LIW: You enjoy first, and pretty much exclusive access to the Canadiens players in the off-season. It's quite a privilege. As thousands of fans search the internet for news, how do you make sure you use that exclusive access to make yourself the top destination for true fans?
Canadiens.com: Besides re-reporting the news, what we like to do is do a little bit or old time reporting. You know, sit the players down and ask them a whole raft of serious questions to really get to know them better. Although the players have to talk to us (it's in their contracts) we want to make sure it's a fun time for them, not too serious, so they'll keep coming back.
Right. Sounds easy enough, I'm sure it's not. After all, how do you come up with your questions?
Well, basically, from a lot of inspiration, if you can call it that. Sometimes we have an internal meeting to come up with ideas – a brainstorm, I think they call it. We all sit in a room for an afternoon, eating steamies and throwing ideas at the wall. It's actually pretty crazy, the creative vibes that get flowing after the 8th hotdog slides down, and with all that Pepsi. We bring all kinds of source material to help in our planning – last year's questions, of course, notes from previous interviews, those free magazines you get at Famous Players...
Brainstorm, eh? Sounds fun. Can you tell which direction the ideas are going to go in? I mean one year you asked about the Simpsons, this year it could have been any TV show. It could be music, even sports, I guess, as well...
As I said, it's a bit manic. Everyone throwing out ideas like what's on your stereo? What's on your ipod? What concert was your first? Yeah, last year we asked about the Simpsons, which was crazy. This year, we took it way off piste with Seinfeld. Hold onto your hats for next season...
Seinfeld character, right – that's gold (Jerry). How did you know fans would be dying to know what the newest addition to the Canadiens would think of a sitcom that hasn't even been on the air for 10 years? To go off piste, but yet be so very on piste with public curiosities...
Well I like Seinfeld, so when we were doing the brainstorm I came up with that. I love them all – well except those ones where Elaine has really frizzy hair and flowery dresses, but all the late ones, anyway. I love the question because no matter who you ask no one ever says Jerry or Elaine – it's pretty much are you George or Kramer? The ultimate dichotomy. That's the brilliance, of course. That and how that naturally translates to hockey.
That's right, so clear that the connection can be left unexplained. Speaking of hockey, you do insert a couple of questions in there about the game. How do you think of those?
Well, believe it or not, we actually get those from the fans. The craziest fans submit questions all year long for when we actually get a chance to sit down and speak to the players. Unfortunately not all fans really understand what the internet is about – intertainment. We have to make sure we don't go too far off our plan from the brainstorm with random hockey questions from fans. So we choose a couple of hockey questions, but get back to the deeper and more lateral character probing questions to get the best insights for readers.
Isn't it hard, though, to do an interview with a hockey player without talking more about hockey?
You'd think it would be, but no not really. I mean at first the instinct is to veer off the course set out by the brainstorm and ask about Stanley Cups and interntaional experience, the new coach, first goals, expectations, linemates, style of hockey, off-season training, even what they think it will be like to play in Montreal. Or, to slack off and take all the questions from the fan submissions. But with a little bit of discipline, you get back to the script from the brainstorm.
Plus, you guys only see what is actually edited by me and the guys. If you could only see how much garbage about hockey we have to cut to get it to the sleek final product. Even when we ask them about ipods they want to digress to hockey. They're intolerable.
Wow, and it's like that all year too, isn't it? I mean getting all the ipod playlists, golf foursomes. You really do make sure the discerning hockey a fan a place to go for everything the negligent press skips over as they concentrate on hockey.
Indeed. We do try to make this a home away from home for the true Habs fan. Where else could you find out whether Tomas Plekanec prefers Primo or Ragu sauce on his spaghetti or if Brian Gionta has been contacted about a remake of Willow?
Finally, I have to ask. What was it like interviewing Henri Richard?
You know Henri Richard, Canadiens captain, Pocket Rocket, number 16, 11 Cups?
The guy who liked Paul Anka?
Oh yeah, that guy. My boss wanted me to do a piece on him. But you know what he didn't even know enough about Seinfeld to get into serious conversation – he didn't even know about the episode with the Cosmo Kramer Reality tour. Anyway, since he didn't own an ipod either, I just guessed how old he was and googled his birth year into Yahoo. I just picked a few from there and then added some from of my own favourites too.
Thanks for your time. I can't wait for tomorrow to hear which Adam Sandler movie Travis Moen patterns his life on...