If you’re a Nashville area hockey fan, you’re probably used to going to blogs for the in-depth coverage of your team. There’s no shortage of great websites covering the Predators, the area is spoiled with an embarrassment of riches in that category. Adding to that category is the new Smashville247.net, the brainchild of Ryan Porth. Ryan resides in the Franklin area, and has been doing side work for high schools to bide his time until hockey season starts.
Of course, you might already know this. His main website, Red Light District Hockey (rldhockey.net) has been featured on YardBarker, FoxSports.com, and other sites. His radio show has also enjoyed a banner year with other national journalists and high-profile players as guests. His site also features interviews with Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan, Shane Doan, Jeff Skinner, Erik Johnson, Tyler Seguin, Brooks Laich, and a host of others outside of the Predators whom he also has interviewed.
What’s the most impressive part about Ryan’s achievements? He’s just now able to legally to toast some champagne to his accomplishments.
Sport Seasons: Thanks for the interview. What made you start covering the entire league instead of just the team you like?
Ryan Porth: To be honest, when I started RLD Hockey back in 2008, it never even crossed my mind to have a site just for the Predators. At that time, I was oblivious to social media and didn’t follow any Preds blogs. I’m such a big fan of the sport itself and I wanted a place to put down my thoughts and predictions, etc. To see how the site has grown since then is something I could have never imagined. In the middle of last season, I pondered starting a Predators blog because of the access I was given by the team. Instead, I opted to wait until the off-season to create Smashville 24/7, where you’ll be able to find Predators news, features and analysis in the 2011-12 season.
SS: What kind of response do you get from the older journalists?
RP: There’s a thought out there that all of the mainstream media, specifically some of the ‘veterans’, per se, despise bloggers. That’s not entirely true. While there are some traditional newspaper writers that can’t grasp the concept of a blogger sitting in a press box, others have entertained the idea. Kevin Allen of USA Today, the president of the Pro Hockey Writer’s Association, has been one mainstream writer that is very pro-blogger. I met him in Los Angeles last summer at the draft and was blown away with how outgoing he was to me; before then I had that assumption that all of the media ‘big boys’ weren’t fond of bloggers. It was really nice to see because internet media is quickly taking over print media. Where do fans go to get their coverage nowadays? The internet, not newspapers.
SS: Who was your favorite player you’ve ever interviewed?
RP: I can’t think of one player that stands out above the rest, but there is a handful. Dealing with Shane O’Brien here in Nashville last year was great. He got a bad reputation in Vancouver, but we saw none of that. He was great with the media and you could rely on him for a good quote after every game or practice.
Some of my favorite visiting players that came through Nashville last year included Jarome Iginla and Brooks Laich. They are both soft-spoken and care about what kind of answers they give you, which is a treat for the media. Nicklas Lidstrom, Tim Thomas and Shane Doan are also great to talk to.
As far as coaches go, there’s no one better than Barry Trotz. The man loves to talk. When we were in Vegas this summer, he spoke for at least 40 minutes; he probably answered two questions in the process (not really). No other award nominee talked for more than 10 or 15 minutes. When Vancouver was in town during the second round in May, one of the Canadian writers said aloud after a press conference, “He makes (Toronto coach) Ron Wilson sound like Osama bin Laden.”
SS: Biggest influence?
RP: The biggest influence on me writing was a teacher at Franklin High, Diane Fender; she was my English teacher in my sophomore year. One day she approached me to write about sports for the school newspaper (which she also taught). It was something that had never crossed my mind. Before you knew it, I was on the staff and even had a guest article in The Tennessean’s Williamson A.M. I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t come up to me and suggested sports writing.
SS: Next challenge?
RP: Operating two sites at once is going to be enough of a challenge for me this season. One never-ending challenge of blogging is trying to get more people to the site, increase the traffic and create more revenue. Once you take one step in the right direction, you’re looking for that next step.
SS: Favorite event you’ve ever traveled to cover?
RP: It’s neck and neck between the Awards and Winter Classic… but I have to go with the Winter Classic. I covered last year’s historic game between the Penguins and Capitals in Pittsburgh, and that was pretty cool. Not only was the event/spectacle fascinating, but to see and be a part of the media coverage – how big the scrums were, how every little detail was a huge deal, etc. – it was a great experience to see all of it first-hand. Though it was only one game on the 2,460-game NHL calendar, it was treated like the Super Bowl. The Awards, which I’ve been to twice now, is a totally different experience. Most of the stars are there and it’s a laid-back atmosphere, which is a great changeup to some of the other events. Here’s to hoping the NHL keeps the Awards in Vegas!
It’s important to remind us that more goes into the total experience of athletics than just the product you see on the field, court, or rink. There are bunches of people working together and independently to ensure the sport is well represented and well covered. Ryan is part of a growing community in Nashville originally founded to ensure the survival of hockey, and now works to enrich the community with the sport. Sports journalism is a field so competitive that many younger writers are discouraged from even attempting. But with the emergence of blogs and social media, talented writers and other journalists are finding their way to the top.