Sunday, December 8, 2013

High Heels on Ice: The Tale of a Female Hockey Writer


Guest Blogger: Annie Erling Gofus

If this was Cosmo or Glamour, I’d start my profile of Erica Koup by describing what she wore to our interview. I’d write about her glamorous retro-style sunglasses and how effortlessly beautiful her long, curled locks were. I’d gush about how sweet and down-to-earth she was as we chatted candidly over salads at a Hummelstown gastropub. And, of course, I’d really focus on the salads, because what woman isn’t just wild about salads?

But this isn’t Cosmo. In fact, this might be the exact opposite of trashy websites that cover celebrity break-ups and bikini bod diet tips. This is a hockey blog, and Erica Koup is its stylishly sweet and whip-smart writer.

On any given weekend night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, you can spot a lone woman in the Bears’ pressbox. Where the NHL scouts end and the bloggers begin sits the founder and author of The Amateur Fan—a blog that focuses on some of Pennsylvania’s finest professional hockey teams. Eyes intently on the ice, scribbling notes and taking breaks only to inform the scout to her left exactly what’s wrong with the Philadelphia Flyers this season, anyone would be shocked to learn this isn’t Erica’s day job.

“I wanted to run for office and be a politician,” the former political science student admits. “I learned about hockey from my full-time job. I worked Hershey Bears games (as a college recruiter). The first game I went to I was like, I can’t believe you’re making me go to this… I had no idea what was going on.”

What began as an annoying job assignment morphed into The Amateur Fan, where Erica has been posting game analysis and opinions for over nine months now. And while falling in love with hockey was easy, finding her place in hockey media wasn’t as simple. As a hockey rookie and a female sports writer, it can be a struggle to gain credibility.

“I think you have to have a lot of guts (to break into the hockey writing field). You need to put yourself out there. And It’s so hard to. Especially as a female,” Erica said. “Because the guys are always thinking they know more than us, because why not? It must come with their genetics that they know more about hockey than females.”

Unfortunately, Erica’s struggle for respect isn’t unique.

Just 50 miles from Hershey, PA is Santander Arena, home to the ECHL’s Reading Royals. Among the standard male media members is Candice Monhollan who is entering her third season covering Royals hockey for various news outlets. With a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Candice is a professional sports writer who still faces dubious stares.

“It's a constant battle being a woman in this field. Just when you think you've proved yourself, someone else comes out of the woodwork to attack your credibility,” Candice admitted. “The downside, to be honest, is being a female in such a male-dominated career. In certain leagues, I can't go into the locker room and even some places (have) to change protocol because I'm around and that shouldn't be the case.”

Any hockey player will tell you that thick skin is vital in succeeding in this sport. Sometimes you need to let a clean hit roll off your shoulders while on the ice, you need to keep your head up and focus on the game. This is advice a female hockey writer can also learn from.

“The first few times (I published an article), I asked my buddy, can you read this and make sure it makes sense,” Erica recalled. “I’m just nervous to put it out there and be judged by people who maybe know a little more about hockey than me.”

“No one’s ever said you don’t understand hockey, just the English language,” Erica laughed. After posting an article on Reddit, “someone said I used the word ironic wrong.” Thick skin is useful when dealing with critics, but love of the game is far more effective.

To be honest, I invited Erica Koup to lunch in the hopes of delving deep into the painful struggles of a female hockey writer. Instead, I discovered over the course of our three-hour-long meal that Erica has happily embraced the challenges of being a woman in this field, and her hockey obsession may have something to do with it.

“I don’t know anyone else who sparks up a conversation about hockey at the eye doctors,” Erica said with a smile.

Up to three times a week, Erica settles into her assigned seat in the Hershey Bears’ pressbox and takes in her surroundings—the Giant Center’s lively crowd, the banter of fellow writers and the swish of skates on ice. When I asked what her favorite part of the job is, Erica simply replied, “I really like watching the games.” Love of hockey makes sitting in cold arenas for hours so easy, and it makes a career in the sport so desirable.

“I really want to work in the front office somewhere. Maybe community relations for a hockey team,” Erica explained. “If I can still write, I would love to continue writing. I sort of fell into writing. I never saw myself in the media or press category.”

Despite facing occasional negativity, Candice also finds that the pros out-weigh the cons as a female sports writer. “I love being able to get paid to watch sports. It's one of those jobs where you wake up in the morning and don't regret having to go to work. I love having the ability to travel and meet so many people and I enjoy above all else getting to write and share with others the unique story of an athlete.”

With The Amateur Fan’s first birthday just around the corner, Erica has plans for her second year of hockey writing—expansion, promotion and maybe a trip up North to hockey’s motherland…?

“Yea, I really do think that Canadians are perfect. I love it,” Erica joked as she described a recent trip to Toronto. “I thought I was going to cross the border and it was going to be like Celine Dion and hockey players everywhere.”

Erica Koup: Fashionista, hockey writer, Canada’s number one. Obviously.

Five Girlie Questions for a Girl About Hockey:

1. Do you love or hate hockey players’ mustaches during the month of Movember?
“I love them. I admire them from the pressbox. I really want to know who has the best mustache on the Bears team. Jeff Taffe can’t grow hair on his head, but he’s pretty solid in the mustache category. I like the handlebars, I think it’s a flashback to the 70s.

2. What’s your favorite hockey jersey?
“I really like the Reading Royals’ jerseys. I like purple and the lion with the crown. The throwback jersey the Hershey Bears wore—that was a really cool jersey. And I like the Avs’ jersey, I think they have nice colors.”

3. Who is your hockey player crush?
“The reason I became a Flyers fan was not because I knew anything about the Flyers, but because of Zac Rinaldo. Gabriel Landeskog comes in a close second.”

4. Would you rather your boyfriend have Brent Burns no-teeth smile or Steve Downie’s scary red post-Washington Capitals line brawl eyeball?
“Steve Downie. I didn’t see the red eyeball, but I’ve seen the developing black eye. It’s tough.”

5. What are your secrets to staying warm and looking cute at hockey games?
“Pants, nice sweater and heels. I stay pretty warm, but throughout the game it always gets colder.”

6. Puck Bunnies, thoughts?
“I don’t think I’ve run into any puck bunnies. It has to be real, because I hear it’s real, but I don’t have any thoughts on that… If you look cute going to the game, does that qualify you as a puck bunny?”

Annie Erling Gofus also writes for Olympus Athletics. Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at annie.erling@gmail.com.




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