Then I remembered the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, a handy way of peeking back through the curtain of time to see websites as they used to be. Sure enough, In the Crease is in there, and in one of the oldest issues they have captured there, is a piece I wrote after getting my first press pass to an NHL game. This wasn't just any old game, however, it was March 26, 1997, when the Colorado Avalanche came to Detroit to face the Red Wings, in Claude Lemiuex's first visit to Hockeytown after the infamous Kris Draper hit. That was one of the greatest games I've ever seen, and while the writing's not very sharp in my piece (there was no editing, just submit and post), it was fun to find it still out there in the Ether. I thought it had been lost in the sands of time!
Anyways, on the issue of press access - the Red Wings treated me like a professional, so I acted like one. I dressed "business casual", brought a laptop (no internet access back then, so it was a glorified portable typewriter), and tried not to let my jaw hit the floor when legends like Mark Howe or Slava Fetisov walked by. In the locker room after the game, I generally stayed on the fringes of the big media scrums, staying out of the way of the newspaper guys working on deadline, and so only managed to get a couple questions in, preferring instead to soak in the atmosphere and learn how the whole situation worked.
Towards the end, I hung around as one reporter wrapped up his questions for Patrick Roy, who was getting out of his gear and was ready to hit the showers. I finally worked up enough nerve to ask, "Patrick, since you're known for wearing those extra-large jerseys, did that hamper you at all during the fight with Vernon?" I didn't want to ask some lame "how do you feel" question, and I think the Hall of Famer appreciated the angle. He cracked a bit of a smile, and said, "actually, yeah" as he headed off.
When it comes to today's bloggers, the issues are still the same. The NHL needs to give priority to the pros, but where accomodations exist, making room for bloggers only makes mutual sense. It helps grow the fanbase in a "grassroots" fashion, and I would think a sound principle for most teams to use would be to perhaps have two classifications for such press requests; a "quasi-professional" relationship with more prominent bloggers like Kukla, McErlain, and others with proven track records and steady readership, and a secondary level where they bring in a wider selection of bloggers for one or two special events a year. For the fans, it provides another way to get closer to the team, and for the teams, it's the ultimate cheap-date PR opportunity. Perhaps I need to put in a call to the Predators...