For Alums, Covering Stanley Cup a Lifelong Dream

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For Alums, Covering Stanley Cup a Lifelong Dream
Jul 18, 2019

For two Merrill graduates, covering hockey is the stuff of childhood fantasy.

Stephen Whyno ‘07 was 4 or 5 years old when he wrote a letter to Ed Snider, then-owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, detailing his dream of becoming a hockey broadcaster. Mike Emrick, the legendary sportscaster who was then the play-by-play announcer for the Flyers, wrote Whyno back and invited him and his family to spend a game in the broadcasting booth.

“[Emrick] is my idol and inspiration for the career I got into,” said Whyno, now a sports reporter and national hockey writer for the Associated Press.

When Sammi Silber ‘19 was 9 years old, her mom took her to a Washington Capitals game. A Caps win — as well as a rowdy fight — left a strong impression on Silber.

“I absolutely fell in love with the game of hockey,” said Silber, now a digital content producer for Sporting News Canada.

Both Whyno and Silber have already accomplished one of the biggest objectives of a hockey writer: cover the Stanley Cup finals.

“It’s a completely different ballgame,” Whyno said. “It’s like the Olympics for me.”

Whyno is already a Stanley Cup veteran, having covered parts of four finals in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2018. He has also covered two championships in their entirety — in 2015, for The Canadian Press (as one of the first Americans the wire service ever hired to write about Canada’s beloved sport), and in 2019 for the AP.

Merrill College alum Stephen Whyno at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“You get a chance to be there every day, [and] you know the players, you know the coaches, you know every storyline inside and out,” Whyno said. “It was refreshing for me, and it reminded me how much I love this job.”

Silber’s rise to the apex of hockey writing was swift and poetic — not only did she cover the 2018 series as a college junior, but she also got to witness first-hand her favorite team win its first Stanley Cup and bring a long-awaited sports championship back to Washington, D.C.

Silber, who was covering the Capitals beat for online outlet The Hockey Writers, got a text from her boss before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the Caps won and made it to the finals, he said, Silber would be front and center.

“As a journalist, and especially in your first year covering a team, hearing the words ‘you’re going to the Stanley Cup final’ is a dream,” Silber said.

Whyno and Silber said covering a Stanley Cup run is more consuming and immersive than almost any other assignment. And, unlike a regular-season game or even an earlier playoff series, the hoopla does not stop once play on the ice concludes.

“When the Caps won, you’re excited because you get ready for more coverage,” Silber said. “You go to the team photo with all the trophies and you report from there. You go to the parade and you report from there. You go to their exit day, where they have all the year-end interviews.”

For Whyno, the 2019 series between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins was the first time he traveled with the teams for every game.

“When you’re on the road every day, and there’s really nothing else to worry about except ‘here’s the job I have in front of me,’ you become an expert,” Whyno said. “When it’s your beat and you’re there every day, asking the questions, coming up with ideas, it allows you to give some really informed thoughts and analysis.”

Whyno said that following the arc of a whole championship series gave him the ability to produce compelling stories that went beyond game recaps.

“I had a boss who told me once, ‘games are just the mile markers in a series.’ They just change what the storyline is,” Whyno said. “The games are a blast, but it’s how things change from game to game — injuries happen or suspensions happen.”

Silber knew how momentous a Stanley Cup win would be to her hometown, and she knew to look beyond the arena’s walls for good stories.

I would just walk through [Washington] and take it all in,” Silber said. “You see how much it means to the city, and that is compelling to you as a journalist.”

Whyno and Silber credit their time at Merrill College as fundamental to their development as journalists.

“I mean, who knows more about sports writing than [Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism director] George Solomon?” said Whyno. “I still consider him a mentor and someone who is responsible for a lot of my success.”

As for any advice for students looking to break into a career as a sports journalist or hockey writer, Silber’s message is simple: don’t give up.

“It’s the most chichéd saying,” Silber said. “But when you are young, and you are passionate, anything is possible.”

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