Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Interview with Sean Leahy

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a post highlighting other blogs with "Sean" in the title. I'm sure that you're shocked that many are no longer in existence. With that written, I thought it would be fun to come back to this topic and turn Sean's Ramblings into Seans' Ramblings. How cool would it be to hear from other people named Sean like Sean "Diddy" Combs, Sean Connery, former Pittsburgh Pirate Sean Rodriguez, and others?

First up: Sean Leahy, NHL writer for NBC Sports. I've been a big fan of Sean's work from his time writing the Going Five Hole blog and then when he jumped to Yahoo's Puck Daddy. Here we go:

I guess my first question is how did you become a hockey writer? Did it start with Going Five Hole (one of my favorite hockey blogs and how I first saw your writing)? What is your background? Were you a hockey fan growing up? (Yes, I realize that this is more than one question.)

I originally had started a blog with a few friends with the idea we'd cover sports, pop culture, technology, and wrestling. Quickly my buddy and I realized our other friends who were going to take care of the non-sports stuff weren't going to contribute as much as they originally promised, so PopJocks became a sports blog. Eventually, my partner was going through grad school and preparing for his wedding, so his time was limited to work on the blog. More and more I started writing strictly hockey and then decided to create my own hockey-only blog, and that's how Going Five Hole was born in the fall of 2007.

I was always a hockey fan. With two older brothers, we played a lot of street hockey growing up on Long Island. I've always wanted to work in sports, but just didn't know what specific job I wanted to do. When I was getting Going Five Hole going, I was working a full-time job with a USL soccer team. Within a year, I was laid off from the soccer team and started writing more and more with Puck Daddy, which I started contributing to in its second day of existence in April 2008.

In my opinion, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy with Greg Wyshynski, you, and others was the preeminent place for hockey over a several year period. Can you share your experience at Yahoo?

Writing for Puck Daddy was such a fun time. Our editors let us do our thing and be creative and have fun while also covering the sport from all angles. It was cool to watch the site's popularity grow over the years and then explode really after Twitter became a huge part of our daily lives. The interaction with readers and doors being opened for us (ex: getting press credentials) really helped us make the site grow.

What happened to cause Puck Daddy to no longer exist? As I mentioned before, I thought it was one of the best places for hockey coverage anywhere.

Verizon purchased Yahoo in 2017 and they basically laid off thousands of people, including me and two others on the Puck Daddy staff after the 2016-17 NHL season. Wysh was only there another few months before leaving for ESPN. Puck Daddy wasn't going to be the same and he didn't have the desire to try and recreate it.

You’re now at NBC. What has been your role there?

I've been with NBC since October 2018 and I oversee four writers -- Joey Alfieri, Scott Billeck, Adam Gretz, and James O'Brien. I also do a lot of the behind the scenes stuff in regards to planning and scheduling and being a liaison to NBC HQ. I still write often each week, trying to find unique angles to stories like I did at Yahoo.

Since you’re with NBC, do you get to watch the filming of "The Good Place" or hang out with Hoda and Kathie Lee?

My requests to appear on "Men in Blazers" and "Law & Order SVU" have not been approved yet, but my fingers are still crossed.

What is the coolest thing you’ve been able to do or experience through your work as a hockey writer?

I've been able to play NHL2K11 against Ryan Kesler, hang out with Jim Craig and his "Miracle" gold medal, spend an hour chatting with Willie O'Ree, and drink water out of a giant Stanley Cup fountain in Times Square. There's been so many cool things I've been fortunate enough to experience over the last decade. I definitely feel lucky.

When not writing and covering hockey, what does Sean Leahy do for fun?

I love watching other sports like football, soccer and baseball. They're a good outlet for me to get away from the game for a bit. I also spend a lot of my summer reading books, catching up on plenty of non-fiction and biographies. Fishing is also a nice thing to do to get away. Grab a 12-pack and hope the fish are biting that day.

Finally, who do you think will win the Cup this year? Actually, a better question may be: Tampa or the field?

I had Tampa vs. Nashville before the season and I'm sticking to that. And even though picking the field might be the smarter bet, it's so hard to think of anyone beating the Lightning four times in seven games. They've only lost back-to-back games twice this season. They've come up short three times in the last four years. I think they finally get it done this June.

Thanks to Sean for taking the time to answer my questions. Please follow Sean on Twitter and read his work on NBC Sports.

Tampa Bay Lightning photo by Chris O'Meara of AP. Picture of Sean from his Twitter page.

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