SteelHounds night brings back memories | News, Sports, Jobs

The Youngstown Phantoms knocked it out of the park with their SteelHounds throwback night.

From the jerseys that were nearly identical to the inaugural season, going the extra mile with pants and socks as well (unlike most specialty jerseys), to using the original scoreboard graphics and video intro, it really took me back to being 10 or 11 and watching these games with my dad.

As I was taking photos of the team going on the ice for warm-ups for the first time, it was hard to not feel emotional.

Especially because the SteelHounds are the reason I’m here writing for this newspaper today.

I usually don’t get personal when writing, but I knew I had to write something about this.

In February of 2007, I had my first real exposure to the world of newspaper coverage.

After winning a contest hosted by the Central Hockey League, I was the “junior reporter” for the Youngstown SteelHounds for the night.

From that night on, writing about hockey was something I was going to do.

While I loved the team before, winning that contest sent me down a crazy path.

I not only became obsessed with the team and the sport, but I loved the idea of ​​getting to come to all the games, get paid to do so and then get to write about it and talk to the players to make it happen.

For a kid, that’s like a dream come true.

And from the age of 11, I started working toward that goal. I bugged the SteelHounds broadcaster Tim Sampsell, who helped run the junior reporter program for the team, on MySpace for advice and just to chat. (He did have the coolest job in the world after all.)

From that point on, I started working on my writing skills in hopes of growing up and covering the Youngstown SteelHounds.

Well that didn’t exactly get to happen. In April of 2008, the SteelHounds played their final game, a playoff loss to the Colorado Eagles. A few months later, it was announced they wouldn’t be returning for the following season. That turned out to be permanent.

I was gutted.

Obviously the hockey-shaped void at the Covelli Center was filled quickly afterward by the Phantoms, so there was still a hockey team to work toward covering.

Fast forward 10 years from when the SteelHounds organization left, I started covering the Phantoms.

Nowhere near as much as I like, honestly. I would be at every game, home and away, if I could be covering the full-time team, but obviously with a small sports staff, that’s just not feasible.

That being said, it’s been a blast so far, and I hope to keep doing it as long as I can.

Getting to cover the team in the Clark Cup Finals was such a cool experience. Same with draft day whenever a Phantom gets chosen by an NHL team.

Even though I got the job I wanted, I still had to get my degree. If I dropped out, I think my mom might have killed me.

As I was wrapping up my time in college and needed a topic for my senior journalism project, I decided to do my project on the whole reason I wanted to major in journalism in the first place.

So I put together a series of stories on the SteelHounds using the connections I gained from work and a contest I happened to win by chance.

I interviewed anyone who I could get in touch with. The project grew in scope with every person I got in touch with. It went from a five-story idea to close to 15.

The funny thing is, even though I got an A on it and graduated, I don’t think it’s finished. Maybe I’ll get back to it.

I somehow took my childhood obsession and leveraged a college degree and a career out of it.

Looking back, it’s kind of funny how one little experience can shape your life.

It’s kind of cheesy, but I felt obligated to thank the Phantoms organization for doing this throwback night and I can only hope it was a huge hit and something that becomes a yearly tradition.

It coach accomplished Brad Patterson’s goal of uniting two eras of Youngstown hockey, and did really well, but on a personal note, it also united two big parts of my life.

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