THE TRANSITION from jock to TV personality isn't quite as easy as guys like Tiki Barber and Keyshawn Johnson make it seem—which explains why nine ex--NHL players took part in a six-day broadcasting class in Quinnipiac University's Life After Hockey program. The workshop included a trip to a Rockies--Red Sox game at Fenway Park and a three-part assignment: tape a stand-up introduction, interview a player in the seats and jostle for position during batting practice to grab a big leaguer for questions.
"I got Doug Mirabelli for my interview, so I asked him how he became the league's premier knuckleball catcher," says Todd Simpson (above, interviewing, and in action), who spent 10 years as an NHL enforcer. "He was gracious but explained it was by default since Tim Wakefield is the [big leagues'] only knuckleball pitcher. I realized it's important to be prepared."
Simpson and the others—among them ex-Panther Bill Lindsay, and former Sabre Ric Seiling, a color announcer for the AHL's Rochester Americans who hopes to parlay this experience into a bigger job—plan to send a DVD of their Quinnipiac work to potential employers. The students also got advice from NESN studio host Tom Caron (below), who noted that as ex-athletes they could command their subjects' respect. "You could be an All-Star or the worst player on the roster," said former NHLer Chris Kotsopoulos, "but if you've been in the trenches, you know what goes on."
Caron also bequeathed practical advice he'd gleaned from Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon: "[Damon] said the most important thing [for a reporter] to remember before an interview is to have fresh breath," Caron recalled. "Most of us live on cups of coffee. It must have gotten to him."
"The thing I learned is how much writing is involved and to be mindful of how you ask things," says Seiling, who interviewed Sox legend Johnny Pesky (left). "For [catcher Jason] Varitek, I wrote, 'What is it like to be a switch-hitter?' But after rereading it, I realized how that might sound on TV. I rephrased the question."
The Pop Culture Grid
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|MAURICE EDU Toronto FC, MF||Me||Catcher in the Rye||A Win||Denzel Washington (Training Day)||12||Christina Milian (above)|
|SHAWN MARCUM Blue Jays P||Will Ferrell||Didn't really read as a kid||Sushi||Tony Montana (Scarface)||Two||Pamela Anderson|
|JOE CANNON Galaxy G||Me, so I can hang with the Barker beauties||The Jim Plunkett Story||Three points||Johnny (Karate Kid)||I don't eat hot dogs||Me|
|NICOLE OHLDE Lynx C/F||Simon Cowell||The Boxcar Children||Chocolate-chip ice cream||Jack Nicholson as the Joker||12||Matthew McConaughey|