It’s no secret I have no time for misogynist oafs who believe women don’t have any place in the hockey community.
And what do we have to thank for Milbank’s affection for hockey? Would you believe Blades of Steel, a video game released in 1988?
“I loved that game!” said Milbank, a former cheerleader captain for the NFL’s Houston Texans who also hosts Internet programs on TennisWeek.com and People.com. “I used to play that game every day and that’s why I became a hockey fan. That’s how I got to know hockey, and I fell in love with it back then.”
When Milbank landed The Hockey Show gig during the 2008 playoffs, the prospect of interviewing hard-edged hockey players was somewhat intimidating, especially given the fact she wasn’t steeped in hockey culture growing up in Houston.
But a lot of research, and a bit of trial-by-fire, had her in a comfort zone in no time.
“Honestly, I was so scared at first,” said Milbank, who has been working in broadcasting since 2003. “I really wanted The Hockey Show job, and when I got it, I was like, ‘uh-oh, what am I going to do?’ Because not only was I scared of the players, I was scared of the fans, because they’re so intense.
“So I bought the book Hockey For Dummies. I bought The Smart Girl’s Guide To Sports to help me prepare. But talking to the guys and being around the game really helps you get to know what hockey’s all about.
“And that’s what The Hockey Show is about – it’s the other side of the NHL. We pay a lot of respect to the sport, because it deserves that. But we also give hockey fans a front-row seat to the entertainment side of hockey.”
A seasoned interviewer who has sat down with the likes of Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker, Milbank sees a large part of her duties at The Hockey Show as helping to connect gritty, grizzled NHLers with the glitzy, glamorous world of celebrities.
“Hockey certainly already crosses over into the world of celebrities,” she said. “We’ve got the Mike Comrie/Hilary Duff relationship going on, the Rachael Hunter/Jarret Stoll relationship. On the show I do for People Magazine online, we actually featured Hilary Duff and Mike one time. And I hope to do more of that, because there really is more to hockey than just the score.”
Although she focuses on many off-ice aspects of hockey on her NHL.com show, Milbank’s passion for the game is already at the level where it can boil over.
“Hockey is the only sport that makes me yell at the TV without even realizing I’m doing it,” she said. “I’ll yell for whoever’s doing good or whoever’s doing really bad. I think I lost my voice during the Stanley Cup playoffs last year.”
Her interest in the NHL doesn’t end when The Hockey Show stops taping in Manhattan.
“I’ll do The Hockey Show, and when I get home I’ll get online and log on to Facebook or MySpace and really get into serious hockey talk with fans,” said Milbank, who counts interviews she’s done with Mark Messier, Scotty Bowman, Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz and Alex Ovechkin as some of her personal hockey highlights. “It’s amazing to me that they’re logging on and talking from all over the world; from Germany, Sweden or the Czech Republic. You see the worldwide appeal of the sport, and that’s awesome.”
Like many NHLers, Milbank is a bit superstitious – at least, when it comes to her long-term future plans – but in less than a year on the job, she’s built a bond with hockey she doesn’t plan on breaking.
“I’d love to stick around the game for a long time because I’ve fallen in love with it even more now that I’ve really got my hands dirty with it,” she said. “So I’d like to see how the league develops, because it’s really growing again and I hope that trend keeps going. There’s so much history in the NHL and I hope more people learn to appreciate that, the way I have.”
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays in the summer, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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