It’s fair to say that the CHL Final was one of the best experiences of my life. Being part of the media team was incredible, not only did it give me the opportunity to use my journalistic skills, but it taught me a lot about what’s needed to engage an audience.
We started our journey late Sunday night leaving Cardiff at 11:15pm ready for the drive to Gatwick Airport. Thanks to my parents we got up there in more than enough time to check in, have a coffee to wake up, and prepare for the work ahead. Flying at 7am we arrived in Copenhagen airport around 10am (Danish time). Then got on a train and made our way to Växjö crossing the border to Sweden. Danish and Swedish seem to have different age restrictions being 19 this seemed to be an issue. In Sweden, I was classed as a Child, which is what was on my ticket, but this isn’t the same in Denmark. I was told by a slightly frustrated guard that I needed a “grown up ticket”, not patronising at all…but after being threatened with a fine I was only left with a warning. Anyway, moving on, after staring out a window for two hour we finally arrived in snowy Växjö. We found the hotel and collapsed.
Like typical hockey fans we made our way to the arena straight away. A half an hour walk through the snow was entertaining, I’m pretty sure I slipped about twenty times but didn’t manage to break my anything, luckily!
Excuse my horrific humour, down to business.
Our work started at the press conference which was held in the arena that evening. The Coaches and Captains from teams, the Växjö Lakers and JYP Jyväskylä attended. They were interviewed by a variety of different organisations including the CHL. They gave the fans the opportunity to ask them questions which made it more interactive and interesting instead of just game talk.
My job was to capture as much footage as possible and post it on their Instagram story. Due to the fast pace of the interviews, it was quite hard to keep up with everything. My aim was to try and get the best quotes and images, and to make the story interesting to the public. For me, the variety of possible content gave me the opportunity to try different formats and test my multimedia skills. Liam was asked to capture the interviews on camera and get the best angle possible.
With a constant flow of content being put up, I tried not to overlook important things such as pictures with the cup, and the coaches talking to each other. I put as much information as I possibly could into those stories and hoped to make it more appealing to the fans.
After only a few hours I knew that Finals day was going to be just as tough or even tougher. It was time I had a good night sleep in preparation for the day ahead.
On Finals day, it was an early start for the media team, we filled up on free food and coffee, and made our way to the arena ready for the morning skate. The skate gave the fans an insight of what to expect during the game. We also, conducted interviews with JYP’s Defenceman Nolan Yonkman and Växjö coach Sam Hallam. Lucky for me I was given the opportunity to conduct the interview with Sam Hallam. Despite a few rookie mistakes I was told I did a great job and in all honesty, I loved every second. I got to interview one of the best hockey coaches in Europe, and it felt incredible.
After the morning skate, we got a sneak peak of the locker rooms giving the fans a quick look at the jerseys, and what it was like behind the scenes.
We had a quick break back at the hotel, then made our way to the arena for the all-important game. We had all access passes meaning we could go down to the benches and get a clear look at the warm ups and close-ups of the action.
Having control of the Instagram has more responsibility than you’d think. You have to update the story as much as you can. Keeping up to date with the action is hard, and trying to capture the best parts of the game is a challenge especially when the game is filled with fantastic and fast paced plays.
Trying to capture a variety of footage on one social media platform is difficult. You need a range of content not only of the game, but also of the fans. Whilst I captured game footage and updates, Liam was responsible for the fan’s experiences, and getting that was all important.
From where I was standing the atmosphere was like nothing I’d ever experience before. Both sets of fans were chanting like the whole world depended on it, and the pregame production was like something out of the NHL.
Both teams were welcomed with a personalised video, fire cannons and fireworks. It was evident from the start that this title meant everything to these teams, and neither of them had won the competition, so it was a title worth fighting for.
From the start of the first period the strategy and skill was there. I haven’t seen a game with such high skill quality. Their pace was incredible, trying to keep up with them was a challenge, but watching this game first hand was a once in a life time experience.
The intensity continued throughout the game, there wasn’t a moment that wasn’t pleasing to the eye in terms of skills and ability.
Enough babble, back to my job…
We had a few technical issues like every journalist does. A scheduled flash interview was missed because of a misunderstanding, but we managed to complete two in the second period break. Interviewing players already in the game mind-set, their priority is to get to the locker room, so the meaning of a flash interview is quite literal, they need to be done in a hurry. So we had our camera and microphone ready.
With the score extremely close, the passion of the players and the fans was felt throughout the arena, and the emotions on the ice were replicated in the stands. My aim was to try and capture these emotions in pictures and video. I managed to do this with some help from my fellow media workers. I hoped to showcase the game in my stories, giving an insight to those who couldn’t witness it first-hand.
As the game clock counted down and JYP were one goal ahead, Växjö were determined to pull a goal back, so they pulled their goalie from the pipes. With Växjö in possession, a slight of mishandling of the puck, let Janne Kolehmainen score an empty net winning goal with only 19 seconds left in the game.
Winning the game 2-0, JYP Jyväskylä were taking the CHL trophy to Finland.
A mixture of celebration and commiseration was seen on the ice, I’m sure you can guess which team was which. But despite the difference in emotions both teams showed respect for one another. They recognised each other’s efforts, and no one can dispute the quality of hockey played on the Vida Arena ice.
Växjö collected their medals first, congratulating JYP on their way back to the blue line where they waited for the opposition to collect their winning medals as an act of respect.
Standing on the ice whilst the medals were collected was amazing, seeing the relief and satisfaction close-up was emotional for me, not to mention the players themselves.
Following the medal collection, the trophy was handed to the 2018 Champions Hockey League winners, by the President of the Champions Hockey League, Anders Ternbolm and Chief Executive, Martin Baumann.
For someone who was neutral in this game, seeing either team raise the cup would have been incredible. The expression on their faces was something only pure happiness could bring. Interviewing them was just something incredible. Being on the ice was great, but interviewing the Champions was something completely different. Luckily for me their English was fantastic which made it easier for me to interview them.
Doing this gave me an insight into their emotions. JYP Jyväskylä Coach Marko Virtanen’s passion for the game was evident when interviewing him and it just made me smile. All the player’s emotions were heightened and it was clear how proud they were of each other and of themselves.
The final was over, and we were finished. It was time to make our way home.
I’d planned to get back in time for the Devils vs Steelers semi-final game which was well worth the rush home!!
What an incredible few days. I don’t think I’ll ever experience like that ever again.
All I can do is hope.
Keep an eye out for my piece in the Devils’ Programme as well.
All of my Interviews are on the CHL youtube channel and their Twitter: