The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Wednesday, April 16, and Kathryn Tappen from NHL Tonight can’t wait for the action to begin. DIRECTV spoke with Kathryn about the Playoffs, her travel tips, and what it was like covering the Sochi Games.
Let’s start with the obvious question… how hyped are you for the Playoffs?
There are no two other months in the calendar year in professional sports that rival this time of year in hockey. Every single night there is a Playoff game with major implications and high intensity. If you thought hockey players performed 100% of the time on the ice during the regular season, wait until you see the compete level that they bring in the postseason.
Our coverage on the NHL Network is extremely exciting, with live look-ins to Playoff games, postgame press conferences from coaches and players, live Arena Cam interviews with players from the winning team immediately after the game ends, and full analysis from the best broadcasters in the NHL. It’s the best time of year. Can you tell I’m amped!?
Do you have one moment that is particularly memorable, either as a fan or in covering the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
I remember standing on the concourse level at Staples Center in Los Angeles, in 2012, when the Kings beat the NJ Devils for the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup. The game was well out of reach for New Jersey at that point, so there was plenty of time late in the third period with the Kings up 6-1 for the fans to embrace the moment. The energy in the building with five minutes remaining was unreal. And then as the clock wound down to the final seconds you just had chills. Watching a team win the Stanley Cup on home ice, and for the first time in the history of the franchise, was truly memorable.
Your job involves a lot of travel. Do you have any tips for surviving the grind of going from airport to airport?
I’ve learned many tips over the years, that’s for sure! I don’t leave home without my noise-canceling headphones. Whether I’m reading on the plane, watching a movie, or taking a nap, they block out any noise around me and allow me to concentrate.
I don’t eat airport food. As tempting as the smell of pizza and French fries can be, I can’t do it. I eat at home before I leave for the airport so I am not drawn into the food that’s not good for me. I stand up in the lounge area while waiting for my flight. Since I know I’ll be sitting for an extended period of time, I prefer to stand and walk around as often as possible before boarding the plane.
And I plan ahead. As great as it is to be TSA pre-checked, or use Global Entry access or priority boarding, there are always the unexpected delays at airports. Rather than stress, I just allow extra time to avoid chaos.
You had the opportunity to cover the Sochi Games. Were there any particular challenges in transitioning to the international game?
The most obvious challenge was the different rules. We are used to broadcasting the NHL, so we had to learn the international game and the various differences in rules. The second biggest challenge was studying the pronunciation of the names of players. There were many non-NHL players who competed in Sochi, and you have to make sure you know them all. Along those lines, you also had to study a whole different breed of players that you’re not acclimated to seeing on the ice. Learning the trends of the non-NHL international players was on the go. There wasn’t any video you could watch ahead of time. You had to pick up on players’ styles very quickly.
You’re a proud Bostonian, but what are some of your other favorite NHL cities?
I’ve lived in Boston since 2006. But I grew up in northern New Jersey. I would attend Rangers games at Madison Square Garden. The Big Apple is one of my favorite places to visit and watch a game because the fan base is so passionate. I spent some time watching games in Montreal in 2009 and I think it’s fair to say that the city and the Bell Center rival any other city in the league from a standpoint of driven and knowledgeable fans. The vibe in the city is incredible. And I think it’s no secret, as I’ve made it quite known on the air, that Chicago is one of my all time favorite cities in North America, period. Then you add in a Stanley Cup winning franchise in the Blackhawks, and it’s a win/win. I think Frank Sinatra’s words, “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)” echoes any person’s sentiments who has ever spent time in that great city. I only wish Sinatra wrote a tune about Boston. Oh well!