Right now, there isn’t much for a hockey fan to be happy for. The NHL hasn’t played a game since June 11, 2012, and the 2012-2013 season is very much in jeopardy. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement seems like it is far away, and with the lack of movement on either the NHL’s or NHLPA’s front, all kinds of hockey fans are fearing another winter without hockey.

Because of the lockout, there are more issues that could be moving forward in a very positive way, but cannot because of the labor dispute. One main issue that the lockout is keeping from moving forward is player safety.

Over the past few years, the NHL has received a lot of heat from the media and fans alike about player safety. The majority of the awareness has come from four specific incidents that forced everyone to talk about the uncomfortable issue of brain trauma and the physical nature of the game. Those incidents were the deaths of Bob Probert, Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard.

Bob Probert was a NHL enforcer that player from  1985-2002 for the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Probert has said that his role as an enforcer was not one to just go out at and attack players, but rather stick up for his teammates. In hockey, fighting is the most common form of “protection” within the NHL. And while fans say that fighting is allowed in the sport, executives and officials like to point out that fighting results in most severe penalty, and can often be combined with misconducts.

Probert was seen as one of the most feared enforcers of his time, and is the Red Wings’ leader for career and single season penalty minutes (2,090 and 398, respectively), and is 5th all time in penalty minutes (3,300). Probert had a brief stint with Blackhawks media, and was writing a book about his career until he passed away on July 5, 2010. His death would springboard the talks of player safety and concussion problems in the NHL.

Probert donated his brain to science to see how playing hockey had affected his brain. The results were not favorable. Probert suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease whose symptoms can include dementia, memory loss, aggression, and depression. CTE is developed later in life because of repeated injuries to the head; in hockey, mainly concussions.

Probert’s incident was not just a single isolated incident. The next summer, the hockey world was rocked when two current players and one more retired player died. Derek Boogaard was the first of the three tragedies, and was the most profiled of the three.

Boogaard was a fighter for nearly half of his life, accepting the role of enforcer when he tried out for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey league. He played in the WHL for just years before being drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2001 NHL draft, but wouldn’t make it to the NHL until the 2005-2006 season. Boogaard would play for the Wild for five years, quickly becoming a fan favorite. After his five seasons, Boogaard would sign with the New York Rangers.

But Boogaard’s life would be cut short. Boogaard had a problem with prescription drugs, and on May 13, 2011, Boogaard would overdose on  a combination of painkillers and alcohol. His brain was given to the same study that Probert’s brain was donated to, and Boogaard had CTE just as Probert had. Boogaard added more validity behind he statement that concussions can lead to serious brain trauma.

Unfortunately, this would not be the last incident the NHL would have. Rick Rypien was a forward for the Vancouver Canucks. He spent six seasons with the Canucks, but they were not without problems. Rypien was an enforcer for the team, frequently getting into fights. These fights took a tool, as Rypien was diagnosed with depression starting in 2008. He would continue to battle depression throughout his career, until committing suicide on August 15, 2011.  Wade Belak  was a retired player that had played for five NHL teams during his 15 year career. Belak was an enforcer for his teams, appearing more in penalty box than the stat sheet. In 549 career games, Belak amassed 33 points and 1263 penalty minutes, and much like Rypien, also had a history with depression. Belak was found dead in his Toronto apartment on August 31, 2011, of an apparent suicide.

These four deaths are not the direct causation of concussions, but it does show a terrifyingly interesting trend within hockey.  Does the physical nature of hockey and the repeated hits of fighting cause players to suffer from CTE and other mental health disorders that are severely shortening the lives of players? Or are these four deaths just haunting coincidences that create an availability heuristic, or the ability to recall something based off of the ease the examples come to mind?

The NHL has had its fair share of high profile concussion cases. Three that come to mind are Eric Lindros, Marc Savard, and Sidney Crosby. Lindros had a total of eight concussions throughout his 13 year career, and was forced to retire at 34 because of his reoccurring concussions. Crosby was out for a total of fourteen months because of two concussions. While he seems to be completely healthy now, there is no telling hos his first two concussions will affect his gameplay for an entire season. And finally Savard had two concussions within nine months of each other. He has been experiencing post-concussion symptoms since January 21, 2011, and it is unlikely that he will ever play hockey again.

So the NHL has had research show that concussions can cause CTE, and there have been high profile concussion cases that have inhibited players to a significant degree. What has the league done to protect its players, and what will it continue to do?

