Josh Mora, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, has been deluded enough to waste some of his time and answer some of our questions, and some questions from our 6 readers. We couldn't be happier that he's decided to slum it, and hopefully he isn't staring into a mirror somewhere and wonder what he's done. Full Q&A after the jump.
The first thing I would ask is that when I watch Bruins games on NESN, or Rangers games on MSG, or any of the Canadian broadcasts, the production seems to be a step up from Comcast. Do those stations just have a larger budget than you guys do? Is there not actually a difference between the broadcasts? I notice the same thing for baseball, the difference between watching a game on NESN or YES and one on Comcast. -Sam
A: I don't know a thing about budget sizes. I've always contended that the less I know about those kinds of details -- budgets, ratings, etc. -- the harder it is for me to concentrate on the important things for me to do my job as an on-air reporter and anchor. I don't know if I agree with you on your assessment because I don't see a big difference in the production values. In fact a lot of stations don't invest where we do -- postgame sets in studio, reporting and anchor staff, news content, etc.
Quick history here, Josh has been friends with my family since he was in high school, so I know for a fact that you're one of the bigger Hawks fans around, and your family had season tickets in the third row behind the penalty box at the old Stadium. Does being such a huge fan make covering the Hawks easier or harder? Do you have to separate the fan Josh from journalist Josh? -Sam
A: Actually, first row of the mezzanine, on the blueline across from the Hawks' bench. And in those days the seats cost $20. Covering the teams you grew up with certainly makes the job more fun. When you follow a team from start to finish you naturally become invested in the team and you root for them more than a little bit. It's great to go with the team to the post-season and to feel like you know them inside-out, the way that hardcore fans know their team. But even though you pull for the team while you watch them, you have to make sure it doesn't prevent you from asking a tough question or getting to the bottom of a touchy subject. My philosophy is that I spend most of a season (or if I stay on the same beat, SEVERAL season) building up a level of trust between myself and the players and coaches, so they know that I'm a guy that will handle any story correctly. I hope that's proven to be the case over the last few seasons with the Blackhawks, and it's why I covered the Blackhawks with the same passion and enthusiasm four years ago when they finished 14th in the west, as I do today when they have had such a terrific first half.
Who, realistically, are the Hawks going to go after at the deadline?
A: I don't think the Hawks are short all that much. Mostly they need their current roster to get experience. In the short-term, they could pick up a veteran player to help shepherd them through this year's playoffs. While a lot of people think they need a second-line type center, especially one who's good on faceoffs, it wouldn't surprise me to see them also try to pick up a veteran stay-at-home defenseman. That may depend on whether or not Brent Sopel finds his legs again.
The main administrator of our blog, Matt, wants to know how much interaction you have with the team, in that are you mostly just in studio or are you out at practice as well? Off that, we've heard what a great bunch they are to be around, what's your view on that?
A: They are a terrrific bunch to be around. As good a team as I've been with in any sport. And their enthusiasm is infectious.
On home gamedays I always go to the morning skate to talk to the players and coaches. I usually stay and visit with the opposing team and at least listen to their coach talk as well. I've been covering the league long enough now that I usually know at least a player or two on most teams in the league. (And I should point out that most of the Hawks broadcasters are at these skates too -- Pat Foley, Eddie Olcyzk, John Wideman, Troy Murray, Judd Sirott and my partner, Steve Konroyd). When the team doesn't have a morning skate, I arrive early enough that I'm in the hallway when the players walk in, and I try to talk to at least a couple of them. On non-game days it depends on my schedule, but I'm usually at practice once or twice a week as the reporter.
In addition, have you noticed a difference it Toews as captain this season? Is he acting differently than last?
A: Not acting differently, but playing a little differently. I'm not sure if that's so much about being the captain as it is about a 20-year-old trying to be a leader on a team without a lot of veteran presence. His role is a little different tactically also -- he's in a different spot on the power play for example. But overall, I don't see Jplaying with the same free-spirit as I saw a year ago. I hope he'll find that again in the second half. I do think it will serve him over the long haul of his career to have assumed this much responsibility at such a young age.
Were you worried that writing a children's book about the team you cover would be a conflict of interests?
A: I was mostly worried that people would hate it or that the story wouldn't work. My wife, who did the illustrations, and I had a lot of personal emotional investment in this. I've always wanted to write in ways other than the writing I do for television. She has a long resume of professional experience as an illustrator and a designer, but she's always wanted to illustrate books. So were putting our professional aspirations out there for everyone to ridicule. Plus, in many ways, it's a very personal story, too. I think one of the reasons the story works is that while it's good for kids, it also reminds us grown-up Hawks' fans about how we first fell in love with the game and this team. So I had that out there as well. But when I started hosting the show again in the middle of last year the Blackhawks made it very clear that they didn't want their host to be a shill for the team, but rather for Steve and I to be open and honest about what we saw on the ice. So I was pretty confident we could do the book without sacrificing my integrity as a journalist.
Has your experience as a former college hockey player made it easier to be a postgame show host?
A: Well, I was a truly mediocre hockey player who earned a lot of time on the bench, so I got to watch a lot of high-level hockey. Clearly it's an advantage, more for the repitition than the talent. The experience of seeing so much hockey allows you to comprehend things faster and more clearly. When I watch games with novice fans, they are always amazed at how I can see a scoring chance coming -- how often I'll say "trouble" 5-10 seconds before the Hawks give up a goal, or I'll say "there it is" a few seconds before the Hawks score. Steve Konroyd is the same way. It's like watching the Matrix -- eventually you see enough hockey plays that you can see through the code and into the places where the game breaks down. I also thinks it helps relate to the players -- not that the skill level was anywhere close to these elite athletes, but that you understand certain things that are common to the game anywhere, like the politics of a locker room, the impact of injuries, the cameraderie required to reach a common goal, etc.
With so many new Hawk fans being new to hockey as well, do you feel like more basic explanations are needed during segments?
A: Yeah, I do, and that's something I have to remember on a nightly basis. The other night Eddie Olczyk was with us in studio for the Phoenix game when we had the two skirmishes with Walker and JOvanovski and then Huet and Fedoruk. We took an extra beat to talk about not only why those things happened, but why they needed to happen and what the motivation was behind them. To a novice fan that could easily have looked like violence for the sake of violence, or at the very least like poor sportsmanship, but its an important part of hockey at the NHL level.
Kerry Sayers, Gail Fisher, or Sarah Kustok?
A: Yes, thank you.
There's been a lot of dizzy talk that the Hawks are genuine contenders this season. As fans, what should we be satisfied with? Wouldn't a round 1 win be more than we could have asked for at the beginning of the season?
A: There's a difference between pleased and satisfied. For Cubs fans, this past season was incredibly pleasant, and yet intensely unsatisfying. When the Hawks went on that 6-game roadie earlier in the year, I heard some fans -- and even some Hawks brass -- say they expected to be 500 on the trip. I thought, no, they should expect to win them all. Didn't mean they would win them all, but once you start setting the bar low it's easy to become complacent or to settle for falling just short of that low bar. In my opinion, no competitor should ever be satisfied with less than the championship. There are steps along the way that we should acknowledge, and we should certainly take pleasure in enjoying the ride. The goal is the Cup. Anything less is unsatisfying.