S.C.O.O.P.S. Pt. 2 - The Press Box
In last month's first edition of S.C.O.O.P.S (Some Cool Oilers infO Pertaining to Stuff), I wrote about the ins and outs of the Oilers private jet. I received lots of positive feedback about that behind-the-scenes feature, so I hope you find this second installment equally interesting.
While Oilers fans (and occasionally fans from other hockey teams) fill the stands of Rexall Place for every Oilers home game, many of the people who control the game-day experience, finalize the rosters, and provide newspaper, TV, and radio coverage of the game will be found in the Press Box. I recently spent a game day with Oilers Information Coordinator Steve Knowles and wanted to share his story with you. Click here to read more behind-the-scenes stories from around the NHL.
For the past 22 years, Knowles has researched statistics, produced game notes, and manned the Bill Tuele Press Box at Rexall Place, communicating every home goal, penalty and significant milestone for the media, scouts, and management in attendance. Though technology has changed some aspects of his job, Knowles' game days continue to start early and finish late. Every game is different, but Knowles has fine-tuned his routine. Check out his schedule below:
The day before the game -- Knowles creates a package of game notes, including Oilers points of interest, team statistics, individual statistics, head-to-head statistics and milestones. According to Knowles, one of the biggest advancements in recent years has been the development of a standard NHL statistics template, which all the teams now use to create their game notes. This template simplifies the notes not only for the team staff who have to create them, but also the media who have to dissect them.
7:00 a.m. -- Knowles arrives at his office and updates the statistics based on previous night's results.
8:00 a.m. -- With assistance from Communications Intern Kevin Murray, he prints 125 sets of game notes, 100 sets of the NHL stats packages, and 75 sets of newspaper clippings from local, national and international/visiting media, all of which has been gathered by Murray.
8:30 a.m. -- Knowles or Murray drive to Rexall Place (a 15-minute commute) to deliver 50 sets of each package to home and visiting dressing rooms, as well as media and broadcasters at the morning skate.
9:30 a.m. -- Knowles finalizes game day credential requests, including 3-10 for visiting media and varying numbers for scouts and other media.
'The number will vary game-by-game,' he said. 'Opening night was a bit heavier than usual, and when we play Calgary we get a few extra media. Canadian teams also often carry a larger media contingent than some of the American cities do.'
Between 30 and 50 local media also attend each Oilers home game; however, most of those media members hold season press passes.
11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. -- Knowles completes other duties around the office, begins to compose game notes for the following game (for back-to-backs), or heads home for a few hours on the weekends.
3:30 p.m. -- Knowles returns to Rexall Place with the remaining game notes and stats packages and sets up information in the Media Lounge.
4:00 p.m. -- The Press Box team (five game-night staff members) sets up the press box, ensuring TV monitors are set to the appropriate channel, printers are ready and everything else is in order.
5:00 p.m. -- Staff member Tommy McCaskill mans the desk of the media lounge and receives payment for the media meal (free for visiting personnel). On average, 110 media and staff partake in the media meal, but on opening night, Oct. 12 against Colorado, McCaskill tallied 130 customers.
'In the 2006 playoffs, when we got to the Stanley Cup Final, we served 250 meals,' Knowles recalls. 'In 1990 when we played Boston, we had to eat in shifts.'
6:30 p.m. -- Press Box staffer Jason Penner and off-ice officials supervisor Don Whidden collect scratches and starters from the coaches in each dressing room. Penner and Whidden return to the press box and notify broadcasters, the public-address announcers, and the game-production staff of finalized lineups. The finalized lineup card then is photocopied and distributed throughout the press box prior to the puck-drop.
NHL Off-ice Officials keep a keen eye on the play from the Bill Tuele Press Box at Rexall Place as the Oilers host the Calgary Flames Oct. 18, 2008. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MORE PRESS BOX PHOTOS.
'After (game P.A. announcer) Mark Lewis announces who scores the goals or gets the penalty, I'll repeat that in the press box with some updated statistical tidbits,' Knowles said. 'For example, if someone extends their scoring streak, I'll make sure the media is aware of that.'
Near the end of the first and second periods -- McCaskill updates the out-of-town score sheet and the staff distributes it throughout the press box.
'We used to get Sports Ticker, which came across on ticker tape, and then he would have to handwrite it down and we'd photocopy that,' Knowles said. 'But now with NHL.com, we can get all our out-of-town scores printed off the computer and distribute them in two or three pages rather than eight.'
At first and second intermissions -- Press box staff distributes statistics reports and game sheets throughout press box.
In the third period -- Knowles coordinates the Three Stars selection (selected by media panel, the TV broadcasters, or a fan vote).
Late in the third period -- Knowles communicates via headset the Three Stars to staff at both bench areas and all broadcast booths, as well as the P.A. booth.
Following the game -- The press box staff receives the final statistics report and game sheet from NHL off-ice officials. The sheets are distributed throughout press box, the media lounge, the broadcast trucks in the loading dock and both locker rooms.
- Up to 250 people can watch the game from the Press Box.
- P.A. Announcer Mark Lewis has been the voice of Oilers home games for the past 28 years.
- There are two Coca Cola representatives in the press box for every game to keep an eye on the pop supply.
- Press Box freezers are filled with 200 ice cream sandwiches prior to every home game.
- Popcorn is refilled prior to every game.
- The busiest pop, popcorn, and ice cream stations are located in the media section on the West side of Rexall Place.
- The Press Box is named after Bill Tuele, former Oilers VP of Public Relations, who retired after the 2004-05 lockout season.