The first major step that the league has taken is Rule 48. Rule 48 as a result of Matt Cooke’s elbow that caused Savard’s second concussion, just a mere 21 days after Crosby’s first concussion. Rule 48 eliminates all blind-side hits to the head, and punishes players for directly targeting the head when checking their opponent. The NHL knows that it cannot completely eliminate hits to the head, so Rule 48 is meant to punish those that make the head the principle target of the hit, and have videos to show players what hits will be considered legal and which will be illegal. Since Rule 48 has been instituted by the NHL, the number of concussions have not significantly decreased, however, the league has seen numerous examples of players pulling up from a hit or reducing the ferocity of the hit in an effort to not cause injury to the opposing player.

Rule 48 is a step in the right direction for the NHL, but with the lockout in full swing, the NHL has not been able to continue making strides to better player safety, and life after hockey is an important part of the NHLPA’s bargaining. This does not stop fans and writers from speculating what additional steps can be taken. One Bleacher Report article discusses five ways that the NHL can protect its players, ranging from making mouth guards mandatory, to making hitting coaches part of each club’s coaching squad, to making any hit to the head an automatic match penalty. Meanwhile, some former enforcers and fans are calling for fighting to be banned altogether, which would change an integral part of the game. The NHL does not see fighting leaving the game because there is already a punishment in place for fighting, and does not have any plans for creating and further rule changes at this time.

The problem with the league and player safety is that the game and the players have changed. With the introduction of the trapezoid and the removal of the two-line-pass in hockey, the game has become more open. There are more plays designed to get out of the zone and through the neutral zone quicker, and the players themselves are built bigger, stronger, and faster than they were even ten years earlier. Today’s youth, because of the added importance placed on player safety by the league and the continuous media focus on player safety, recognize just how dangerous concussions can be even at the high school or collegiate level. During games, players don’t think about possibly getting a concussion or what a certain hit can do to a player; they just react. But with added importance on player safety, the thought process going into a hit now has a split second where a skater will think if it’s a legal hit or not, and then continue depending if that answer is yes or no. Concussion prevention is now part of the equation.

Concussions and player safety is not a comfortable topic of discussion for players and NHL officials. With the physical nature of hockey, there are bound to be injuries, but the fact they can have lasting effects has forced the game to continue to support player safety. It comes not only from the executives, but also from the players and their actions too. The game is still the same, but players recognize their actions can have consequences that can last longer than the final horn.  

 
 
It's been a while since I have taken a look at the Los Angeles Times, but it could not have come at a better time. 

The biggest news coming into the NBA season was the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers already had Kobe Bryant, but had added some great star players to make the next "Big Three" in the NBA. The Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, and grabbed Steve Nash in free agency to become the preseason favorites to win the Western Conference, and maybe even the NBA Finals.

Fast forward to the present, and the Lakers look like they'd be lucky to even make the playoffs. The team fired head coach Mike Brown just five games into the season because of a 1-4 start, and since the hiring of Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers are now at a 3-5 record, sitting in fourth in the Pacific division and 14th in the Western Conference. For a star-studded starting five, the Lakers are severely underperforming. 

The Los Angeles Clippers, however, are exceeding preseason expectations. A team that was seen as a five seed for the playoffs and a possible dark horse for the Conference Finals are now first in the Pacific division and third in the Western Conference. Led by Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers are now the favorite basketball team in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles fans are fans of winning teams, and the Los Angeles times are nor exception. The Times focus on the Laker's decision to hire D'Antoni over Phil jackson, even writing a story that the Lakers had Kobe's approval to hire D'Antoni. Meanwhile, the Times focuses on how the Clippers are winning games, and their recent win over the Heat shows they are one of the best teams in the NBA.

Personally, I am not a fan of the NBA, but rather two specific players: LeBron James and Blake Griffin. Both put on offensive clinics every game, and both, especially Griffin, will throw down highlight reel dunk after highlight reel dunk. For the Times, it's good to have one team that is winning to sell the papers. 
 
 
Hopefully most of my readers already know this, but I am an avid hockey fan. I played for fifteen years competitively, and will definitely play some form of pick up league when I get older. I am thankful to not have suffered any serious injury while playing, but I know many who have. And no injury has been as devastating to more players than a concussion. 

For #loweclass #sports, I will be writing a paper and doing a presentation on concussions in the NHL, specifically how many players are affected by the injury, and what the league is doing to prevent concussions from happening. The NHL was hit extremely hard before last season, with the death of three former NHL enforcers, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, along with the passing of retired enforcer Bob Probert. These deaths forced the NHL to question whether or not the violent nature of the game was to blame for the traumatic brain injuries that led to these deaths, and thus caused the NHL to make rule changes to protect its players. 

