An E-mail Interview with Barstool Sports’s Rangers’ Blogger @610Barstool
By Patrick Hoffman
Yes, the outlet is controversial. Yes, the company does things differently than every other sport outlet and yes, they seem to come under a lot of scrutiny.
With all of that said, I think the outlet is awesome. They have a great staff, they all work hard, and they make both sports and pop culture fun, which is what really matters, right?
Anyways, I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with the site’s New York Rangers blogger. Requesting anonymity, he will be known in this e-mail interview by his Twitter handle, which is @610Barstool.
He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he became a Rangers’/hockey fan, what his favorite piece of memorabilia is, how he got the gig with Barstool and of course, his thoughts on this year’s Rangers’ squad.
PH: Growing up, how did you get into hockey?
@610Barstool: Well, I’m a little older so I was part of a generation that would actually go outside and play. My first love when it comes to sports was baseball, but there was a kid in my neighborhood who played hockey. It started with a couple of us friends shooting a ball into the net in his driveway & eventually turned into neighborhood street hockey games whenever it was light out. First on feet, then some of us got roller blades and eventually I started playing ice. Didn’t take long for hockey to take over as #1 for me. If I wasn’t playing, I was pretending to in my room, reorganizing hockey cards, clipping box scores from the paper, etc. Like I said, I’m old.
PH: Who is your favorite team/player?
@610Barstool: Rangers, no doubt about it. My family wasn’t a big hockey family, but there were a few lukewarm Islanders fans. We had a table hockey game that was Isles vs Flyers. I was never allowed to be the Isles so I hated them from the jump. Made the Blueshirts decision really easy for me.
As far as my favorite player, it’s Tony Amonte (I’m dating myself here). Forget about Pavel Bure and Nicklas Lidstrom, the ’92 rookie of the year was Amonte’s. I was heartbroken as a kid when he was traded in ’94, but a Cup celebration helped me get over it. I followed him though the rest of his career – even had an Amonte Blackhawks jersey.
PH: Considering the Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave is filled with tons and tons of hockey memorabilia, what is your favorite piece of hockey memorabilia that you own?
@610Barstool: A Tony Amonte signed puck. But, I remember one time I went to a Blackhawks/Isles game at Nassau Coliseum. After the game, I ran to where the Hawks left the ice and I was screaming for Amonte to give me his stick. I’m very tall to begin with and at this point I was way too old to be standing among 8-year-olds begging for a player’s stick. Amonte gave me a look of absolute disgust and just kept it moving into the tunnel. I swear, the look he gave me is burned in my brain forever and I get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it – but if I would’ve actually gotten a game stick of his at that time it would’ve been worth the risk (and reality) of embarrassment.
PH: How did you get into covering hockey online?
@610Barstool: It started (and will end) with Barstool.
PH: How did you get a gig with Barstool Sports covering the Rangers?
@610Barstool: Well I’ve always been huge Barstool fan – way back when it was just Dave Portnoy running one site solo out of Boston. He announced he was looking for writers to launch the New York site so I sent in some samples even though I had no idea how I’d juggle it with my “real” job. Eventually Portnoy told me he thought I was good but he was going with two guys who were clearly better (KFC and Kmarko).
Soon after the NY site launched, KFC posted a blog about a fundraiser that was being run at a bar near me for a friend of his who had a pretty bad accident. Turns out his friend was the son of someone I worked with at the time, so that’s where KFC and I first met. We talked and he brought me on to cover the Blueshirts & NY Giants. Pretty sure that was 2009. I took a hiatus, but for the most part, I’ve been contributing ever since.
PH: What is it like writing for Barstool? It seems to continue to grow and grow, which I think is great for the sports media industry as a whole.
@610Barstool: Now that Barstool has exploded into the mainstream, I’m just a speck in the organization – but I’ve been there well before just about everyone except El Pres, KFC, Kmarko & fellow puckhead Rear Admiral, who covers the Bruins.
