Good afternoon folks. While getting ready for tonight’s Game 5 between the Hawks and Flyers, I figured I’d provide you guys with another e-mail interview.
This weekend’s installment features James Gralian, known to us twitterers as Tapeleg, site publisher of Jerseys and Hockey Love. James was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, blogging, podcasting, and more.
PH: How did you get into hockey?
JG: I have no idea. Seriously, I should never have found hockey. I was born in Minnesota, but moved to a smaller city in Colorado that didn’t have any ice rinks when I was 6. I was too young to know about the Colorado Rockies, and my dad was a football fan, while my mother was a baseball fan. I was a nerd (what do you mean was – Zing!), so I didn’t track sports at all. I remember watching the Oilers win their third Stanley Cup on ESPN, but the only sport I turned the television on for was late night broadcasts of Australian Rules Football (which is just insane). I remember hearing a bit about the Grizzlies when they were in Denver, but they weren’t the most prominent sports team in the state.
When the Colorado Avalanche came to town, I kept track of them, but started getting excited about the team when Patrick Roy showed up. There was a buzz around town, and I got caught up in it. When the Avs won the Cup, it was really exciting, and that was good enough for me. I kind of fought the hockey bug for a while, compounded by being a starving artist and not owning a TV for a long time. I would watch when I could, but it took a while before I could really watch and enjoy the game at ‘higher’ level.
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player? Why?
JG: I wish I could say I had a favorite team and player. I wasn’t a sports person growing up. I would say that I am still not a sports person, since the only sports I enjoy are hockey and lacrosse (and lacrosse is a distant second place). The Colorado Avalanche were the first team I latched on to. Players like Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy were the main players I kept an eye on, but character guys like Dan Hinote, and later Ian Lapperiere were favorites. It takes all kinds to fit into the 20 man unit that makes up a hockey team, and they are all necessary. It’s one of the things that I love about the sport – the 4th liners are an important part of the team, along with the 1st liners.
PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be involved in hockey as a blogger?
JG: The 2006 Stanley Cup finals were very exciting for me. Even though I didn’t have any real heart or stake in either of the teams playing, the lockout year had made me thirsty for hockey, and for more conversation about hockey. There was only one person I could talk hockey with at the time, but I wanted more. I wanted to learn more, as well as share what I had to say.
I found two excellent hockey blogs, Jez GolBez’ Hockey Rants, and Vancouver Canucks Op Ed (which became Canucks and Beyond on Kukla’s Korner). I had no idea hockey blogs were out there at the time, and was immediately enthralled. I started one shortly after, mostly because I felt I had something to say, and I wanted to interact with other hockey fans on a level slightly different than a forum provided. I was looking for more exchanges of ideas, and some of the forums I looked at weren’t for me. At the time, there was no real measure of success, and that was very freeing to do or say what I wanted. I mean, who was doing stuff like this? (http://jerseysandhockeylove.com/blog/2007/04/04/first-avs-goal-avs-vs-flames/)
PH: What outlets/blogs have you covered hockey for?
JG: I haven’t done a whole lot for other blogs. I’ve done a guest post or two (I did one for Kukla’s almost four years ago), and some other small things here and there. I’m honored to be included by Greg Wyshynski in some of the live game chats that happen on Puck Daddy. For me, interacting with other hockey fans is the best part of all of it.
PH: How did you come up with “Jerseys and Hockey Love”?
JG: The two parts of the name are really what hokcey is for me. I love hockey jerseys, and part of the original ‘mission’ for the blog was to post some of the jerseys I own. I have an eclectic collection that spans the hockey world, from the NHL to the minors, juniors and international. Some of the coolest jerseys I own come from Russia, and I’m always fascinated by the players and stories behind the jerseys.
As for the ‘Hockey Love’ part of the game, I feel like I have a different tone than many other hockey fans. I just love the game. I can sit and watch a kids game and be completely taken in. The minor leagues have the best and most unique atmosphere for my time and money. Many NHL fans don’t like the women’s game, because it doesn’t have the hitting, but it’s phenominal to watch for the speed and skill of the game. I see a lot of people who complain endlessly about the sport or the NHL, but I just have a great time watching and (as bad as I am at it) playing the game of hockey.
PH: What are you trying to bring readers who visit your blog on a daily basis?
JG: I think the two things I try to bring are a less snarky and angry side to the sport, and also take visitors to places the game lives that they may never get to visit. Anyone can produce some funny snark, and there are a hundred places to get your fill. If I don’t like something, or I poke fun of things, I want to do it from a less snarky perspective.
I travel a lot, so I get to see hockey in places that don’t have the NHL in their back yard. Hockey looks different in places that have fewer seats, lower ticket prices, lower salaries, and smaller fan bases. The fans are just as rabid as NHL fans, and support their teams to the end.
Overall, if I think it’s fun or interesting, I’m going to post it.