The problem is that it fixes the problems that are happening now. But what about guys like Eric Lindros or Marc Savard? Both guys had their careers ended because of repeated concussions. These players are not protected by the new rules that the NHL implemented, but will still suffer from concussions. The NHL is taking the right step by enforcing these rules, but the veterans need to be protected too.

I wrote a Bleacher Report article about other ways for the NHL to curb concussion injuries, ones that do not have ambiguous meanings as to what a hit to the head is, and how long a player should be sent to the box. Rule changes such as mandatory mouth guards have been backed up by research, and teaching players how to skate with their head up or using hitting coaches to properly teach how to hit will reduce the number of injuries that are a result from reckless skating and hitting. 

Concussions in the NHL are a problem, and its something the 
 
 
I will be the first to admit that I am an avid sports nut. I spend many hours reading various sports articles, discussing sports with friends, and watching my favorite teams win. I will also be the first to admit that I know absolutely nothing about politics. I was never one to engage in political discussions in high school, and when the election would come around, I would see who won before I went to bed, and that was the end of that. 

This year was much different.

Last semester I took Political Science, which was the first class I had ever taken devoted strictly to politics. I learned more about the party system, how presidents were elected, and what disadvantages the political system has. I used these this information to think more critically about the presidential nominations, the campaigns they were running, and the political ads that I constantly saw in the months before the election. But come Election Day, I was ready.

Ben Greene and I decided upon Centennial Hall for our location to cover the election. We walked in the door, and was greeted by a security guard protecting the election room. Immediately, Ben and I were restricted as to what we could do, which was to stand near the entrance of the hall, and talk to people as they were entering and exiting the building. 

We talked to three or four people within the first twenty minutes of being there, but the polls were not that particularly busy. We asked them about the process and what they thought of the election as a whole, and many were first time voters saying the process was a lot easier than expected. Soon after talking with these students, Ben and I were banished to the outside of the building and were given Election Observer stickers in case we were approached by anyone else. 

Once outside, the amount of people entering an exiting the polls became next to no one, save for one man named Fred. Fred chatted up  Ben and myself, talking about various times in his life, and each story was stranger than the next. Fred openly discussed his political views with the two of us, crediting the movement of women into the workforce as starting the downfall of America. We left the polling site after 75 minutes, right as Fred was talking about his butterfly knife and how he always carries it around with him.

For the rest of the night, I was down in the Marquette Tribune office, watching and live-tweeting the event from the Tribune's Twitter handle. We watched President Obama become re-elected, and then stayed up all night creating out special edition Tribune. At the late, or rather early, hour of 6 a.m., I retreated to my dorm room, completely election-ed out. 
 
 
Sharif Durhams came to visit #loweclass #sports last Thursday to discuss the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage of sports, and how the newspaper has used online and social media outlets to get their stories out to the public. Durhams is the social media editor for the Journal Sentinel, and is also one of the breaking news reporters for the paper.  

Durhams started to his presentation talking about how sports is a business, and many people forget that. The Journal Sentinel found out after doing a little research that the difference in revenue from the Packers winning the Super Bowl to them losing the Super Bowl is about $1 million. The Journal Sentinel on the online front, has to deal with websites such as Bleacher Report (which I proudly write for #shamelessplug), which was recently bought out by Turner Sports for $200 million. Sports networks are realizing how important it is to have an online presence, and the newspapers have to combat that. 

The Journal Sentinel has decided to combine the old school of journalism, meaning the print version that is reads as a story, and the new school of journalism, meaning the story is meant to be a conversation between the writer and the audience. Ways the Journal Sentinel has done so is by creating a live blog for Packer games, where Tom Silverstein will give live analysis of the game, and then return to answer any questions the fans have after the game. Other inter actives include "Pick the Winners", where fans can poll whether the Packers will win or lose which game on the schedule, and a map where fans can see the location of "Packer Bars" around the country. Durhams has had a helping part in creating each of these interactives.

Durhams, being a member of the breaking news desk of the Journal Sentinel, follows how breaking news affects the traffic to the jsonline.com, the newspaper's website. During class, there was news that Greg Jennings was going to have groin surgery. This became the second most visited page on the Journal Sentinel's website during class, where there were about 10,00 visits to the site. During the Brookfield Mall shooting, that number was doubled. When people find out about breaking news, he says they then turn to the Journal Sentinel to confirm the rumors they are hearing. The website has to have information ready to go so that the people keep coming back to get their information on breaking news stories. 

