Interview with Michael Petrella from The Production Line

NHLHS Correspondent Christina Roberts got the chance to do an e-mail interview with Michael Petrella, one of the writers for the Red Wings’ blog The Production Line. Give it a read!

Well, I could rant and rave about the Detroit Red Wings‘ 10-3 loss Wednesday evening until my face turns blue and I don’t know what goalies were pulled at what points or how bad players’ +/- ratings were last night. But I think everyone else has done enough of that. So this article is going to take a different stab at things!

In case you didn’t know (which you probably didn’t), I am currently in college, trying to get my degree in Communications and Public Relations. This semester of classes has been chock full of projects upon projects. Well, for one of my PR classes, we had a project of following a reporter/blogger for a month to see what kinds of things they write about, how often they write, and manage to get an interview with them. Somehow, magically, I got away with following a Detroit Red Wings blogger.

The name Michael Petrella may ring a bell with some of you. He’s one of the guys over at The Production Line. But you may have heard of him through the fan initiative earlier this season started by TPL known to Red Wings fans as “Operation Curly Fries.” That initiative actually changed a deal Michigan Arby’s had if a Red Wings player gets a hat trick in a game.

I followed him for a month, kept track of everything he wrote, got an interview with him, and managed to kill two birds with one stone: I made another set of interview questions, all about hockey for your reading pleasure. I wanted to include his other two cohorts, Rob Discher and Chris Hollis, but they’re off doing their own things, so I’ll snag them later on.

Without further ado, enjoy the interview!

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Hey, how’s it going?

— Oh you know… just chillin’. My wife’s looking at photos of animals that have been rescued in Japan, crying, and that’s just kind of what we call “Wednesday” around here.

Okay, so we’re getting down to the last few weeks and games of the Red Wings season. Back in October and November, everyone was saying how we were a force to be reckoned with. The past few months have been extremely iffy. Now things are starting to look up again. How do you feel about our team going into the playoffs?

— I’m uneasy at this very moment, but I’m sure that has something to do with the mini slide the team is on. I don’t like seeing the Red Wings lose ever, but it’s especially difficult to get through when it’s the Penguins or the Canucks – teams that you know will get in the way of a Stanley Cup. I haven’t liked how the Red Wings have looked lately (and it’s not that they’ve looked bad, it’s just that they’ve looked worse than the teams they’re playing).

I hope you didn’t jump the gun in the last question or you might be repeating yourself: How do you think the Red Wings will fare in the playoffs?

— Part of being an irrational fan is that I can claim, without cracking a smile, that I’m sure the Red Wings can win the Cup every year. It all comes down to the fact that they’re seven game series. I don’t want to play Canucks in the second round (or ever), but if we’re forced to… do you think the Red Wings will lose 4 of 7? Because I don’t.

In ten words or less, describe this past season for the Red Wings.

— There were some injuries, and occasional curly fries. Roller coaster!

Now do it for the entire NHL. Feel free to be creative.

— Holy shit have you heard about these headshots? The Aristocrats.

Which team in the Western Conference do you not want to meet for the first round?

— I desperately don’t want the Predators in the first round.

Which team in the Western Conference do you want to meet for the first round?

— Of the teams that are likely, I wouldn’t mind the Coyotes, Stars, or Flames. Many of the others would present difficulties.

I’m going to assume you made pre-season predictions about who would make the playoffs/who would make it to the SCF. Were they as horribly inaccurate as mine? (FYI, I had New Jersey winning their division and Ottawa finishing fifth in the East.)

— I’m usually pretty good about that kind of stuff, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted how poorly the New Jersey Devils played in the first half. I liked the Flyers and Penguins in the East, and they’re both very strong again, so that’s kind of cheating. In the West, I was convinced the Blackhawks would get demolished on their way to not making the playoffs, and they’re putting up a hell of a fight.

I’m just going to throw some names out there now and you can say whatever comes to your minds, okay?

Todd Bertuzzi. Gap-toothed

Chris Osgood. Useless

Dustin Byfuglien. All I think about anymore is this goofy laugh he let out during an All Star Game commercial.

Matt Cooke. Sharp elbows

Nicklas Lidstrom – do you see him coming back to play for another year? Do you think it depends on if the Red Wings win the Cup/if he wins the Norris/if we go out in the first round/if Babcock threatens to kill him with his death stare if he doesn’t come back?

— I think that if the Red Wings win, he hangs them up. And that’s the only way. He’s still so good, as proven by his Norris consideration again, that there’s no reason to stop playing at this point. I’m certain he doesn’t want to DROP OFF badly before retiring, but he’s not even close to that. Whatever happens, though, I bet next year is his last.

You guys spearheaded “Operation Curly Fries.” Did you really have any idea it was going to be that serious/ridiculous/make that much of an impact? I mean – even Puck Daddy had an article on it. That’s impressive.

— We figured it would be big. But we figured it’d be big in the Red Wings community, not the entire world. Full credit to Arby’s, Fox Sports, and their respective ad companies. They were incredible to work with and understood what we were up to – we were clear from the beginning it was all in good fun. They caught on right away and helped make it as engaging and fun as it ended up being.

Any other crazy fan revolts planned for the future? Maybe another tin foil flash mob for a playoff game? We all know how many “intent to blow the whistle,” “faux”-high sticks, and “goaltender interference” calls have screwed the Red Wings over.

— We actually do have some stuff in the hopper, but it might be a little while before we launch them. Between the season’s ups-and-downs and the recently completed H2H2, we need a bit of a breather before launching another OCF-like campaign. But you can’t keep TPL quiet for long.

“Herm To Hockeytown.” For people who don’t know, give us a brief synopsis of how it came about and how it’s taken off.