PH: How do you think hockey blogs will evolve even further?
JG: Sportsblog Nation, and especially it’s dedicated writers, took hockey blogging to another level. They really were the ones who set the bar a little higher for quality content mixed with interaction, that can actually challenge the MSM in it’s coverage. I think they were the latest evolution of the form.
Next, I think bloggers will stop being just bloggers and start going the direction most online sites are going, being media sites. More bloggers will adopt podcasting, video (especially video), and other forms of media into their toolbox. More bloggers will venture into media barons. I also believe that more tools for interactivity will come out, and more tribes will form around blogs and sites. Not just communities, which the current set of tools struggle to create and nurture, but tribes that interact with each other around a leader. Some sites do this fairly well, many don’t. The tools we have, which are incredible, will improve. Things are going to get better.
PH: You also have a podcast “The Rink Podcast”. How did you come up with that?
JG: What I wanted when I started The Rink was to have something a little more colaborative, where I could talk to other people, which isn’t what Jerseys and Hockey Love tends to be (I encourage comments, but comments aren’t a very conversational medium). JaHL is just me, doing what I do. I’ve always been a little jealous of group blogs, where they have people they can interact with, and push each other to do better and more interesting work. They help spur the conversation by holding their own.
The Rink allows me to talk to other hockey bloggers and find out more about their teams, as well as get a better perspective on the NHL and sport as a whole.
PH: With “The Rink Podcast”, what are you trying to bring listeners?
JG: The tag line for The Rink is “hockey talk without the entitlement,” which sounds super snotty, but is the real mission statement of the show. I’m a hockey fan, support my team, and ‘live and die’ by their fortunes, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a complete homer all the time. I wanted to talk about hockey in a smart, sometimes funny way, but also talk to other bloggers and podcasters about their teams. I am not an expert on all things hockey, and would never claim to be. There are much smarter people out there who know more about the teams they write about. I love talking to them, as it makes me a better and more knowledgable fan, and gives the listeners more insight to those teams, and what fans outside of just myself think. It’s not your standard talk radio, which I like.
I also started doing something called Tweetcasts. It’s like a reverse call in show. I ask the people who follow me (@tapeleg) or the show (@rinkpodcast) who wants to talk hockey for 5-10 minutes (or longer), and find out what’s on their minds. It’s a lot of fun, because I don’t know what the show is going to be like, and I’m not the sole direction of the conversation. It doesn’t always have to be about me, which is great.
Plus, the show sounds really good. I’ll toot my own horn on that one, I work hard to keep the audio quality high. People may think I’m an idiot, but they won’t shut of the show because it sounds bad. :-)
PH: How does your podcast help your blog?
JG: I do very little cross promotion of the blog and podcast, which is probably a mistake. I didn’t want The Rink to be all about me when I started it, so I tended to keep the two separate. Now that The Rink is coming up on being two years old, and Jerseys and Hockey Love hitting the four year mark, it may be time to reevaluate that.
PH: Any words of wisdom for readers here at Hockey Independent?
JG: I don’t know if I have any wisdom, and I’m always making mistakes, but that may be a good thing. I get to try things out, and see what works for me. I have a ton of things I believe in when it comes to the mediums of blogging and podcasting. I’ll try and keep it tight.
I recommend reading things outside of hockey blogs that can help you in your blogging endevors. Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/), Merlin Mann (http://www.merlinmann.com/), and Hugh McLeod (http://gapingvoid.com/) are a few of my favorites. In fact, if you want to spend the best hour of your blogging life that will change the way you approach your writing, take an hour and watch Merlin Mann’s speech, How To Blog (http://www.kungfugrippe.com/post/50022261/how-to-blog). Really, it’s worth your time ten-fold, and it’s less pertencious than the first five minutes – or the title – make it seem.
Write every day. The thing that has hurt my writng the most is not writing often enough. No one wants to believe that they need to work at writing, but it’s what good writers do. They write. There are very few shortcuts to writing well, but sitting down to write is the best way to get there. Don’t mistake that for having to post everything you write. In fact, it’s a good excercise to scrap some of the things you write. Being judicial in your editing is a good way to keep your quality high. We all write things that suck. It’s good to recognize it and keep those things to yourself.
Lastly, believe in everything you have to say. Having a unique perspective is only as difficult as saying what you honestly believe in. Readers can smell a phony a mile away. The best blogs have a voice that comes straight from the hearts of the authors. Those are the ones worth reading. It’s easier to be genuine than it seems at first.
Filed Under: NHL
About the Author: Patrick Hoffman has been a hockey blogger since 2004, having written for Stan Fischler, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, TheHockeyNews.com, HockeyBuzz.com, XM Home Ice Channel Hockey Blog, SNYRangersBlog.com, and MaxHockey.com, among many other hockey outlets/blogs. Feel free to drop him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org