Durhams visit to #loweclass was another very entertaining speaker. He clearly knows his stuff about social media, online media, and how it relates to getting a story out to the people. He acknowledges the fact that a journalist's job never really ends; it's a 24/7 commitment. I'm looking forward to listening to the experiences that other #loweclass
 
 
 
 
Marquette welcomed sports executives from Milwaukee Wednesday night for a “Career in Professional Sports” seminar held in Cudahy Hall. Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond, Milwaukee Brewers Assistant General Manager Gord Ash, and John H. Steinmiller, manager of media relations for the Milwaukee Brewers, spoke at the event, which was moderated by OnMilwaukee.com co-founder Jeff Sherman and sponsored by alumni networking group Marquette Circles.

Steinmiller, who graduated from Marquette in 2004, started out working for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel his senior year in high school, and worked his way through Marquette student media during college. After graduation, he entered the sports business by getting a job with the Milwaukee Brewers, a process which he talked about during the seminar.

“You have to be ready to (hear) ‘no,’ because there are only so many jobs,” Steinmiller said. “I’ve applied for jobs out of college with numerous NBA teams, numerous football teams, baseball teams, and where do I end up? Right here, five miles away from where I started.”

Ash reiterated what Steinmiller said, also discussing how he worked his way up from ticket salesman for the Toronto Blue Jays to general manager of the team.

“In the sports business, it’s getting your foot in the door, at whatever level that can be,” Ash said. “In most cases, it will probably be below your capability, and you have to accept that that’s your opportunity. Once you’re in, your capabilities can demonstrate you’re capable of doing more.”

Hammond took a different approach to his rise to becoming the general manager of the Bucks, but still has the same central ideas that the other two held.

“With the exception of my very first job that I ever had…I’ve never had a job that I’ve pursued,” Hammond said. “Any job I’ve every applied (for), I haven’t gotten. Every opportunity I’ve had has been presented to me. Sometimes people try too hard, and you have to just let it happen.”

Dan DeWeerdt, senior director of engagement communication and events for Marquette Circles who organized the seminar, said the event was an opportunity through the Marquette Circles’ eMentor program to connect with Marquette alumni and friends who are willing to share their experiences.

The eMentor program is designed to provide students and alumni with advice on careers, industries and organizations pertaining to different fields.

“Marquette alumni are really not only passionate about the university, but they’re passionate about the students,” Deweerdt said.

DeWeerdt said that this event was held so that students maybe not yet affiliated with eMentor could start networking with people already in the sports business.

“It’s important to remember that it’s never to early to network,” DeWeerdt said. “You never know who’s going to be connected to someone.”

DeWeerdt also said that networking can open up unique opportunities for students, and they should not take those for granted.

“One thing for consideration is to never limit yourself,” DeWeerdt said. “Just keep in mind that Marquette alumni truly do want to help students.”

Steinmiller agreed with DeWeerdt and spun it specifically to the realm of sports.

“I think it’s important to find something that you’re good at and see how you can apply that to sports,” Steinmiller said. “Whatever you’re good at, there’s a job in sports for that.”

 
 
Last Thursday, #loweclass #sports welcomed its first speaker: Don Walker. Walker writes the Business of Sports blog for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, while also covering the city hall beat for the newspaper. 

Walker stressed the use of social media for journalists. he stressed the ability for Twitter to be not only a source for news but also a way to release a story to the public. Twitter has become more geared toward the reporters, while Facebook has become larger for the teams themselves. 

Walker also talked about how with the onset of the internet, teams can now break their own stories. An example he used was the Washington Redskins. The team owns their own radio station, which will break the starting lineups and injuries for the team. Walker talked how that makes being a reporter more difficult, because the mainstream media used to break those stories. 

Walker gave #loweclass a first-had account of what reporters are doing now to get stories, and how online media has given journalism a slight twist in practice and writing. After the class, my attention turned completely to the Wild Card game on Friday night.

My St. Louis Cardinals were taking on the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta for the inaugural Wild Card game. The Braves were seen as the heavy favorites in the game, and the Cardinals were looking to start a campaign to defend their 2011 World Series title. 

The Cardinals won the game 6-3, but that is not the story. The story is the controversial infield fly out that was called in the bottom of the eighth inning. What could have been bases loaded with one out became runners on second and third with two outs. 

Fans of the Braves say that call cost them the game. However, let's say that the play stands, the Braves' next batter hits into an FC. A runner scores, runners on second and third, and two outs. Same spot where the game is at, but the Braves receive an extra-run for the bad call. The Braves still get the third out because the next batter strikes out swinging. No more runs are scored, and the Braves lose 6-4 instead of 6-3. 

