20ish Questions With Greg Wyshynski Puck Daddy

By TSM:

Sorry for the delay folks, but I think you will agree it was well worth the wait!!!

Here are some of mine and some of your questions for Greg Wyshynski:

TSM: How did you get your start and why hockey?

GW: The journalism bug bit me while writing for my student newspaper in high school, where I was the sports editor and an entertainment writer. Those first few times when someone says they appreciate what you’ve written, and when you affect change by speaking truth to power – such as it was in high school – are like a narcotic.

I still remember getting pulled out of history class by a girls varsity basketball coach who admonished me in the hallway over something I had written, quoting two of her players about the chemistry of the team. Her reaction was akin to my having broken a PED scandal on the team or something. After she was done frothing, she asked me if I had anything to say, I remember looking at her and saying, “Yeah, you need to do a better job managing your players.” And then I remember going back to class, literally shaking from the confrontation, but ultimately knowing I was in the right. It was scary and exhilarating.

I graduated from the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, did some public relations work, decided I didn’t like coming home with the smell of BS on my breath, hooked up with The Connection Newspapers of Northern Virginia in 1999 and spent nearly a decade there, eventually leaving as the executive sports editor.

While with the paper, I started writing hockey on the side for any publication that would take it, working on my voice and style. Eventually, AOL Sports took notice and I was one of the lead bloggers on the hockey side in a group that included James Mirtle. I wrote a daily hockey column at Deadspin under Will Leitch for a season, and then Jamie Mottram, the current USA Today guru who hired me at AOL, brought me on at Yahoo Sports and we created Puck Daddy in 2008. Soon after, Sean Leahy came aboard, and we’ve run the show together ever since.

Why hockey? It was my passion, from growing up as a fan and reading the hockey coverage in the NY papers my dad would bring home from work to spending hours arguing about it in newsgroups during college. It was that latter experience that really was the spark for my hockey writing: the arguments, the battle lines, the snark. It was just the most fun I had writing about anything, and it helped that I realized rather quickly that I had something to say about it.

TSM: Did you ever play hockey?

GW: I’m a terrible skater. Atrocious. So combine that with being a uncoordinated fat kid whose friend group in New Jersey growing up wasn’t hockey-centric, and I just never got into playing it competitively on the ice. I played a ton of street hockey and floor hockey growing up. Oh, and of course, Nintendo “Ice Hockey.” (Skinny, Medium, Fat, Fat.)
I will say that not being a master of your subject is sometimes beneficial, because it forces you to ask as many questions of your sources as possible. Which is what I did for my book coming out this fall called “Take Your Eye Off The Puck” (Triumph Books), a really fun project that covers every aspect of the game on and off the ice.

TSM: Favorite team /player growing up?:

GW: New Jersey Devils. Latched onto the local team growing up and never let go. I converted my dad, too, as he was an Islanders fan when I was a kid.

I get asked a lot about balancing my fandom – I still buy tickets to games, every season – and my coverage of the NHL. It’s not always been easy, but in the end I hope that (a) the work is what gets judged, away from knowing where my loyalties are and (b) that being a fan means I cover the Devils with a sense of history and perhaps more of a critical eye than most.

I’d never want to give up than fandom. I think it’s important for hockey writers to understand why this stuff matters. Why a team losing a Game 7 to their arch rivals, or winning their first Cup, can bring people tears. (Although so can paying $300 to watch them lose to Arizona.)

Favorite player was Claude Lemieux, who was a next-level pest. Could piss you off with his mouth, stick, turtling and then by scoring the game-winning goal. What a heel.

TSM: Favourite road city/thing to do on the road?

GW: My favorite thing to do on the road is eat, unfortunately, because it’s not as if I’m really making time for the gym all that often during the playoffs. I love eating at specific places when I’m in town – like Neptune’s in Boston or getting a D’Nics sandwich in Philly – but mostly it’s trying to have That Thing You Can’t Get Better Than Getting It Here.

Favorite road city … it’s hard to top Chicago. But I’ll say that any city is a blast when you’re with sportswriting peers, who are some of the funniest, dedicated and hardest partiers that I know.

TSM: When you aren’t at the rink or writing hockey you are ________???

GW: Attempting to carve out undistracted time with my loved ones and/or melting my brain with episodic television or at the movies.

TSM: How has covering the game changed in the Salary cap era?:

GW: The salary cap ruined fantasy trade scenarios. I miss being able to throw a few names out there and not have someone go “but the AAV!” and provide a needle for that trial balloon. That said, it opened up an amazing number of new ways to look at the game: Judging general manager performances and those of players via the cap numbers; and processing the long-term implications for contracts, for example.

