Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting to Know Blogger's Row: Ryan Porth

Ryan Porth at Smashville 24/7 has been doing a series on "Getting to Know Your Predators Blogger's Row Writers" and has completed interviews with Jeremy Gover, Amanda DiPaolo, and me. There was a problem in that no one was asking him any questions.

Since turn about is fair play, here is a similar interview that I did with Ryan to supplement the work he has already done. Make the jump to get to know all about Ryan...

1) How did you get into hockey?
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been into the game of hockey.  I was always playing roller hockey in my driveway and/or basement in Cincinnati, and then played travel ice hockey for a handful of years prior to moving to Nashville.  When I wasn’t playing on the street or on the ice, I was playing NHL 94 on my computer.  When I wasn’t beating my brother in video games, my family was attending minor league games in Cincinnati.

Two influences on my passion for hockey were my dad and brother.  My dad would always take me to games, while my brother, Erik, was a goalie for most of his playing time, including manning the crease for the MTSU hockey team a few years back.  Between my father, brother and I, we’ve been hockey fans for as long as I can remember.

2) Growing up in Cincinnati what sports teams did you follow? Who was your favorite team/player? Why?
We’ll start with hockey.  Cincinnati had two minor league teams when I lived there – the AHL Mighty Ducks and IHL Cyclones (now ECHL).  I attended more Cyclones games because the arena was nicer and in a better part of town, but went to a fair share of Mighty Ducks games.  My favorite player with the Cyclones was Don Biggs, father of the recently-drafted Tyler Biggs.  When I attended a youth hockey camp, Don took me under his wing one day and that was special.

While living in Cincy, my NHL team was the Colorado Avalanche, mainly because Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg were so fun to watch.

But I know you put ‘sports’ in the question because of my Cincinnati Reds.  Hockey is my favorite sport, bar none, but the Reds are the team I’m attached to the closest.  My dad and I had partial season tickets when we lived there.  I eat, sleep and breathe Reds baseball (thankfully FS Tennessee has started showing games the last couple years).  Want an example?  I drove to Cincy and back on the same day last September to see them clinch their first division title in 15 years.  Best sports moment I’ve ever been in attendance for.

Ok, enough about my Reds…

3) What led you to writing about hockey?
When I was a senior in high school and knew I wasn’t going to college right away, I wanted to have a place to write down my hockey thoughts and predictions.  I was the editor-in-chief and sports editor of my high school newspaper, so I didn’t want to lose that craft and forget about writing all together.

4) When did you start RLD Hockey and Smashville 24/7?
RLD Hockey was created in February 2008 when I was bored in study hall one day.  Smashville 24/7, my Preds-related blog, just recently came to fruition.  Once I was credentialed by the Preds last fall, I thought about making my own Preds blog, but opted to wait it out.  I’m looking forward to doing that full-time in September!

5) What are you trying to bring readers who visit your blog on a daily basis?
At RLD Hockey, we try to have a different point of view on various topics around the NHL.  We’re not going to try to break news and compete with the mainstream sites.  And we’re not going to try to report every signing during the free agent frenzy like some other blogs.  Instead, we have reaction/analysis to the trades and signings.  We have the daily in-season blog, The Morning Skate, weekly debates called ‘Saturday Faceoff’, and more.  I feel like when you visit RLD Hockey, you get a wide variety of coverage and topics to read about.

At 24/7, I’m going to try to keep it at primarily Preds news and features.  We’ll see where it goes since this season will be the first one, but it won’t be a lot like RLD, even though it’s a sister site.

I also contribute to The Fourth Period (features) and Inside Hockey (game reports).

6) How has your blog grown/evolved since you started it?
It has been a lot more than I ever imagined.  As I alluded to, I started RLD just as a place to translate my rampant hockey thoughts.  As that spring went along and got deeper in the playoffs, the more I enjoyed writing about the happenings around the NHL, despite a scarce readership.

However, things have really taken off in the last year-plus.  I’ve been credentialed by the Nashville Predators, as well as the Awards twice (Las Vegas), NHL Draft (Los Angeles), Winter Classic (Pittsburgh) and All-Star Game (Raleigh).  RLD has steadily become one of the feature blogs on Fox Sports, which has expanded our readership in a big way.

Last year, we brought a podcast to RLD, which has yielded some great guests – namely Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Pete Weber and various well-respected hockey reporters.

