ARTICLE OF THE DAY

The Best Athletes to Interview
by Brian North
5/18/06

I've been in this crazy business of TV for 15 years. I have interviewed lots of athletes from just about every sport imaginable. From young to old, male and female, star and shy first timer. But the best athletes to interview have to be hockey players.

I was reminded of this in the Hurricanes locker room after they finished off the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Every player made himself available for as long as there was somebody asking questions. Most professional athletes look like they are in the dentists chair whenever a Q&A session goes longer than five minutes. At one point, rookie goalie Cam Ward was needed for a radio interview, and he told the group surrounding him not to move, he wouldn't be long and he would return to finish the interviews. And he actually returned shortly and finished his interview session. I was flabbergasted. You won't see that in an NBA locker room.

Also the superstars on the team are always available. I rushed over to Hurricanes team captain Rod Brind'Amour, the most popular media target in the legroom. But I was too late, and in the back of the. When I finally got into the scrum, you could tell Rod wanted to get to his legendary post game training on a stationary bike. But instead he accommodated me and several other tardy journalists. It may not sound like a big deal, but many stars in other sports will do one round of questions, and then excuse themselves, or have a team representative bail them out.

Hockey players are as good as any athlete at the sports cliche, but they actually believe them. And they aren't afraid to throw in a clever turn of phrase from whichever country they originate. But hockey players will always give you honest answers, and they always compliment their opponent. Maybe the sport isn't more popular because of the lack of trash talk.  Personally I like the fact hockey players respect their opponent publicly. There worst I ever heard one player trash another was the Red Wings Kris Draper when he said "I can't believe I shook that friggin' guys hand after the game" after Draper was bloodied by a cheap shot in a playoff game Detroit lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the 90's.

Hockey players will also talk win or lose. Some professional athletes find a way to sneak out of the legroom after a tough loss to avoid the tough questions. I know it can't be pleasant to face those questions, but if you are around for the good, can't you be around for the bad? It's called character, and as a whole, hockey players will always face the bright lights win or lose.

Hockey players even do interviews during the game. During period intermissions, a player is always available to talk about the game in progress. And these interviews are always more insightful than those horribly generic football coach halftime interviews where some under qualified pretty person attempts to ask an inane question to an angry old man who would rather be cussing at his players than spouting some coach-speak.

I don't want everyone to think all other athletes are horrible interviews. There are very engaging people in every sport. But as a whole, hockey players beat baseball players (boring & short answers), basketball players (have trouble with people who repeat "you know what I'm saying" after every attempt at a statement), football players (2nd favorite group), and NASCAR drivers (the older drivers are great, the new young guns are too polished and scripted).

It's a good thing the 'Canes are still alive in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. It will make the summer a little more interesting.
 
Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com