I cried when Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin scored his 500th goal in the National Hockey League. That was in January 2016, and he’s done a lot more in his career since then. That fall, I started my path to a journalism degree.
I’ve gone to hockey games with my parents almost as long as I can remember. My first hockey memory comes from what’s now the SAP Center at San Jose. “That’s Mike Ricci,” my mom told me. “He has no teeth because he plays hockey.”
I didn’t know who she was pointing at, or what playing hockey had to do with having no teeth. But his name stuck with me, and I count him as my first “favorite hockey player.”
I didn’t really get into the sport until middle school. I remember watching the Caps beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic. I went on YouTube and watched a lot of Caps videos over the next few weeks. I ended up with a crush on Nicklas Backstrom. I also stole my sister’s Ovechkin jersey, which my parents got for her eighth birthday.
That same year, I had a writing assignment in my language arts class. I chose to write about hockey and pretty much determined my future right then.
I wrote eight pages and impressed Mrs. Gallagher so much she uses my paper as an example to this day, half a decade later.
For my part, I’ve kept all the original Wikipedia pages I printed and over-highlighted — along with about a dozen hockey books, hundreds of hockey cards and most of the tickets for the games I’ve been to. They’re in a chest in my room back home that used to hold my toys — now it holds the physical artifacts of my passion. I haven’t decided if I’m going to put my non-hockey sports work in the chest or not. For now, I’m keeping my media passes and game notes from basketball and football games separate.
My brain holds what I learned in that paper and has made room to house what I’ve learned since. And it’s a lot, not all of it about hockey. By my senior year of high school, I was the acting editor-in-chief of my school’s student paper.
When I came to Temple, I promptly joined The Temple News’ sports section, where I’ve covered field hockey, lacrosse, gymnastics, football, soccer and basketball. I told the sports editor at the time, Owen McCue, that I’d have his job.
That actually happened.
Last year, I joined Fear the Fin, the San Jose Sharks blog of Sports Blog Nation, as a contributing blogger. I tend to do live blogs of Sharks’ games, especially when they play Eastern Conference teams, and I also pick up breaking news stories about injuries and minor league transactions.
I’m also a part of the Temple University Ice Hockey Club media team since my sophomore year. Last season, I went to more of the team’s games than any other member of the volunteer group. Through the media team, I’ve had the chance to expand my horizons beyond writing, moving into color commentary and in-game interviews with players.
In February, we broadcast the entire Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs on the Temple Ice Hockey YouTube channel. The ECHA coaches unanimously voted for us to return to the role for the 2020 playoffs. So, we’re going to Annapolis, Maryland, in just over three months.
Just under a decade ago, I was disinterested in the ice-level seats of a Norfolk Admirals game. I had no idea I’d become the sports editor of a student newspaper in Philadelphia. And when I go to hockey games, my dad asks me what’s going on because he knows I know what I’m talking about.
It’s not the same as Alex Ovechkin lifting the Stanley Cup, but I’m pretty happy with my milestones.