Considering how it all started, all of this has been very humbling.

7) You have talked to many players around the NHL. What interviews have you enjoyed the most?
Well, for starters, there’s not a better interview than Barry Trotz.  You get an appreciation for him when you hear other NHL coaches talk in post-game scrums.  Trotz has the same demeanor after every game, win or lose, and will sit there and answer every question.  He loves talking.  At the Awards last month, he had to have talked for 40 minutes, 30 minutes longer than most nominees.  He’s a sports writer’s dream coach.  He’ll give you a good quote and he cares about the media.  How many coaches, in any sport, can you really say that about?

Last season, Shane O’Brien was a joy to interview.  He’d give you a golden quote here and there, and like Trotz, cared about his answers.  He got a bad rap in Vancouver, but he was a gem in Nashville.

Someone else I really thought was a good interview was Jarome Iginla.  He’s one of the few players in the league that thinks about the question before he speaks.  After my first interview with him, I was blown away with how genuine and precise he was.  Other good ones: Nicklas Lidstrom, Tim Thomas, Brooks Laich and Shane Doan.

8) You have attended all the NHL major events (All-Star Game, Draft, Awards Show, and Winter Classic). Describe which events are the most compelling and what you have liked and disliked about each.
All-Star Game: I’ve watched the event on my couch for as long as I can remember.  So to see the skills competition and the game itself in person for the first time this past January was pretty cool.  From a media point of view, the setup for interviews before and after the fantasy draft was not ideal.  It was basically a long row and if you didn’t have a spot staked out, you were screwed.

Draft: This is probably the one event of the four that I disliked the most.  There is so much going on, between interviews, the draft and trades, that it’s much easier to keep track of everything from the comfort of your own home.  There’s so much media at the draft that it’s nearly impossible to get questions in for the draftees.  It was nice to be there in L.A., but I’ll be hard-pressed to go again if it’s not close to the Awards.

Awards Show: The last two summers I have really enjoyed the Awards because of the laid back atmosphere.  This one is run real smoothly, all of the nominees in attendance speak and how can you beat going to Vegas?!  The best of the best from the season are all in one place and it’s just one big party.

Winter Classic: It’s hard to put so much stock in one game, but you need to with this event.  It’s the Super Bowl of hockey and it’s treated that way.  The media scrums were massive and it felt like a Game 7 of the Cup final.  To cover that event, especially with it being the heavyweight matchup between Pittsburgh and Washington, was something I’ll never forget.

What is the most compelling?  The Winter Classic, for sure.  Like I said, it’s the NHL’s Super Bowl.  I’ll never forget the scene in Heinz Field when both teams walked out of the tunnel and the crowd was a sea of Terrible Towels.  It’s an unreal spectacle that every hockey fan should experience live at least once in their lifetime.

9) What is your favorite part about being on the Preds’ Blogger’s Row?
The Wolfpack.  Jeremy Gover, Amanda DiPaolo and Buddy have basically become my second family.  It’s great to take in a game sitting next to them, yet at the same time, cover the game.  I never would have expected that it would be my favorite part of Blogger’s Row before the season began, but we have formed a tight bond.

I’m appreciative of the opportunity that the Predators have given us bloggers to have full media access.  It’s nice to see the organization consider the ever-growing blogging community as important as the mainstream media.

10) If you were the NHL commissioner for one day, what thing(s) would you do to improve the game/league?
– I’d change the point system to where every game is worth three points (three for regulation win, two for overtime/shootout win, one for overtime loss).  It would make tied games more intriguing late in regulation and give a more accurate reading on teams.

– Grandfathering visors into the NHL needs to happen.  Granted, most rookies breaking into the league are already wearing them; but I would make it mandatory.  For current NHLers not wearing visors, they’d be able to continue as is.  But in the future, you can’t have what happened to Manny Malhotra and Bryan Berard, where an errant puck or stick can damage a player’s career when it could have been prevented in the first place with a simple visor.

– Finally, I’d lower the salary cap floor.  I don’t think you can completely do away with it, because then some teams will spend as little as possible.  At the same time, there’s no reason why the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes of the world need to spend what the salary cap ceiling was just three or four years ago when they are already losing money.

I'd like to thank Ryan for taking the time to share his story with our readers after doing yeoman's work in sharing all the background on the other members of the Predators' "Blogger's Row."

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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