High School Journalist Day
The Detroit 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. Students take part in mock press conferences with staff, players, coaches & professional media members. Participants also have lunch, tour the press box and watch practice. After the event, students are encouraged to submit their article about the day for the chance to win prizes.
The next High School Journalist Day will take place during the 2013-14 season and this page will be updated with a date once finalized finalized. 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.”
2012 Event Recap
The Detroit Red Wings most recently hosted High School Journalist Day on February 16, 2012. Over 60 students throughout the state of Michigan were exposed to a professional sports media environment and learned about a career in sports journalism.
Following practice and lunch, General Manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock entertained questions from the students in a half-hour mock press conference. Upon the conclusion of the session, the students participated in a 45-minute Q&A session with a few Red Wings players – Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula. A brief Q&A session with members of the Wings' public relations staff bookended the event.
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 have been published and submitted, three entries will be named the top finishers with the grand prize winner earning the chance to shadow Kevin Allen of USA Today at a 2012-13 Red Wings' home game. The winning entry will be posted below at the conclusion of the judging process.
For more on the 2012 High School Journalist Day, please click here.
2012 Winner: Matthew Hawkins of Novi High School
Matthew won the opportunity to shadow Kevin Allen of USA Today to a mutually agreed upon game day during the 2012-13 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.
I was holding a letter. The paper was thick and the letters glowed in the light. A winged-wheel in bright red ink caught my attention immediately.
“The Detroit Red Wings would like to invite one of your star writers to attend our ‘High School Journalist Day’.”
As a child I learned to read by looking at the sports page of a newspaper. Now, the Red Wings, the team I have shared joy and heartbreak with almost all my life, was inviting me to create a story like those I have read for years.
Taking a day off school to go to Joe Louis Arena? Count me in.
A month later, I walked through a small side door into the arena. The room was dark, damp, and much smaller than the grandeur of the 20,000 seat bowl, with its famous red seats surrounding a bright white sheet of ice.
I was a little nervous, but so were the 60-plus other journalists waiting in line to receive various handouts from the sign-in table. We signed in and looked through the folder we received.
One packet stood out from the rest: a thick pamphlet, filled from front to back with more numbers than I thought could exist in a folder. Every stat from every player: goals, assists, penalty minutes and many more that even I had never heard of before. This was the packet the Red Wings’ PR department handed out to the media after every game.
That was sports journalism in the real world.
We left the small room and slowly filed into the ornate Olympia Club, where a large gray backdrop laden with the club’s official logo hung behind a table with four microphones.
That was sports journalism in a luxurious world.
Broadcast Journalists set up their cameras in the back, writers pulled out recorders and all the while, players strode past us toward the locker room. Jimmy Howard, Ty Conklin, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg! They glided by, minding their own business.
We were in the living room of champions.
Our first press conference was with a highly-esteemed panel of professional journalists: Kevin Allen, the NHL writer for USA Today, Michigan Hockey editor Michael Caples, Jeff Riger of 97.1 “The Ticket” and Shannon Hogan from Fox Sports Detroit.
They filed onto the stage, ready to listen and answer.
Someday I need to be sitting up there.
We asked questions about their career, how they got where they are and (although not usually directly) how we could be in their seats someday.
After our first experience in a professional press conference, we were led single-file through the large red curtains and into the heart of Joe Louis Arena. We filed through the small dark press box. The arena was old but historic; thousands of stories had been sent from this room to newspapers around the country.
Down below, the faces of the Red Wings raced onto the ice. I was surprised how similar their practice was to Novi Varsity hockey practices. The major difference: every pass was perfect, every player was blazing fast and had pinpoint accuracy with each shot.
Practice was over, and we went back to the Olympia Club. After lunch (consisting of Red Wings owner Mike Illitch's Little Caesars Pizza, of course), we sat down for a press conference with General Manager Ken Holland. He was the man with the power to build the team and change it within a day.
“There's a number of reasons why we've been able to accomplish what we've accomplished,” Holland said. “One is stability. Same ownership, committed to winning, committed to the team, committed to the city.”
I raised my hand. I was finally going to talk to a man whose job I wanted for years:
“You mentioned veterans and how they help so many younger players,” I said anxiously. “How do you keep [veterans] in Detroit for so many years?”
“There's an excitement in the air every time we play a game,” Holland said. “As you start to establish yourself as an NHL player, you want to try and win a championship, and you want to play on a good team with other good players.
“Fortunately, for 20 years, we've been a playoff team. For the most part, the players are pretty happy.”
While Holland was in the middle of a sentence, a loud banging sound came from the hallway. The whole room looked over. It was Pavel Datsyuk causing the raucous. He winked at the man paying him $6.7 million a year and walked away.
We really were in the home of local legends.
Next up was head coach Mike Babcock. He was stern-faced and tough. At first I was a little shocked, but then I smiled. It takes quite a personality to handle a group of adults being paid millions.
Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula slowly filed into the room wearing street clothes. Bertuzzi had tattoos on both arms -- a reminder that these are real people who I had always idolized on television but never known without their pads.
