Craig Laughlin, Passing the Torch to the Next Generation

If you follow Washington Capitals hockey then you know the voice and commentary by Craig Laughlin on NBC Sports Washington. “Locker,” as he is known by his fans, played six seasons with the Caps in the 1980’s before retiring from playing hockey in 1989. We say retiring from playing because Craig has never retired from hockey! For him, hockey is clearly “in his blood.”

Craig began his NHL career as a 10th round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1977. Another “face of the Capitals,” Hall of Famer Rod Langway was part of the 1977 draft, also selected in the second for Montreal. Laughlin played 36 games with them and ended the season with 23 points. The 25-year old right wing made the transition to the Caps in 1982, along with Langway. They joined up with some of the most notable players in Capital’s history, including Bob Carpenter and Mike Gartner. By the end of his first season he had recorded 44 points, seventh highest on the roster. This was the team that led the Capitals to the playoffs in 1983, for the first time in franchise history.  Locker played in all four games and scored his first playoff goal in the process!

Craig Laughlin went to the big show seven times but never made it to the final round with the Washington Capitals, the LA Kings, or Toronto Maple Leafs who he played for in 1987-88 and !988-89 respectively. He scored six goals and had six helpers for a total of 12 points in 33 games. He played a total of 549 NHL games in his career and ended with a nice 341 points (136 G 205 A). An all-around solid player, in his high three seasons he scored 20, 22, and 30 goals. He understands how difficult a hurdle it has been for the current legion of Capitals to make the leap to the final round.

1982 was a time of change for the Washington Capitals. Ted Starkey wrote about owner Abe Pollin’s vision to turn things around for the Caps. According to Starkey, Pollin had four criteria to meet to secure the future of the team, which was playing in Landover:

A season-ticket base of 7,500, (an increase of nearly 70 percent over the 4,200 the team had in 1981-82;

Selling out the team’s first 10 games;

Having the Capital Centre’s rent reduced by the arena’s bondholders;

And Prince George’s County reducing the entertainment tax on Capitals tickets from 10 percent to 0.5 percent for the next three years.

Craig Laughlin was part of the team that turned the tide and made hockey an exciting sport in the District-Maryland-Virigina (DMV) area. Those years with the Caps left an imprint on his life. Although he went on to play with other teams, he was drawn back to Washington, writing articles for the Washington Times and with his wife Linda’s encouragement accepted an offer from Home Team Sports which later became CSN. And as they say, the rest was TV history! Caps hockey would not be the same without Locker and his buddy JoeB.  Chcek out the video from the 1996-97 talking about Adam Oates and Peter Bondra.

The analysis and color commentary he provides night after night for the Washington Capitals has forever endeared him to the Caps Community. He may not always get the names right – we have gotten used to BEAR -a-kovsky for Andre Burr-a-kov-ski. Maybe it is just all part of his way of giving players and friends little nicknames. Either way – fans love his game calling and he and Joe Beninati were seriously missed by fans during the final round. Not to fear, Craig shared his excitement on Twitter:

img_1221

In the video “Growing Up Hockey” with former CSN reporter Jill Sorenson, Craig talked about his start skating at the young age of three and the way his dad created ice for him in the backyard. He talks about the passion his father had and that he clearly passed on to his son. Craig has passed that enthusiasm to his daughter Courtney who plays hockey and can often be seen on NBC Sports Washington as well. This is a true hockey family and they are a part of the Capitals history and of their future as well.

Craig, as seen in this video with studio mate Alan May, puts his time and energy in developing young players and helping them to realize their dreams. He is often part of the hockey camps at Kettler Ice Plex  and around the DMV. He has worked with the young children to college-age skaters, sharing his experience and expertise to help them hone their skills. And as you can see from the video, he does it with the same enthusiasm we hear on the air and the same positive energy that encourages success. Craig, and his wife Linda, work year round educating players through their educational program: Network Hockey Development Program (NHDP). They work with PeeWee AA to professional athletes, educating, coaching, and advising aspiring players.

