Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great hockey reporting

This is the time of year when the blog turns much more towards hockey and the NHL. As some of you know, I do some part-time work for the Minnesota Wild, and am at virtually every home game. (I've got about a 105-game streak going, and haven't missed a game since February of 2007. I think I've only missed 13 games since the team started in 2000.) So if you're only here for the keen, insightful political commentary, or cute pictures of my grandkids, the next few months might be a little bleak.

But before the season really gets going, I have to single out my favorite hockey writer. We're blessed in the Minnesota hockey market to have one of the very best beat writers in the NHL covering the Minnesota Wild. Mike Russo came to the Star-Tribune a few years ago from Flordia, where he covered the expansion Florida Panthers. He grew up on Long Island, watching the great Islander teams of the '80s, and has a great enthusiasm for hockey.

From my sportswriting days, I know that covering professional sports on a daily basis requires balancing a number of concerns. A reporter's first duty is to the readers, of course, who have the right to expect more than just stories about the games. The good reporter writes about tension - or lack thereof - in the locker room. He writes about trade opportunities the front office may be consdering, or opportunities they have missed. He writes about contract negotiations and draft strategies.

And to do all of that, you need to have access to players, front office personnel and sources in other NHL cities. Maintaining that acesss, while sometimes needing to be critical of decisions that are made on and off the ice, is very tricky. Russo manages to do all of that and give his readers great stories, without seeming to aggravate too many folks. (Thought it's fair to say that he and former Wild GM Doug Risebrough probably won't exchange Christmas cards this year.)

In addition to his great reporting in the Star-Tribune, Russo maintains the Russo's Rants blog, which you can read here. There's lots of great behind-the-scenes stuff that doesn't make it into the paper. Today there are two great blog posts. The first is an update on former Wild player Mark Parrish, who is not yet signed, and is trying to catch on with an NHL team. Mark is a great guy that I've gotten to know the past couple of years when I did the publicity for his annual charity golf event, and I hope he finds a team.

The second post is a Q&A with Wild defenseman Nick Schultz, who is the Wild's representative to the NHL Player's Association. The NHLPA just fired its executive director this week, and Russo asks Schultzie some tough questions about the status of the union and its approach to the next collective bargaining agreement.

If you're only going to read one blog, of course you'll want to read this one. :) But if you want to know more about what's going on with the Wild, you'll want to bookmark Russo's Rants.

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