It’s been a whirlwind year for ESPN hockey reporter Emily Kaplan.She transitioned from news anchor and star around the horn Team member breaking barriers as a backup reporter for televised 2021-22. How did she get to where she is today, and what is life like between the benches? She recently caught up with Hockey News to share her story.
Hockey News: Growing up in New Jersey, did you always know you would be a sports reporter, or did you consider any alternate universe career paths?
EMILY KAPLAN: There is no other universe for me.In fifth grade, I said, “I want to be a sports reporter when I grow up, with a golden retriever and a yard with a white fence.” My dad was the Sunday sports editor new york daily news, and I’m the second of three girls, and I have a serious neutron complex, so I always thought my dad hated me (laughs). Essentially, in order to be close to him, I chose what he did. He’s a huge hockey fan and we made a connection by watching Rangers games.
THN: Do any particular memories of watching the sport stand out from your childhood?
Kaplan: My dad’s time was crazy, and I remember making a connection on Saturdays when we could watch games together—especially during the day, when he took me to New York with my grandpa and made clothes in Madison Square Garden. I don’t know where the knishes went, but they were great and I think they should come back. I’m from the outskirts of the city, half Rangers fan, half Devils fan.
THN: become a writer Sports Illustrated, You work closely with the legendary Peter King. Did he impart any wisdom you carry with you today?
Kaplan: a lot of. On one hand, he is the ultimate grinder. He always said, “Those who work hard pay off,” and that’s been my mantra throughout my career. Another really great thing about working with him was following him and seeing how he did it and had such incredible access to top players, coaches, general managers of football. For him, it’s all about relationships and responsibilities. He put his opinion out there, but he can support it because he put in the work, he put in the time, he made all the decisions. Seeing the way he works, I want to replicate that work ethic.
THN: What’s the biggest difference between covering the NFL and the NHL?
Kaplan: In the NFL, you can walk into any locker room, put the microphone in front of the player and say, “Tell me why you’re great,” and he’ll tell you his life story, brag about himself, and give colorful, funny anecdotes. In hockey, we love the game because of the culture of humility. A star player only plays about a third of his games. At the same time, it can also be frustrating because you know very little about who these people are, what really motivates them, what really motivates them and who they are because they are used to not talking about themselves. So that’s a huge difference.
In general, people never want to talk about themselves, which can sometimes make storytelling and getting news more difficult. When it comes to coaching searches or GM searches, people always say, “It didn’t come from me,” or, “Don’t put my name out there.” And in football, people are more… boastful (laughs).
THN: Switching from writing to television has always been your goal, or is it a relatively recent development?
Kaplan: Definitely a late development.I always thought I was going to be a sports reporter and I was in Sports Illustrated When I was 22, that was the coolest thing. Long-form news specifically talks to me about telling those nuanced stories. Another piece of advice Peter King has always given me is to be versatile. Unfortunately or fortunately, journalists have to brand themselves no matter what you say. It is very important to be open to the public. It can help you access. You can use it to get information.
So when I got the job at ESPN, obviously we were a TV company, but mostly writing for ESPN.com. My job is as a staff writer for ESPN.com, but once people give me a chance to be on TV, I’ll do it. I realize it’s cool and I love doing it. Editing yourself and saving text is a huge challenge. I think having a writing background is very useful in many ways, no matter what your career is. But I find it odd that my goal is always to write as long as possible, and now I have to condense all the information I know into 20 seconds. It feels like torture at times, but it’s all cool (laughs).
THN: You’ve made a name for yourself as a skilled debater on ESPN around the speakers. How did you get so good?
Kaplan: It was ESPN’s first TV show, and it gave me regular reps, and I’m very grateful to the producers for sticking with me because I definitely didn’t have a smooth start. I think why I’m good at it is because I’m excited to do it, I put my passion into it, I call and do my research.
I just need to put my bet on the ground and act. Growing up in a journalism context, it’s hard because you’re always taught to be fair and objective and look at things objectively. In this show, you have to choose a way to do it. Once you’re in it, if you’re confident in all the work you’ve done before, you’ll do well. My advice: I’m overprepared.exist around the horn That day, I had to sit in a chair at 1:00 CST, and when I started, I wouldn’t schedule anything around the horn One day because I need the whole morning to prepare. I’m better at multitasking now, but I still take it very seriously.
THN: What was your reaction when you learned you were going to be covering ESPN’s bench?
Kaplan: very cool. When we struck a copyright deal, I told our big boss that it was something I was really interested in and would love to do. I don’t know how they would react if I thought about it. I thought if I could play a few games this year, it would be a great experience, but they trusted me enough to put me on the opening night stream, which honestly gave me the chills. It’s an honor to be below. You’re in a place no one else can, where there’s only one place, and being able to share what you see, your point of view, that vantage point, what I’ve heard – which is obviously funny at times – which I don’t know . Don’t take it lightly, it’s my current favorite thing to do.
THN: Did anything about the coverage between the benches surprise you?
Kaplan: Yes. First, it was harder to hear on a noisy stage than I thought. I did a preseason test in Tampa and I thought, “Should I consider buying hearing aids? Is there any way I can improve my hearing here?” Because I want to hear everything on the ice and the real you What can be heard is the peripheral sound.
You have a new appreciation for speed, technique and physicality. Guys are in it and I always say hockey is the best live game experience. Being that close, I appreciate it even more. And sight. I heard officials and coaches talk about sight, now I get it. When the goalie is screened and you can actually see it on the ice, it changes your view of the game.
THN: Have you ever gotten into the classic bench reporter situation where players can hear you talking about them?
Kaplan: Usually, the two guys at the end of the bench, sometimes they even interact with me. The Blues players (one night) were hilarious. They were all showing me at my monitor, like, “What time is my ice making time?” Also, Corey Perry got into an argument with a player and gave him a fatal look. He came to the bench and he was really pissed and I was reporting that report and he was sitting there and I think he was listening to every word I said. It feels a little embarrassing, but you do what you have to do, and I’m confident that what I said accurately describes what happened, so if he has a problem, I can support it after the game.
THN: Has your life started to change since you started doing so much broadcasting? Are you getting more recognition?
Kaplan: People may greet me more, but I think I’m still a D-list celebrity (laughs). The way that’s changed the most is that I feel like I’m getting more respect from people in the game. GMs now, when they talk to me, they’re like, “Oh, I saw you on the radio,” and it’s kind of like the respect I didn’t get before, just because I was so compelling. I’ve always In putting in work, I’ve always cared about games, and I’ve been trying to tell more interesting stories, but now that I’m able to do it on such a large platform, it opens up a lot more doors in this way.
THN: We’re seeing more and more women in key hockey broadcast roles, but the sport is still relatively male-dominated. Is it a sense of pride to be a role model for women, or is it a hope that one day it ceases to be “news” as equality is more common?
Kaplan: Visibility and representation are so important. Growing up, I never met a girl like me because I had to do what I was doing. I think of a little girl or boy watching the radio and saying, “It’s normal. Emily Kaplan did it, so I can do it.” So with that, I’m honored to be a role model, because the next generation of girls, no matter what I do What they do now will not be new to them, because someone has done it. At the same time, we’ve made a lot of progress, we still have a lot to do, and I hope one day I won’t be asked about my gender in an interview. I’m happy to talk about it because representation and visibility are important, but that’s the goal.
This is appearing in The 2022 Money & Power edition of Hockey News.