CLE teammates have prime perspective on pen-pushers
With AHL teams comprised of North American and overseas players, teammates rarely share much more than a love for the game.
A stark exception exists in the 2017-18 Cleveland Monsters’ locker room. Rookie defenseman Doyle Somerby and veteran goaltender Brad Thiessen each have a background in journalism studies.
Both Somerby, a Boston University graduate, and Thiessen, who attended Northeastern from 2006 to 2009, knew immediately that a journalism major was a key factor in their college selection process.
“I always had an interest in broadcasting,” Somerby told Pucks and Recreation. “When I was younger, I watched Sportscenter and NHL on the Fly and gradually started reading more articles, and that was how I became interested in journalism.”
“Studying journalism was a check-list item for me,” added Thiessen. “I wanted to do something I enjoy, and in the college recruitment process, no schools had a journalism major until Northeastern came along. Since they were in downtown Boston, it was a great fit for journalism and one of the reasons I chose to play there.”
Both players left campus with new insights into dealing with the press as they journeyed into the pros. Attending Boston schools helped them grow accustomed to media frenzies, particularly around the Beanpot, Hockey East playoffs and NCAA tournament.
“A journalism major gives you an appreciation for those interviewing you,” said Thiessen. “You know that you want to stay away from clichés and give them something to work with. And you start to know what they are looking for in your answers.”
Somerby, whose BU career featured three trips to the NCAA tournament, had especially substantial exposure to each side of the reporter-interviewee dynamic. As his last act in a Terrier jersey, he faced a regionally diverse press corps at the 2017 West Regional, where BU lost to Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2, in overtime.
In the aftermath, he reflected on the program’s rise from his humble 10-win freshman campaign. He noted that his career coincided with the start of head coach Dave Quinn’s tenure as the legendary Jack Parker’s successor.
“Hockey players are sometimes reserved, and it is hard to talk to the media at times, especially after a loss in Fargo,” Somerby told Pucks and Rec. “However, majoring in journalism helped me see what they do from another perspective.”
In their respective transitions to the minor professional ranks, the media atmosphere has certainly changed. Cleveland is the fourth AHL market in Thiessen’s journey, which has also featured two stops in the ECHL and one in Finland.
“The amount of media coverage in the AHL depends on where you are,” he remarked. “In Wilkes-Barre, we had one reporter covering the team. In Cleveland, there may be a few from Columbus covering us at times.”
That added coverage from Ohio’s capital comes with the Monsters’ being the affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. And, of course, Cleveland itself is a major-league market in other sports.
Sharing a building with the Cavaliers and a town with the Indians and Browns gives Somerby and Thiessen an inside look at media coverage of other teams. With LeBron James starring for the Cavaliers, local outlets often focus on him. However, Cleveland guard Isaiah Thomas has been particularly active on innovative platforms like the Players Tribune, demonstrating journalism’s constant evolution.
Somerby and Thiessen both spoke about the value of this outlet, but acknowledged there could be challenges with it as well.
“I have mixed feelings on it,” said Somerby. “While it is cool to see athletes talk about their story in the first person, it can detract from journalists trying to write an interesting story.”
“It is interesting to see how journalism has evolved,” added Thiessen. “A journalist’s story could get taken out of context, and something like the Players Tribune could be a creative outlet for players.”
Somerby and Thiessen alike may have a chance to produce both varieties of storytelling and/or commentary. While both have long playing careers ahead, they have thought about how their passions for sports and journalism could factor into a potential new career.
Though Somerby has only just started chasing his NHL dream on the ice, he offered that “I can see myself as a commentator.”
He continued, “I sometimes joke with my parents that I could move to Florida and get involved with baseball. I love being around sports, and I can see myself getting into writing or broadcasting. In college, I made a three-minute video where I interviewed goalie Jake Oettinger, which was so much fun to do.”
“There so many outlets for me,” said Thiessen. “I hope I could finish off the degree since I graduated in three years. Coaching or journalism could definitely be an option down the road.”