Ups and Downs of Working in Hockey

It’s a dream come true to be working for the University of Wisconsin’s mens’ hockey team; I still pinch myself every time I walk into the arena, even more so now that COVID-19 has severely impacted the sports industry. So many people have been affected by the pandemic and I am so thankful to still be a part of the athletic community at UW.

That being said, not every day is full of goal celebrations and milestones.

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at Wisconsin and USA Hockey, both of which are incredible organizations full of individuals who were willing to grant me a chance to prove myself. I started working for USA Hockey’s NTDP at 15 after their move to USA Hockey Arena elevated the program and production of games, leaving the communications team in need of a few extra hands on game day. However, I had to work hard to prove myself and my knowledge of hockey given that I was extremely young, female, and inexperienced in a highly professional environment.

Although rewarding, sports media is more than just hanging out at the rink all day and writing about hockey. It’s a grind, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The toughest work is after hours.

I can recall multiple instances at the NTDP, particularly during tournaments running three to four games a day, where I’d arrive at the rink around 9 a.m. and leave well past midnight. With the Badgers, my post game responsibilities include posting final score graphics to twitter and instagram, writing a post game recap, and updating line charts for the next game. If we win, I also have to prepare a Facebook post and three stars of the game graphic for Twitter. It’s important to get all these posts out directly after the game since timeliness is a huge aspect of news and is the basis of relevancy. What good is a post-game recap if it isn’t posted post game?

A 7 p.m. game time means I probably leave the rink around 10:30, but of course, the time I get out is dependent on the game plays out. An overtime win might mean I don’t get out until midnight, while a 1-0 regulation loss could get me out in 45 minutes.

Since taking on more responsibilities with the Badgers, I’ve found ways to lessen my post-game work load by completing what I could in-game. Aside from live tweeting and score updates, there’s not much to do during play except watch the game. Recently I started taking notes during the game to use in my recap so I don’t have to spend time looking back at plays or digging up stats. For example, right after a goal is scored, I type out a sentence or two detailing the play while it’s fresh in my mind. I find that writing the majority of the recap in the moment makes it significantly easier to finish after the game, also also makes it more exciting.

After three years with the NTDP and one and a half seasons with the Badgers, I’ve grown to enjoy the late night work, which brings me to my next point.

Everything is time-sensitive or on a deadline.

Sports themselves are pretty much one big deadline. Each series, game, and even period has its own checklist of things that need to be completed before and after. The Quick Six, a series preview that gets sent out for every set of games, needs to be completed a day or two before the first game. Pictures and graphics need to be compiled for every game, and score updates for each period.

Working deadline to deadline can be very stressful, especially when paired with unusual hours. Luckily, this tight schedule has taught me how to manage my time and clearly lay out my tasks in a way that makes them seem less daunting. Since deadlines are pretty strict in sports, it’s always better to complete a post or write-up with some time to spare just incase something comes up. I’ve found myself in the middle of working on a scheduled post asked to do a quick write up on a player milestone or press release that needs to go live instantly.

It’s also important to be aware of the environment your work pertains to. Is the team on a hot streak? Is a star player in a slump? These things can make it difficult to plan ahead.

Last season, I wrote a feature story on one of the Badger’s goalies who performed very well for a few series but then lost his starting spot a few weeks later. Since this was my first feature story, it took me a while to write. By the time it was finished, it didn’t make sense to post given that my story highlighted a goalie who wasn’t currently performing well. Regardless, I’m still very proud of the article and I learned how important timeliness is in sports.

Commitment requires sacrifice.

Working for a USHL team and college hockey team usually means my Friday and Saturday nights are booked up. Looking back, I missed out on almost every high school football game after I started working for the NTDP. Obviously, the experience I gained there is truly invaluable and I wouldn’t change anything looking back, but missing out on those memories is a choice I had to make.

Now in college, I often find myself still at the rink while my friends are leaving for parties. Weekend games don’t always mean I miss out on going out or seeing friends, but an 8 p.m puck drop or particularly long game might mean I’m too exhausted to do anything but pass out when I get home.

At the end of the day, it’s doing what you love.

Pursuing sports media has allowed me to stay involved in hockey by making it my career. I grew up playing hockey— and still do— but just for fun at this point. Around 16 years old, I had to face the fact that no matter if I played NCAA division one hockey or club hockey in the middle of no where, my hockey career would be over after those initial four years. I knew wasn’t good enough to play division one, and had no interest in division three after getting accepted to Michigan and Wisconsin (both of which have very good club hockey programs). However, I did know that I loved working at USA Hockey and had a knack for journalism. Luckily, I am not only able to continue these passions at Wisconsin, but also gain even more experience by working in brand communications for the Badger’s elite mens’ hockey team. Also, it’s just really, really fun.

Author: CBode

Student at the University of Wisconsin, social media for the Badger Mens Hockey team. Former USA NTDP intern. Follow me on TikTok @cbode

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