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From the Press Box: Prepping for the postseason

Welcome to "From the Press Box", where Raw Charge's reluctant-yet-enthusiastic correspondent in the Amalie Arena press box, Clark Brooks, takes you behind the scenes of the exciting world of watching hockey from the rafters for the purpose of writing articles about it.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning
Luke Witkowski’s beard is playoff-ready already.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The best thing about having a team-issued credential to cover the Lightning is that I'm a Lightning fan, and I like to believe that being a credentialed member of the media allows me to be an ambassador on behalf of fellow fans who will never get to experience the game of hockey that way. Through this weekly column, I'll be sharing peeks behind the magical media curtain with you. Today, we're going to talk about getting ready for a possible playoff run.

We’re still knee-deep in “will they or won’t they” in terms of the Tampa Bay Lightning getting into this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. But really, they’re already competing against seven other teams (as of this writing) simultaneously in a best-of-however-many-games-everybody-has-left series to see who will advance.

That being the case, those of us whose work schedule revolves around what the Tampa Bay Lightning determines it will be should probably start making appropriate plans... about two weeks ago.

“Appropriate” in this case means not making any plans. For as long as a deep playoff run lasts, the day-to-day existence is, well, day-to-day. It’s not a long time until you look back on it after it’s over. Until then, there are games that mean everything and every day is exciting and you’re in the heat of the moment until suddenly you just aren’t anymore.

Once that happens, all that’s left is covering the exit interviews and getting ready for the draft. This year, that moment could happen on April 10th or several months afterward. Might as well get (be) ready right now...

LOSE THE RAZOR - Behaving like a fan in the press box, especially cheering, is always frowned upon. But when it comes to beards, anything goes in terms of scraggled, mangy fur bursting out of the lower half of your face. Assist to hipsters for making seemingly any and all crazy facial hair stylishly acceptable! This one is simple; just abandon all grooming and hygiene. I have been informed by someone with a vested interest that I’m actually not allowed to make it that simple, but she’s not the boss of me (yes she is).

CLEAR THE CALENDAR - It just makes sense to not schedule non-Lightning activities this time of year. It’s a lot easier to do that instead of scrambling around and trying to cancel or postpone things. That means don’t get concert tickets, don’t schedule vacations and friends and family members aren’t allowed to get married or die until the season ends.

BE PREPARED TO RELOCATE - The press box gets crowded during the postseason. Local TV stations send more people to ramp up their coverage and there’s more media people visiting from the opponent’s city. That means some of us might get bumped to what is called “the auxiliary press box”. What that is is a some tables, chairs, TV monitors and internet connections in section of section 316. Personally, I don’t have a problem with being elbow to elbow with the fans. It’s actually kind of fun and I like it. Fans aren’t nearly as grumpy and inclined to complain as writers. But it is different and takes some adjustment after seven months of being pampered and catered to upstairs. PLUSES: Deeper immersion into game atmosphere, proximity to high-fives, access to more restrooms, access to more and better elevators. MINUSES: Tight confines, limited access to updated stat sheets, no free snacks.

SHOP SMART - I guess eating poorly is always a choice that someone tries to justify with excuses, but certain lifestyles have better excuses than others. A hectic schedule full of long days and late nights covering playoff hockey doesn’t lend itself to good eating habits. Even if you avoid the siren song of drive-thru fast food (and why is it that the later it gets at night, the worse your limited dining options become?), it’s hard to keep good food on hand at home. You probably want to avoid buying milk by the gallon or any big quantities of things that spoil for that matter. What I’ve learned over the last few years is to get handfuls of grab-and-go things like yogurt and fresh fruit. Also granola bars and stuff like that with longer shelf lives. Really, anything that keeps you from inhaling carbon monoxide while waiting for somebody to shove a bag full of hot, salted lard at you through a bulletproof window in the middle of the night is good.

TIGHTEN UP YOUR MULTIMEDIA GAME - The deeper the team you cover goes into the playoffs, the more interesting and attractive you and your insights suddenly become to radio hosts, bloggers and podcasters in other cities. When they call you up to be a guest, you want to respond enthusiastically to their invitations. For one thing, it gives your site good exposure. For another thing, it’s fun to be treated like a big shot. But those things are only true if you actually do a good job. You can’t “um” and “uh” (especially on live radio) or not know what you’re talking about. You have to be engaging and knowledgeable and those things take work. That’s why I brush up on pertinent stats and read as much coverage as I can while spilling yogurt into my beard at two in the morning.