Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports
From dampened tracksuits to potentially disastrous predatory offer sheets that failed to account for a pretty important CBA article, Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston has broken all kinds of colourful, interesting, and controversial stories in his career.
This month Johnston has got a new sort of challenge though: tour the country and host four live hockey-talk shows in four different cities in four nights. It’s called Puck Talks Live and it’s coming to Calgary! The event will take place at your favourite watering hole (the Pint, duh) on Wednesday, Sept. 16 and you can buy tickets here! Kent Wilson will be there and so will Pat Steinberg!
Anyway we caught up with Chris to talk about why Calgary’s young core is so promising and also the Puck Talks Live event.
FlamesNation: Hey Chris, if you had to choose between Edmonton’s young core of players or Calgary’s, which would you pick and why?
Chris Johnston: If I could choose today I’d take Calgary’s. I think that we’ve seen more out of those players in terms of the team producing.
Edmonton has sort of the allure – the No. 1 picks and the name guys, but I really think at this point Calgary is closer to being a team that is going to be a force to be reckoned with… That group of young players, to me, is as enticing as any in the league.
There are still a lot of questions in my mind about the guys in Edmonton and the players they’ve had there and what kind of impact it’s had on them, y’know, suffering through so many disappointing seasons and whether that’s something that will leave some marks on them, and their careers, and their psyches. I think Calgary is better positioned right now with their young players, but it could be hard reading that a year from now depending on what McDavid does in his rookie season.
FN: Chris, what do you like about the Puck Talks format?
CJ: The best thing about it is that you never really know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what the questions will be, and obviously we involve the audience a lot and that’s made for some funny moments in the ones I’ve been part of so far.
To me what it does is that, pretty much everyone who is a serious hockey fan or who is involved in the industry in some way (whether it’s media or players or whatever) – we all have to deal with Twitter. Twitter has a lot of benefits but some of it is a little bit cynical, even hateful, whereas I find by actually getting together and having these events, you strip away some of that.
You have opportunities for actual discussion from people who come from different backgrounds – whether you get the pro-analytics crowd, or some more traditional reporters, or some former players as part of the panels. To me it allows for more free discussion about hockey. It’s a really authentic experience. It has kind of taken on a life of its own with the ones we’ve done in Toronto and now we’re taking it across the country.
FN: How did you get roped into accompanying Puck Talks on its first cross-Canada tour?
CJ: I guess I’m the first loser or something!
I’m not sure what happened there, actually. I did the second Puck Talks show that they did, and then I did the third and the fourth. It seemed to work well, and I got to meet the owner Kevin Kennedy. I guess he liked what I brought to the format, and he asked if I’d do it and I said yes. That was before I realized it was going on on four nights in four cities, kind of like a touring rock band.
Now that we’re getting close to it I’m getting pretty excited…
FN: What are you most looking forward to about the trip?
CJ: Being yelled at by different people in different cities!
What’s perfect about it to me is that it falls on the first week that training camp opens in each city. I think that for a lot of us we’re just getting beyond the summer cobwebs, but the excitement is going to be back in each of those markets. To be in Edmonton the day that the Oilers break camp with Connor McDavid, I think that there will be an energy in that show in particular. But everywhere we’re going, people will be naturally excited about what’s going on with their hockey team and it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas that evening, and drink some beers together, and celebrate our sport.
FN: What’s your favourite puck talks moment so far?
CJ: My favourite moment is probably Ken Campbell losing his mind in the last show. Ken might have had a few adult beverages before taking the stage, I’m not sure. He actually made some good points, but he made them quite passionately, including one point after which he dropped the mic as if he were some rapper who had made his point sufficiently or something.
— Ryan Dixon (@Dixononsports) February 26, 2015
That to me is what the whole thing is about. It’s about people who are excited about this thing and there’s room for some healthy debate about various topics, and you really don’t know, even when you put panels together, what side of people’s personality is going to come out when you put them on stage.
That was something that makes me chuckle months later, and at the time it was downright hilarious.
Chris and Puck Talks roll into Calgary on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Get your tickets here!