists that I will carry with me into college and my future work.
“It doesn’t take long to destroy your reputation,” Allen said.
Be accurate. Don’t be the first one to get the word out without having your facts straight because it doesn’t matter if you’re first if you aren’t right.
“Be well rounded,” Michigan Hockey Editor Michael Caples said.
Productions can’t always afford to send a full-time photographer, videographer and reporter. Know how to do multiple things because it’s all how you present the news these days.
Technology is your friend.
“Social media skills are crucial,” Caples said. You can tweet, Instagram or blog from anywhere you are, use that to your advantage.
“We live in an evolving time period with social media,” Duff said.
Everything is online and if you’re not, you’re behind the ball.
“You’ve got to have tough skin to make it in this industry,” Duff said.
You’re not always going to be liked. People are going to disagree with your opinion and reporting. You will be critiqued harshly, if you can’t handle that, you aren’t cut out for this job. Plain and simple.
Out of my entire experience at the Red Wings High School Journalist Day, that 2-hour panel made the biggest impact on me. Don’t get me wrong, as a hockey fan I cherished every single moment of walking through the press box, watching the Wings practice, and sitting nearly 10 feet away from coach Mike Babcock. But getting to question the professionals in a field that I want to pursue, well that’s what it’s all about.
For some of us journalists, we just write for our school newspaper, we maybe write some sports stories or a column, and this day was just a dream for a Detroit sports fan.
For others, including myself, it was a small glimpse into what our future is going to look like. Hearing about the long hours that take place, the deadlines that seem almost impossible to make and the lack of sleep we will retain only excites us when we hear about the countless opportunities we will receive in return.
For me, the Red Wings Day was just a sneak peek into what my future as a journalist or broadcaster will be, and boy did it leave me wanting more.