Kathryn Tappen: Observations from the bench
After spending five years at NESN and having quite a run with the Boston Bruins as they went from a team in hiding in the city of Boston to the Stanley Cup Champions, it was time for me to tackle a new challenge in my career.
And so it began – the back and forth commute from Boston to Toronto every week to broadcast for the NHL Network. I had to learn the entire NHL as well as I knew the Bruins for so many years. I wouldn’t change my experience over the past 12 months, and I look forward to the upcoming season and growing in my role with the NHL.
Now, with all this travel comes a diligent ritual of packing and unpacking. But most importantly, I get to interact, interview, and engage some of the greatest people in the game of hockey.
With live, on-location broadcasts at the Winter Classic, the All Star Game, the GM Meetings, the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL Awards, and NHL Draft, I gained a wealth of knowledge and an inside look at the league. Here are a few of my thoughts on the “best of the best”, which were very difficult to choose and are presented in no particular order.
Steven Stamkos joined us on the “NHL Tonight” Arena Cam on the final day of the regular season after recording his 60th goal in a 4–3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets. He became the 20th player in league history to achieve the feat. Stamkos was so excited. We had an engaging conversation, laughed a bit, and he acknowledged my prediction months prior that he would reach the 60 goal plateau. Hey, it’s always fun when a player gives you a shout out.
Being inside Staples Center to watch the LA Kings fans go absolutely crazy with two minutes to play in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The game result was decisive as the Kings led the NJ Devils 6-1 with minutes to play. Staples Center was so loud, and we were right in the thick of the action as the LA Kings captured the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
This is a tough category, as I hate to single out players. Anyone who has worked covering sports will tell you that hockey guys are the best. They are all down to earth, well-spoken, and accommodating to reporters and their deadline needs. If I had to choose one player, it would be Shane Doan. The Phoenix Coyotes captain joined us for the NHL Player Media Tour in NYC last September. He came into the room, greeted the camera crew and producers before sitting down for a candid interview with me. He was hilarious, jovial, and one of the nicest guys I had interviewed. When the sit-down conversation was complete, he got up and shook the hands of everyone in the room and thanked them for their time. A true class act, and one of the best in the game.
Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche took home the Calder Trophy at this year’s NHL Awards in Las Vegas. He had an outstanding season with the Avs. However, my choice for best rookie would have to be Landeskog’s fellow nominee, Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils. Henrique was instrumental in the Devils Stanley Cup run, becoming the first rookie to score two series-clinching overtime goals in the same playoffs to go with his 13 points in 24 playoff games. With Zach Parise parting ways with the NJ Devils this offseason, look for Henrique to assume an even bigger role with the organization and become one of the bright stars of the NHL.
It’s hard to see the players hair with their helmets on during games, but sometimes you can see the “lettuce” as it’s affectionately called underneath those lids. It’s even harder to see a goaltenders head of hair since their helmets cover their entire head. But I think even those casual fans of hockey would agree with me that Henrik Lundqvist has a perhaps the best head of hair. It helps that he is also the best dressed. Maybe it’s the nice suits that make him look so dapper all the time, or else he’s just naturally gifted.