When I started, I was just excited to be a part of the site I read religiously. I would also contribute some humor blogs which was fun too.
In the beginning, I thought it was gonna be a piece of cake – but for anyone who thinks blogging is easy, it’s not. Especially for the guys who grew the site in the beginning churning out a blog every 40 minutes (while doing their regular jobs too), EVERYTHING had to be funny. So, they’d spend maybe 20 minutes or so crafting a hilarious post only to have another one due in another 20 minutes.
I respect the hell out of the core bloggers because if even just one of them sucked or was lazy, I’m not sure the company is where they are today – and right now they’re simply unstoppable.
As far as their impact on the sports media industry (though they’re obviously so much more than that now), Barstool has always had a cult following among athletes. But each sports-specific blogger like myself brings the unique aspect of speaking as an unfiltered fan first & readers respond to that.
Some writers may have bigger aspirations but I think, for the most part, we’re not trying to parlay a contributing gig with the Stool into something mainstream and media friendly. I prefer to write my own opinions on my own schedule without worrying who likes it or not, sprinkled with a little knowledge that a non-rabid fan might lack. This is the perfect niche & the site’s growing popularity brings more people to us sports-only guys.
But for major players like the PMT guys, they’re redefining the industry. Podcasts like Spittin’ Chiclets and Starting 9 hosted by both Barstool personalities and pro athletes who fit the Stool mold to perfection have taken off.
Pat McAfee is an absolute juggernaut. The list goes on and on – but it’s apparent that the masses are tired of the stale ESPN regurgitated structure. Anyone can Google box scores and stats now. Twitter has all the highlights you need. If people with any semblance of a sense of humor want access to sports entertainment (among other things) on their own terms, they’re flocking to Barstool. It’s pretty incredible.
PH: What are your thoughts on this year's Blueshirts squad?
@610Barstool: Well for the past month & change, the Blueshirts have been one of the best teams in the league as far as wins and losses are concerned, winning 13 of 17 (heading into matchup vs Dallas on December 11, 2017).
But, all that’s done is bring them within striking distance of the pack of five Metro teams ahead of them. So, while winning 80% of their recent games is awesome, there’s still a ton of work to do in a highly competitive division. Their schedule has been very friendly as far as home games & off-days are concerned so the rest of the way will be a grind for sure.
They’re very balanced up front. Zibanejad is growing into the bona fide number one center NY had hoped Stepan would be – they need him back ASAP. Pavel Buchnevich is instant offense. Kevin Hayes has surprised me with his defensive play up the middle and Jimmy Vesey’s effort is starting to translate to points.
If I go through all the forwards, I don’t have anything bad to say about anyone that’s played regularly other than needing a better option up the middle than David Desharnais. They’re lacking a true superstar, but that’s nothing new for the Rangers.
It's a relief to see Henrik Lundqvist find his way back, that’s for sure. He’s been fighting a back-and-forth battle with Father Time over the last couple seasons, but right now I think he’s as close to vintage Hank as I could ask for. He’s been a top-5 goalie in the league since November. The only question is whether or not he can stave off another significant slump the rest of the way while most likely racking up the most playing time he’s had in years Ondrej Pavelec proves to be reliable.
Defense is what will make or break the Rangers and, despite all the wins, there’s still significant question marks on the back end. Kevin Shattenkirk’s overall offensive numbers look good, but no one’s been on the ice for more 5x5 goals than Shatty.
There’s a wildcard with the puck on each pairing, ready to give it away to whoever wants it (Nick Holden, Shatty, and Brendan Smith). Brady Skjei has been solid, but hasn’t made the jump offensively that I expected – although he’s gotta be the “stay at home” guy paired with Shattenkirk.
Smith is an adventure in the defensive zone. I think the forward scoring and goaltending are masking the minimal improvement the defense has made from their awful start to the season.
They’ll need to get much better or a move will need to be made on the back end to sustain the team’s current overall success.
PH: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us puckheads?@610Barstool: Nope – enjoy the rest of the season!
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.