Holiday on Ice, on Hockey Beat

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By: Joe Strupp

As the National Hockey League lockout concludes its fourth month, newspaper hockey writers are getting antsy from being iced. In most cases, for these staffers no games means pulling duty elsewhere on the sports pages, often in some less-than-exciting fields.”I like variety, but it’s been enough variety,”says Kevin Dupont, who regularly covers face-offs for The Boston Globe but instead ended up at some high school football games this fall.

For Bridget Wentworth, an eight-year New York Rangers beat writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., jumping between football, basketball, and boxing has been an adjustment. “Football is hard, [because] I never watch it,” she admits. When she had to do a feature story on New York Giants running back Tiki Barber setting two team rushing records during their final game of the season, she almost left out the well-known fact that he had overcome a chronic fumbling problem. But she says her years as a hockey writer made describing punches during a boxing match assignment a snap.

Joe LaPointe of The New York Times flew to Grand Forks, N.D., for a feature on the new University of North Dakota hockey rink, while Nick Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press introduced readers to the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a beat-up college football prize that passes between Michigan and Michigan State each year. “I had to write about what is the ugliest trophy in sports,” Cotsonika says.

But not everyone went on to other sports assignments. Victor Chi, who has covered the San Jose Sharks for the San Jose Mercury News the last seven seasons, found himself on copy desk duty. “It beats scrubbing toilets,” he jokes.

Then there are those who have discovered life outside the sports pages. Steve Harris, a 25-year Bruins beat writer for the Boston Herald, found time to coach his two sons’ hockey team, and also plans to coach them in baseball if the NHL season doesn’t happen. And when Tim Panaccio, who covers the Flyers for The Philadelphia Inquirer, was ordered to take some of his 17 weeks of accrued vacation time during the lockout, he decided to rebuild his kitchen ? a project long overdue, he says.

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