While escaping the late-summer heat on my way into the Scottrade Center, a break of sweat had glued my dress pants to my legs. The rink's cold air was an instant refreshment, like the first time I went to a St. Louis Blues practice as a fan last summer. During that practice, I made a promise to myself that one day I would cross over the "MEDIA ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT" sign that separated coaches and reporters from the wave of fans.
I entered the rink as a senior in high school.
"What's up lil' man?" asked Chuck, the intimidating security guard who resembled a grizzly bear but acted like a teddy bear. "I'm gonna look out for you this year."
Chuck grabbed my bag, I walked through the metal detector, then he handed it back with a nod of approval. I walked over to a box-office type window where another security guard asked my name. She gave me press credentials and a "bzzz" opened the media entrance door. I walked through it to find a hallway of white walls striped with blue and gold lines — the same hallway I walked through in fourth grade when my hockey team scrimmaged during an intermission at a St. Louis Blues game. The memory of me lugging a hockey bag bigger than me through this hallway made me laugh as I looked down at my credentials.
It was a shiny, laminated, blue rectangle centered with a large Blues logo outlined in gold to honor their 50th year in the National Hockey League. My headshot was in the bottom left corner, and next to that was my name and "KSDK"; NBC's local news station that I would contribute to that season.
The credentials meant a lot to me, but even with the welcoming security guards, I felt uncomfortable — like I was walking into somebody's house without knocking. I wasn't a journalist, I just had a blog last season.
The slogan Opinionated coverage of the St. Louis Blues was tied to my blog, Blues Buzz. During a summer theology class heading into my junior year of high school, I began to form a presence on social media platforms that led to my purchasing of the domain www.bluesbuzzblog.com. I worked on articles during class and would publish them at home. I live-tweeted during games while crafting concise game recaps. The tweets helped me gain a following, and the articles helped me form active followers. One of my followers, Mike Poeping, had written for KSDK for three consecutive years. He sent my work to his boss, then put me in contact with him. I had an opportunity.
During that summer class I was dreaming about earning press credentials; I would be in the locker room to interview players and I'd have enough experience to decide whether sports journalism was something I'd like to major in at college. Having press credentials for my senior year in high school was an unrealistic hope of mine, but Jordan Palmer — Mike's boss — made it happen.
Yet another security guard greeted me as I walked down to the ice-level. I walked past him and as soon as his eyes met the blue and gold on my chest he gave me the same nod as Chuck. I kept walking in my brand new—first ever—dress shoes. My heals clicked the concrete floor with each step I took. The floor, walls, and ceiling were all concrete at ice-level. By this time, the cold air had taken care of any lingering sweat from my walk-in. To my right, two zambonis—littered with advertisements—were parallel parked. To my left, a sign stood next to a freight elevator and read "CREDENTIALED MEDIA ONLY". I jabbed a button with my pointer-finger and heard a screech of churning mechanical wires until the elevator doors opened.
The elevator was kind of shaky, which was concerning because the Blues were petitioning for behind-the-scenes renovations since I was a freshman. The elevator operator giggled at the concern written on my face. Her nametag read "Sheala", and I could tell she'd never seen somebody as nervous as me.
"Just wait until the reporters, GMs, and alumni try fitting into this thing after the game," explained Sheala. "Everybody is in a rush to get downstairs, sweetie. You'll see what I mean."
By playfully mocking me, she let me laugh at myself. The doors opened and Sheala yelled "penthouse suits". I thanked her for relaxing me and walked toward the press box entrance. With two more security guards waiting to see my credentials, I figured there were enough for a St. Louis Blues Security Guard softball team. Both of these guards were wearing bright yellow jackets, which would make for ugly softball uniforms. I walked past them to find buckets of drinks next to bowls of snacks. I grabbed a water before trying to locate my seat. Strolling from one end of the box to the other, I passed nametags like Lou Korac (NHL.com) and Jeremy Rutherford (STLPD at the time, The Athletic now) — two writers I'd looked up to for years.
Then I found my name.
I dropped my backpack, took off my jacket, and stood over my designated seat for the season. My fear of heights vanished as I gazed down five stories to the ice-level where I met Chuck and Sheala. I could see myself skating around during an intermission and lugging that body-sized hockey bag; I couldn't help but smile.
*A few names were changed for privacy purposes