These Red Wings were down to earth and seemed honored to be placed on a pedestal, joking around as though 60 reporters were a group of friends.
“We’ve got a great group of guys. No egos. Guys work hard,” Cleary said. “We got a lot of funny type players. Guys don’t take themselves too seriously on this team […] in hopes that we win.”
The day was finished. All 60 journalists filed back through the small dark room and out into the sunlight. Our day was over but the experience would last much longer.
This was a writer and sports lover’s dream come true.
2011 Winner: Nick Barnowski of Howell High School
Nick won the opportunity to shadow Kevin Allen of USA Today to a mutually agreed upon game for his winning entry. As part of his grand prize, he filed a blog post for the USA Today website.
I suppose I hadn’t started out on the greatest of terms with Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
Although I doubt he remembered that I was the one he asked to watch his laptop while he tied his daughter’s skates before a game at the Novi ice arena, it was now my turn to confront the Stanley Cup champion coach again.
This time in a press conference.
The journalist part of me started out fine. “Coach, I noticed you guys were working on the power play a lot during practice. I was just wondering what things you were doing to try and get that going again?”
Then, the fan in me came out.
“I know it’s been kind of slumping the past couple of games.”
Babcock’s face turned serious. “Well, I don’t think that’s true,” he replied, which was enough to make me sit down and give the microphone up right away. Lesson learned: choose your words wisely.
It was one of the many lessons I learned at Red Wings High School Journalist Day on March 8.
The event, put on by Christy Hammond and the Red Wings’ public relations staff, was designed to give aspiring high school journalists a glimpse of what the media environment is like for a professional sports team. A group of around 70 students made the trek to Joe Louis Arena to take part in question and answer segments and watch the team practice.
After registration, which included an official arena press pass and a packet full of Red Wings stats and information, Hammond introduced the first panel, featuring Jennifer Hammond of FOX 2, Kevin Allen of USA Today, Ken Kal of 97.1 The Ticket, and Bill Roose of DetroitRedWings.com.
The group provided insight into the media world, with a slant toward the Detroit sports scene.
“It’s a new experience each and every day, and it’s a job you can really express yourself in, be creative, and have fun while doing it,” Kal, radio voice of the Red Wings, said while talking about his job. “A lot of people think that the radio guys, the TV guys, the writers, just show up an hour before the game and broadcast the game and go home, but that’s not the case at all.”
The four member panel shared their advice on what it takes to break into the business. Each panelist worked in a different media field, which made their opinions especially valuable.
“You won’t survive in this business unless you’re willing to compete,” Allen said. He is a national hockey writer and is the current president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. “You want to be better than your competition. You got to find a way to be different so that people want to read you.”
Roose, who feels that “more and more folks are going to leave the traditional news room to work for teams,” also shared some advice for the group of students.
“You have to be accurate. You have to spell player names right. You probably should get two sources to confirm your information before you post it. Speed is a necessity, but accuracy should be before speed.”
Kal agreed with that assessment, saying, “Make sure that when you finally get that story out, that you have that right information.”
Working for FOX 2, Hammond’s job changes daily, which is why her minors in English and journalism are so important to her success. Passion and determination led her from taking a job for free just to get a talent tape out to covering sports for one of Detroit’s major TV stations.
“If you have the passion, it will fuel you all throughout your career,” she said. “Be willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if you have to take a step back or sideways to get to the ultimate goal.”
While each of them took a different path to reach their goals, the principles needed to achieve their dreams echo the atmosphere that the winning tradition in Detroit created: hard work, determination, and passion.
Nobody understands that more than Coach Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland, who were the next panelists after a tour of the Joe Louis press box and the opportunity to watch practice.
Though I only asked one question, the two blended their answers with sharp attention to detail regarding on-ice events and how experiences the team goes through can be applied to life.
Babcock talked about how he tried to “open doors” for himself at a young age, which led to many chances to succeed.
“I wanted to be successful, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but if you keep opening doors, you open opportunities for yourself,” he said.
A successful hockey coach (the only coach to win an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal, and a Stanley Cup), he would make a very good life coach as well.
“As long as your doubts are momentary, that leads to a speed bump to get you going a little bit faster and working a little harder,” he said. “People are dying to help you if you have the courage to ask.”
Star forward Henrik Zetterberg, big-hitting defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and 400-game winner Chris Osgood were the players to take part in a question and answer session. The players talked about winning the Stanley Cup, the team’s biggest rivals, and pranks pulled on other players during their time with the team, to much appreciation.
“It’s not the game that’s stressful, it’s the leading up to the game that is,” Osgood said. “Thinking about what could happen are some of the things you have to get out of your head.”
Hammond, the community relations coordinator, and Rick Bowness, the public relations coordinator, also answered questions from the group of high schoolers.
The experience and lessons learned throughout the day cannot be measured. Rarely is an opportunity available to learn more about the profession you’ve expressed serious interest in, especially in a setting like the one the Red Wings created. It was more than a taste of the environment I hope to work in one day.
Hopefully I’ll be asking better questions, too.