You can be sure that if his fellow alumi are in town or hosting an event, he will be hanging out with them – laughing it up and having a good ol’ time! If you are up at Kettler for practice or see Locker walking around Capital One Arena, be sure to say “hey” and tell him how much you appreciate what he has done and is doing for hockey in the DMV. And be sure to tell him how much you love his commentary. He’s a great guy and we are blessed to have him as part of our community.

Our Thanks to Jill Sorenson

We met Jill Sorenson through the Caps Fan Club. She had come to speak to a group of die-hard Caps fans about the 2015/16 season and the skinny on players. She shared her personal stories about covering DC Sports since 2000, when she worked with legend  NBC’s George Michael. She graciously agreed to meet with us as we were launching this blog and was one of our first, and favorite, interviews of all times. Jill’s story continues to be read by fans month after month, even though the interview was in December 2015.

Today she confirmed what had been only rumored last week. CSN has decided not to continue their relationship with her. We are saddened and angered by the decision. As are many fans and others who cover the Washington Capitals.

Jill became a grand supporter of our little endeavor, understanding what it is like to be the new kid on the block and to be women working in a predominately man’s world of sports coverage. She encouraged us to keep going, even when we might have to fight for our place. She told us to be ourselves and cover the Caps in a way that is natural for us.

img_6293She then introduced us to other women in the hockey world – bloggers and players. Over the years since we first met, she always greeted us warmly and supported us on Twitter as we continued to carve out our niche of three women running a hockey blog which expanded to include a couple of guys and a few other women who write when they can.

And then there is the Jill who we watched provide insight into the lives of the Washington Capitals. Her stories were heart-felt and full of mutual respect as players opened up their homes and their personal lives to her. And you could see the respect she had from many of her co-workers at CSN and around Kettler and Verizon Center. Our hope is that she will land on a local network where she can continue to interview players and interact with fans as she has for so many years at CSN.

We can’t say enough about this wonderful lady. We wish her, and her family, nothing but the best. We so greatly appreciate the doors you opened to us Jill and the friendships (Wendy) we have made because of you. We can’t wait to see you back on the air, doing what you do best – covering DC Sports!!

Maggie, Brittney, and Mel

May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two; 
May the sun always shine on your windowpane; 
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain; 
May the hand of a friend always be near you; 
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

“I get to watch hockey for a living.” An interview with CSN’s Jill Sorenson

CSN ‘s Jill Sorenson sat down with Friends in Cold Places to talk about life as a female beat reporter covering the Washington Capitals and what has changed in her 15-plus years covering various sports, including the Caps. Jill previously spoke to the Washington Caps Fan Club and this article takes a deeper look at what Jill does and her perspective as a woman working in the hockey world.

Jill3

When asked what has changed the most, Jill said: “Definitely social media. That’s the biggest thing. Right out of college I was a reporter in Duluth and we barely had the internet. That was 1998. So now the way that things advance with social media and digital media, it is absolutely crazy.” She went on to say that she and the network have had to evolve to meet the challenge. Reporters such as her, have to keep up with social media while juggling the demands of a daily/weekly show and pre- and post-game Caps shows on CSN.

As for what has changed for her as a female reporter, Jill responded that there are “a lot more females.” When she was hired in 2000 by NBC’s George Michael, Rachel (Alexander) Nichols had just finished her stint as the Washington Post beat reporter covering the Caps. At that time, Rachel was one of a few women beat reporters. Based on Jill’s exposure to other reporters (remember no real internet yet), she didn’t see many other female beat reports. “Now everywhere you go, there are females on the beat.”

