COLUMN: From hockey shootout to NFL Draft: What a semester

By Wes Anderson

Favorite story

Rubbing elbows with far more competent journalists at the House of Blues for Rashard Mendenhall’s draft party. The draft, as it’s shown on TV, is so packaged and mathematical. It may seem distant to the average fan, but when you see a guy who’s just been drafted celebrating with his family and friends, it really adds a tangible human element to it.

Best game I covered

The hockey club’s 11-round sudden-death shootout against Ohio back in January. When the Illini finally gutted out the win, the crowd noise at the diminutive Ice Arena was at levels of sheer insanity, perhaps even comparable to old Chicago Stadium. Anybody who was there would definitely agree with me.

Most challenging story

After Ron Guenther was given an extension, I attempted to get him on the phone for a profile story. Easy, right? Not so much. Still waiting for that interview, Ron.

Play of the year

Back to that shootout – the Illini were in an early 0-2 hole with two rounds remaining. In order to force sudden death, Nick Fabbrini and Daniel Cohen both had to score, while Mike Burda had to make two saves. It all went according to plan, and it’s a good thing it did – 37-1-0 just doesn’t have the same ring to it as 38-0-0.

Best quote

A group of journalists was interviewing Juice Williams after a scrimmage, and suddenly Brit Miller broke in, holding up a pen like a microphone:

“Hey, Juice, how is it that you can hold up that huge thing on top of your neck?”

Best interview

The aforementioned Miller is always an interesting interview, but I’d have to go with Illini goaltender Mike Burda. Then again, interviews are pretty easy to do when the team you’re covering wins every single game.

Most telling off-the-field moment

In talking to the players and coaches on the football team, there’s really a quiet determination among all of them. Everyone wants last year’s incredible season to be a starting point, not a fluke. It’s uncharted territory for this football program.

Story line for ’08-’09

BCS snubs 11-1 Illini; Minnesota to play for national championship

(Just kidding.)