Our NHL and Minnesota Wild reporter Sarah McClellan has been covering hockey for most of her young career. She spent five years covering the Arizona Coyotes for The Arizona Republic before joining the Star Tribune in November 2017. She was born in Edmonton and raised in Arizona and some of her favorite memories of her childhood were watching hockey games with her father. She is a graduate of Arizona State's Cronkite School of Journalism.
Q: You said two weeks of quarantine in a small hotel room really wasn’t that bad, but how eager would you be to do it again? What were the best and worst parts of it?
A: I could handle another round of quarantine, but there would have to be an incentive at the end – like covering hockey games again. That helped the time feel significant and not like a meaningless blur. One of the best parts of each day was deciding what food to order. While I usually had the same meal for breakfast (iced coffee and a bagel or breakfast sandwich), I tried to order from different spots for supper. I had pasta, Chinese food and traditional Ukrainian dishes, and everything was delicious. I think I’m pretty much a pro when it comes to Edmonton’s takeout scene! But I did miss fresh air, feeling the sunshine and going on walks – especially since the weather in Edmonton was gorgeous while I was sequestered.
Q: How hard was it to not see friends and family in your hometown? Will you get to see your family this trip?
A: I definitely missed my family while in quarantine. Thank goodness for FaceTime! My immediate family lives in Arizona, but most of my relatives are still in the Edmonton area. Once I was free to leave my hotel room, I visited my aunt – to catch up with her and to also use her washer and dryer to do some much-needed laundry! I also saw my grandma, which was awesome. She’s a huge hockey fan, so I enjoyed chatting with her about the playoffs.
Q: As a beat reporter covering a major league team, what was a typical work day for you like before corona? And now?
A: During the NHL season, I spend most of my days at an arena – either in St. Paul at Xcel Energy Center or on the road wherever the Wild is playing. On game days, I’m there in the morning for the Wild’s pregame skate. Once that’s done, reporters are allowed into the locker room to interview players. I use the information I gather to write a preview of the night’s game and another story for the newspaper. In between the morning skate and the game, I usually go home or to my hotel if it’s an away game and then I’m back at the arena in the evening for the game. As soon as the game ends, I send in a story of what happened and after interviewing players and the coach, I file an updated version. Practice days are similar, since I watch the session at the arena and then return home or to my hotel to write a story. But since the pandemic began, my routine has changed. Every interview is conducted remotely, either virtually over the computer or on the telephone. That’s even the case in Edmonton; although I’m on site to watch the games in person, post-game and off-day interviews are still done through video chat. Before this trip, I wrote updates on the NHL and Wild from home while the season was paused.
Q: Have you always loved hockey?
A: Hockey has always been my favorite sport, and I have my dad to thank for that. He loves the sport, too, and when I was younger, I started watching games with him. I adopted his passion for hockey, and he taught me all there was to know – from the rules and strategy to the history of the NHL. The time we spent together watching games is a highlight of my childhood, and we still chat about hockey all the time.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to make a career of that?
A: I realized in high school I could combine my love of hockey and writing into a career, and that’s when I started to focus on sports journalism. By this time, my family and I were already living in Arizona and I went on to study journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. I had a terrific experience there, and the school really helped prepare me for a life in this industry.
Q: What are your favorite parts of the job?
A: I love sharing athletes’ stories. Even though their lives are unique and different from most, I think there’s something very relatable about working hard to chase your dreams. And that’s what these players do daily. Whether it’s overcoming a hardship or persevering when the outlook looks bleak, sports are filled with inspirational examples. And I think that’s very unifying.
Q: You’ve been covering the NHL for eight years now? How has being a woman in this field changed during that time?
A: It’s been so encouraging to see more and more women work in hockey and sports journalism. On many occasions, I’m not the only woman at a post-game press conference or in a locker room asking questions. Some of the most talented writers I know are women, and the support we have for each other is incredible. I’ve never played organized hockey, but that certainly hasn’t prevented me from doing my job. I’m eager to keep learning about the game and I strive to provide diligent coverage, and I think players and coaches respect that work ethic.
Q: What do you think the Wild need to do differently next year?
A: The team’s offense will be under the microscope this offseason. Although the Wild didn’t have much trouble scoring before the season paused, it struggled to recapture that rhythm in the playoffs. Getting faster and adding more skill to its forward group would help in 2020-21.