Talking about the stereotypical comments we often hear about female sports reporters like “just another pretty face,”  Jill told us:

“I think it is cyclical. I think that women who know sports and have a passion for it are more common than those who don’t. But I think what viewers want and what management wants is cyclical. Sometimes they just want someone who can read the news or someone who can do good interviews but that is few and far between. I think that overall it turns back to we need someone who knows what they are talking about, and just because a female looks good on camera doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what she is talking about. They may try something but figure out it didn’t work; and that goes for males too! If you are a male and you don’t know what you are talking about you aren’t going to make it .I think it is more pronounced if you are a female and you don’t know what you are talking about. That’s a constant. You have to know more than the males do or you are called out.”

jill_112315We then talked about the best parts of her job, Jill had a hard time answering  because she loves what she does and she gets paid to do it! She said she has to pinch herself every day. On the downside: “The hours can stink, especially during playoffs with the travel and being away from the family and all, but really overall, I can’t complain about anything. And it’s fabulous.”

Jill discussed with us how young women who want to break into the field can prepare themselves for a career covering sports. The number one thing she stressed is that they develop knowledge by reading, studying, and watching everything they possibly can. And then they need to develop experience in the field as an intern. “Work for free. And do whatever it takes to get experience to do this for a living,” she advised. She cautioned that it isn’t glamorous starting out and that one’s first job will most likely be for free. And it will be “a lot of fun and a lot of hours—like 60/70 a week…and you will get paid next to nothing.” She told us that the best part is that everyone is in the same boat and even though you may be working long hours, you are doing it because you love it. “If you don’t love it, don’t do it.”

In a previous Facebook post, Jill reported Coach Trotz has hung a number of slogans around the locker room at Verizon Center. We asked Jill if she had a slogan or mantra. She talked about two in particular, one from her soccer coach in college who told her to “Just get it done.” By that he meant, don’t complain, make excuses, or think of reasons why you can’t do something. The other came from former mentor George Michael who used to say: “Don’t mess it up,” only in more colorful language! Jill will say that jokingly to co-workers to break the tension or relax a tense situation. She expressed, “if you are tense with a deadline – it’s a way to crack a smile.”

Make sure to tune into CSN-Mid Atlantic for Jill’s interviews and game insights. She can often be seen in the Zamboni pit recording some color-commentary before a game at Verizon or in the press area at Kettler conducting interviews. Follow her on twitter (@jillCSN) and like her Facebook page, you won’t be disappointed! And don’t forget to look up during intermission as most likely she will be bringing us another great interview to watch.

This is the first interview in a series of upcoming reports on Women in Hockey. If you have a story to share or a suggestion for a future interview, just send us a comment.

Photos by Brittney Marcum (bamitsbrittney93)

Caps Fan Club Welcomes Jill Sorenson

CSN’s Washington Capitals Emmy Award winning reporter, Jill Sorenson, met with the Fan Club on Saturday, November 21 to talk all things Caps before our game with the Colorado Avalanche. Jill talked about her journey from  NBC sports anchor and reporter with George Michael at WRC-TV from 2000 to 2004 to WTTG-TV (Fox),  before joining CSN in 2005. Today Jill leads CSN’s coverage for SportsNet Central and contributes to Capitals Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage. She can often be seen near the Zamboni reporting before the game and has a reputation for some of the best interviews with players and coaches. She said she got her start reporting out in Minnesota, “where hockey is everything.”

Jill talked a bit about the impact of social media on reporting. She said for the beat reporters who are there every day, “twitter is very important” especially for breaking news. The challenge for her is to balance her responsibilities with CSN for SportsNet, other shows, and other sports coverage and making sure that fans get the information they want and need. She “gets a lot of her news from social media” too.

She spoke about how she got where she is today covering sports. She was an English and Spanish major in college because the college lacked a specific journalism program. Jill interned with a studio in Minneapolis and was advised by a sports producer that it didn’t matter what she majored in, just that she could communicate. She said she chose English as a major to sharpen her skills as a writer and the internships provided her with the experience she needed to advance in broadcasting. She was an athlete growing up and though she thought she would “be writing for Sports Illustrated or something” she interned with a news station and fell in love with it. Today she still loves writing and whenever the opportunity arises, she will write her own short pieces. Continue reading “Caps Fan Club Welcomes Jill Sorenson”