TSM: How has covering the game changed in the Social media world (any thoughts on how Twitter will ever get monetized?:

GW: Social media transformed media. For the better: It created a way to break news and witness history when news breaks. Everyone is now deputized as a reporter. It’s amazing. For the worse: The speed at which reporting has to happen has led to shoddy, unprofessional mistakes that are frankly inexcusable, and we’ve all made them. My mantra, on a lot of stories, is that I’m happy to let the other person be first if my take brings the same news with more context, conversation and consideration.

TSM: Greg, what do you think the NHL will look like in ten years?

GW: The NHL is going to have teams in Europe, ads on jerseys and an expanded playoff format that will include some type of play-in game/series. There will be a woman on a pro coaching staff. For fans, we’re going to be able to watch games in virtual reality, like we’re seated in any seat in the arena, from our couch. Oh, and the nets will be bigger. In some shape or form.

TSM: Do you think the NHL will try to incorporate in the next CBA a provision to ban trading injured players to avoid bottom feeders from circumventing the cap floor?

GW: Tough to say. Everything about it is something the owners and GMs would favor, which is getting rid of problematic contracts and being able to reach the salary cap floor. It’s a loophole that helps the haves and the have-nots, so I think it could survive.

TSM: What do you miss most and least about living in DC?

GW: I loved driving home after Capitals games and seeing the Monument and the White House just there at night and thinking, ‘There are people who’ve only seen these things in text books and postcards and it’s basically my home.” The ability to go from covering a Caps game, walking down the street and be in the middle of the celebration after the death of Bin Laden outside the White House … just surreal.

I don’t miss the traffic. And I’m saying that as a New Yorker, so you know it sucks

TSM: In your time around the Caps/Devils, who was the biggest jerk? Anecdotes welcome.

GW: Joe Corvo’s reputation as a combative dick was well established before he arrived in Washington, and he did nothing to flip that script.

TSM: If you were going to change the game of hockey what would you like changed and why?

GW: . For the NHL, I’d obviously inject some subjectivity into the puck over the glass rule, so guys can’t violate it from the OTHER END OF THE ICE as we’ve seen a few times. From a fundamental hockey perspective, I wouldn’t mind seeing that “parenthetical” widening the nets happen, where the posts are curved outward slightly. Oh, and two-minute majors for every penalty. That too.

TSM: Favorite Joel episode and favorite Mike episode?

GW: Putting “Manos” and “Mitchell” aside for Joel, I’ve always had an affinity for “Pod People” and “Warrior Of The Lost World,” a terrible post-apocalyptic flick that has A-plus riffing. For Mike, I always come back to “Prince of Space,” “Overdrawn At The Memory Bank” and, of course, “Space Mutiny.” BEEF HARDSLAB!

TSM: Assuming you (Greg) started in this business through sports freelance writing – what advice would you (he) give for further developing into the hockey writing game?

GW: I had the benefit of having a steady paying gig while writing freelance on the side, so I might not be the guy to offer the best advice on striking out on just freelance gigs. But I’ll say this: It’s very much about doing high-quality work for the right people, who can help you again with more gigs or with something down the road. But establishing a voice, an expertise, something that stands out about your work, is essential. It’s such a packed field.

TSM: Do you enjoy writing about hockey as you do now or would you ever see yourself focusing on the strictly the business side of the sport?

GW: A good portion of my writing is about the business of sports, and on sports media, so I already have a bit of that taste. If I did write media, it’d be much more Richard Deitsch than Darren Rovell.

TSM: One night with Gillian Anderson or one night with Martin Brodeur?

GW: Whichever one didn’t retire with the Blues.

TSM: When was the last time you wore a coconut bra?

GW: Can’t say I’ve had the pleasure. But I do love Mounds bars, FWIW.

TSM: What do you think the toughest US market to play in would be?

GW: I think Philadelphia remains the toughest place to play, based on expectations, fan reaction and media coverage.

TSM: One event (sports, concert etc) you’d like to attend but haven’t yet?:

GW: A New York Jets Super Bowl. Oh, wait, I though you wrote “sporting event you’d like to attend but know you never will…”

TSM: Favorite Lou story?:

GW: It’s Lou’s first waiver draft in 1987. The Devils selected veteran defensemen Reijo Ruotsalainen from Edmonton in the first round and Risto Siltanen from Quebec in the second. Both players were going to compete in Europe during the 1987-88 season. He then selected former “Mircale on Ice” national team defenseman Jack O’Callahan from the Blackhawks in the fifth round. Under the rules at the time, the Devils had to expose another player in the draft after taking O’Callahan, a five-year veteran. Lamoriello chose to expose Siltanen, who wouldn’t have played for the team regardless.

This was, believe it or not, the first time this loophole had been exposed. By a rookie general manager, no less. What a mensch.

TSM: Being from NJ, Mall Hair or Mall Cop?:

GW: Mall hair. The air quality in Jersey is less affected by smokestacks in Newark than it is by aerosol hair spray.

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