The Braves cannot blame the umpire's bad call for their loss. The team that committed the least amount of errors committed three that game. Two of those errors led to four unearned runs. Without those errors, the Braves win 3-2. So what really caused the Braves to lose the game? It was their terrible defensive game. The umpires became the scapegoat. Just like in the Packers-Seahawks game.

The beginning of my weekend was great. I got to have a personalized lecture from Don Walker about sports journalism and online media, and the Cardinals made it to the NLDS. Can the magic happen again? I think so. #12in12. 
 
 
Sports have a way of capturing those who love sports and throwing them into a heated debate with whomever about whatever. Whether you are a die-hard hockey fan who can't stand having another NHL season possibly cancelled (myself), or a city hall beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Don Walker), every fan likes to give their opinion.

Walker's blog, The Business of Sports, is not like a blog that most sports fans would expect to see. Instead of having content, such as the scores from the Brewers final game of the regular season, or a preview of the NL wild card game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves (couldn't pass it up), Walker instead focuses on exactly what the title of his blog says, the business of sports. 

I would think that in this day of age, sports business is an aspect of sports that is very overlooked, but very essential in understanding the entirety of sports. While we the fans look at these stars as making millions upon millions of dollars for playing a game, we don;t think twice about where the money is coming form and how that money is spread out throughout the organization and the league in general. 

In his blog, Walker talks about various aspects of sports business. From Aaron Rodgers doing another State Farm commercial to Miller Park not hitting 3 million fans this season, Walker pretty much hits it all. But, I still feel like there was one major issue that could end up being a decently sized project for Walker, but could yield some great stories. 

As a fan, I don't look far into how the money a team makes is overall shared between the league and the other owners. If Walker could do a series of looking into not only what each respective league makes, but what the revenue sharing system is between the owners of the league, it could give some great insight as to why nearly all of the major league sports have had lockouts to try to even out the different between the players and the owners. Having a series that would explain that to sports fans could be extremely helpful for fans who cannot understand the business aspects of sports.

Walker does a great job with his blog. While his posts may not be novels, they still report the information that he found and tells a story with that information. He covers a side of sports that not many people look for, but is still integral in understanding the sporting world in general. I highly recommend reading Walker's blog if you 
 
 
The Online News Assiciation is a nonprofit membership organization for digital journalists, connecting journalism, technology, and innovation. Each year, they have finalists and winners of ONA awards. These awards are given out to winners in numerous categories ranging for best feature story for a large media outlet to the best news and and online commentary by a student run publication. For #loweclass #sports, we looked at four of these finalists. 

The first article I chose to look at was 2008 Breaking News winner for a medium outlet, the Kirkwood Shootings by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Being from St. Louis, I remember the news coverage from when it happened. The Post-Dispatch has a rundown of the stories, covering the story from multiple angles. The lead story is about the actual event, while the one below it is about the first time Kirkwood was thrown into the national spotlight because of the discovery of two kidnapped boys. Other articles include remembering those that died, and recounting the life of the man who attacked the city hall.

One finalist for the 2008 award for the large Online Video Journalism was an ESPN's Outside the Lines report on the Youtube Baby. Youtube Baby focus around an 8-year-old boy from Chicago, who is the self-proclaimed "No. 1 kindergarden Prospect" in America. Marquis Walker has met NBA stars such as Steve Jackson, Shawn Marion, Kevin Durant, and even Lebron James. These stars give the number one ranking credibility. 

Not all of the stories are happy stories though. One of 2011's finalist for Breaking News by a small news source was the Vancouver Sun's coverage of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final riots. The Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston bruins, which was also the only game the Canucks lost at home. Their coverage of the story is heavily geared towards photos capturing the event, while also having a story that reads like a live update. The Sun also took raw footage from youtube and paired it with photos that they captured of the same event to give the read two different views of the story. 

However, my personal favorite is Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer by the New York Times. The story is centered around Derek Boogaard, an enforcer for the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers. Boogaard slowly fell into an addiction to pain killers to help cope with the constant headaches from multiple concussions, as well as pain in his hands and joints from repetitive punches thrown. Boogaard died in his sleep on May 13, 2011. The New York Times has three separate parts of the story written, each seven pages long. To accompany this three part feature, they also paired three separate videos that cover the same content. Because of the multimedia project, the New York Times was a finalist for the 2012 Best Feature of a Large media outlet. 

Perhaps just because the story is about hockey, but I love what the New York Times did with the Derek Boogaard story. It talks about a guy who willingly accepts his role on the team and does it the best he can because it was what he loved. The pairing of long form journalism with videos that attract the visual audience is a great way to tell the story. Overall, he ONA does a great job of recognizing the best journalism from around the world, and is a great resource to look for good j