— H2H was born in The Chief (from Abel to Yzerman)’s noggin a few years ago after learning that one of the members of our community, Herm in Brazil, had never seen a real hockey game or even met another living, breathing hockey fan. Red Wings fans, in their generosity, decided that this wouldn’t stand and vowed to raise enough cash to bring a friendly Brazilian to the States for a Wings game and surround him with 150 of his closest “internet friends.”

The money required for such a thing was raised in less than 48 hours and it was decided that we could use the exposure to do some good, donating the surplus to Children’s Hospital of Michigan – a foundation with which the Red Wings are partners.

Considering the incredible success of H2H, it was decided that H2H2 was a no-brainer, albeit without bringing a fan to the United States. In the two years we’ve done it, we’ve raised just under $20,000 for the Foundation – and that’s not including travel expenses for Herm, game tickets, or renting out Hockeytown Café. There is no possible way to look at the events and say they’ve been anything less than an amazing success on every level.

This past incarnation saw nearly 200 people come from – literally – all over the world. Nothing about that is anything except remarkable.

Seriously. For “Herm to Hockeytown 2,” almost $8900 was raised for Children’s Hospital just through fan pledges. How stunned were you guys when you saw that final number?

—The Red Wings community continually proves to be the most generous and incredible fans the hockey community has. Our pledge drive started as a way to make random games in February a little more interesting while earning a buck or two for the Hospital. What it’s turned into is nothing less than staggering. This year, we had 93 different pledgers, over 500 propositions to keep track of, and just over $9,000 was raised when all was said and done.

For twelve games, we’ll take anything you want to give us… whether it’s $1 for every goal or $5.55 for every time Larry Murphy mentions hot dogs. You come up with it, promise to donate the cash, and I’ll keep track of it and watch every second of every broadcast to make sure the kids get every dime they can.

H2H3. Temporary plans as of right now, what are they?

— All we know for sure is that it’s very likely to happen. We all (and not just TPL) need a little bit of a break, because it’s a lot of work to pull off. I’m positive that we’ll get started relatively soon, though. Earlier than anyone thinks we do…

Now for some general NHL questions. The Toronto Maple Leafs. Think they’ll make it into the playoffs?

— Nope. And I find that hilarious.

Same question as above, but this time for New Jersey. (NOTE: These were both asked prior to the outcomes of the past few games that rendered both TOR and NJD out of the running.)

— No, I don’t. It was a valiant effort, but all they’ve done is guarantee they don’t pick high enough to make NOT making the playoffs worth it.

Headshots. Suspensions. Intent to injure. …Should we even get into this? I feel like this is similar to trying to figure out how the waiver process works back when we were trying to get Nabokov.

— I’m actually a giant hockey nerd and have read the CBA, so I was kind of clear on the waiver thing when it was happening. I’m not sure if that’s cool. I’m pretty sure it’s not.

The injuries in our game are increasingly troubling. I played the game for nearly 20 years, many of them at a fairly high level, and it scares the hell out of me. In fact, one of the reasons I stopped playing was how easily life can change. When I was playing for a purpose, it was one thing… but to think that a skate can catch my jugular at a men’s league game? I’m sorry but it’s just not worth it to me.

Truth be told, I felt 100% safer playing full-contact collegiate hockey than I ever did playing no-contact men’s league. Most of the guys that play in these leagues (at least in New York) never played growing up and are complete renegades and weekend warriors. I don’t need some Wall Street clown getting cute, and I saw too many sticks helicoptering into the stands to be comfortable enough to volunteer myself for such a thing.

With the NHL, I don’t have an answer for you. I think it has something to do with the respect players have for one another and that the speed of the game has finally surpassed players’ abilities to react properly. But that’s a long story and one I may explore at a later date.

With both Malkin and Crosby out, are you surprised at how the Penguins have fared?

— Yes and no. I’m not surprised because that’s a DAMN good hockey team, top to bottom, even without those two. I am surprised, however, they’ve fared AS WELL as they have without those two. I wouldn’t surprised in the least to see them make another run.

What teams in the East do you see making a long run in the playoffs? And also why?

— The Flyers are good, yo. The Capitals will never scare me, and the Bruins are a strange team that I just don’t see going all the way. If it’s not the Flyers again, it’ll be the Penguins… again.

“Goaltender Interference” that disregards a legitimate goal. How many times a year do you think this happens to the Red Wings? How long do you think it’ll be until they make this a reviewable call?

— It happens far more than it should. I think we’re a few seasons away from coach’s challenges, etc, and that’s fine with me. I know people consider it detrimental and that it might slow down the game, but I don’t care. I’d rather get it right than get it quickly.

What is your dream matchup for the Stanley Cup Finals this season? I had a guy tell me Wings/Lightning so Stevie Y would be confused as to whom to root for. Do you have any crazy aspirations like that?

— I sincerely don’t care as long as the Red Wings have a good showing. I will say this: I prefer my victories when they come against good teams. Beating a team like the PENGUINS for the Stanley Cup is exactly what it should take. Playing the 7 seed Flyers in the Finals after being spared the Red Wings? That’s how punk ass Blackhawks win.

What are your legitimate predictions for this year’s Stanley Cup Finals? And if you want to have an optimistic one and a realistic one, that’s fine.

— Optimistic: Red Wings over Flyers. Realistic: Canucks over Flyers.

Thanks for doing this. Any last comments, anything you want to throw out there?

— Get that fucking Jonathan Ericsson off my team.

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If you want to read more of Petrella’s writing or see his Red Wings coverage, keep an eye out over at The Production Line.

Christina Roberts
NHLHS Detroit Red Wings Correspondent
Twitter: @franzenmuth
Email: christina.roberts@nhlhotstove.com