I’ve made about 1,000 YouTube videos talking about hockey, but I still have a lot of stories and little things I’ve never really shared with you guys. Since there’s a lockout (again), here is one of those stories. It’s really long, so here’s your chance to tap out early.
It’s May 2009. I’m in my third year of university. I had just completed my first and only full season as the writer for RBC Junior Hockey Magazine, a nationally syndicated junior hockey radio show hosted by TSN’s Gino Reda. Other people who have held this position in the past include TSN’s Jermain Franklin, Ken Rodney, and Matt Cade, Sportsnet 590′s David Alter, Eric Smith, and Dave Cadeau, the Score’s Rob Pizzo, and a few other recognizable names. And lil’ ol’ me. I was 20-years-old for most of the season, meaning I was the same age as many of the guests we had on the show. I was one of the younger writers they’d ever had. Not only did I write the scripts for the show, but I also gathered soundbites and quotes from junior hockey players, coaches, GMs, etc. The show was on once a week and we usually had a minimum of two “News and Notes” soundbites, as well as a feature interview. After doing that show for about eight months, I had a lot of numbers in my phone.
One of those numbers was Jordan Eberle’s.
Jordan was (and in many ways still is) a national icon for scoring his famous game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds at the 2009 World Juniors in Ottawa. Being a junior hockey show, we had to have him on as our feature interview on our first show back. That show was insane, because the day we recorded it was the same day the massive trade that sent John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto from Oshawa to London happened, too. I had basically just finished writing the show when the deal happened, too. So much for that script, throw it in the garbage. We still had Eberle on but we also had London Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio on. Here’s the full show (Eberle’s interview is about halfway through).
I called and texted Eberle a few more times throughout the season for quotes here and there. One time I was getting a quick quote from him because he scored his 100th career WHL goal. Trying to be funny, I go “So Jordan, can you think of any other big goals you’ve scored this year?” He said something like “Um, well I think I scored a couple nice ones or whatever and uh…” I go “Jordan…” “Yeah?” “5.4?” “Oh! Haha yeah!” He didn’t realize what I was getting at. I had to laugh. Also now looking back I cringe at how badly most of my questions sucked.
Once the show was over in May, I got really restless. I was still interning at the Fan 590 (now Sportsnet 590 the Fan), about to enter my fourth year of university, and still working the same summer job at the Toronto Zoo that I’d had since Grade 11. Plus it’s not like I was making any Leafs playoff videos, so my YouTube channel was going a bit stale, too. I wanted to try something new. Show everyone I was more than just some spazz with a webcam. I wanted to try to interview players on my own and upload them. After all, I’d been interviewing guys all season. Why not? I thought of a few players I could contact and Jordan immediately came to mind.
A day or two later, I’m driving around with my friend Justin Fisher (he was driving). We were pulling into Tim Horton’s drive-through because, well, it’s Canada, and my phone rings.
“Hey, it’s Jordan Eberle.”
Justin goes “WHAT?!?!” and we almost drive up on the curb and run over the drive-through speaker.
Jordan and I arranged a time to do the interview. I got my friend Joseph DeBenedictis (who now works online magic for the CFL) to come over that morning with his camera. The plan was to shoot me on my webcam, and and with his camera. Multiple angles! I’m practically Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports! You know, minus the experience, budget, talent, and know-how, and so on. Once we got Jordan on the phone we got him to record himself on his laptop. We were trying to make it look like we were Skyping him. Instead we just recorded ourselves and talked over speakerphone. Now that’s budget!
We did the interview (which I’ll post at the bottom of this blog) and wrapped up. I thanked Jordan and all that. When Jordan goes to send me his video file, we realize it’s absolutely enormous and there was no free website we knew of at the time that would allow him to send a file that big. We were screwed.
One of either Joseph or Jordan, I think it might have actually been Jordan, knew how to compress the file down. Sweet! Once he compressed it way down, he could send it, and we were good to go. The whole time, he’s running late for a training session at the gym while a couple schmucks in Toronto are telling him how to sign up for a yousendit.com account.
We say goodbye, we get the video file, and all I’m thinking is “Holy crap, I got an exclusive interview with Jordan Eberle and I’m going to get like 90 million bajilion views!” That’s right, Steve. One budget interview with terrible questions and you’re practically Bob McKenzie. Man was I dumb. I’m still dumb now, I was just dumber then.
I open the file, and the thing about compressing video is it makes the footage look like it was shot with a bagel. I could deal with the crappy-looking footage, but the compression forced the sound out of sync like a poorly-dubbed episode of Dragon Ball Z.
We spent hours and hours in Joseph’s basement fixing the synch on this footage and then mixing it together with mine. We did this until 3 or 4am and I had to get up at 7am to work a sweltering hot day at the zoo. It also probably didn’t help much that I was texting players (totally not allowed while working), trying to arrange interviews while standing next to a bunch of camels.
I got many other players to do interviews like that over that summer. Eberle’s buddy Taylor Hall did one, Leafs prospects Nazem Kadri, Jesse Blacker, and Carter Ashton, Ducks prospect Peter Holland, Isles prospect Calvin de Haan, and more. Most of them are pretty horrible on my part. It’s the sort of thing I can look back on and go “Well, at least I’ve come a long way.”
Those videos also helped because Nike saw them. Those videos helped me get in with them to do the 2010 World Juniors in Saskatchewan. Between those videos and Junior Hockey Mag, I had already spoken to over half of the players that went on to make the team, so it made me a better candidate. And we did some damn fine work that helped lead to covering the Vancouver Olympics for Nike, as well. Funny how one thing just kind of leads to another like that.
Anyway, that’s my long-winded story about Jordan Eberle. Hoped you liked it. More random stories to come. Oh! And here’s the Eberle interview. Enjoy it, because I can’t watch it. Nice headphones, Dangle. He’s on speakerphone, you phoney dunce! Barf.