By Gavin Axelrod
Heading into the fall of 2011, Cory Wright was set to graduate the next spring from Ryerson’s School of Journalism. However, Wright would choose to put graduation on hold when the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders offered him an opportunity, which would begin in September, that he couldn’t pass up.
Instead of sitting in the Rogers Communication Centre that school year, Wright would spend it covering the Islanders. Wright’s job as an unpaid intern was partially made possible by the fact that he could live with his 93-year-old grandmother.
“I went from being 21, living with friends at Ryerson and being in that school mentality to living in a de facto retirement community,” said Wright. “Apart from the fact that you’re moving across borders, it’s also the fact that ‘Oh yeah, you’re gonna be living in a seniors community for the year.’”
The opportunity became a dual program of sorts as he got the chance to break into the NHL media landscape and strengthen family ties.
Wright grew up in Vancouver and only saw his grandparents from New York once a year. He didn’t have a strong relationship with his grandmother before his internship.
“We got to know each other a lot better and I got to know [the] history of that side of the family, which I didn’t really know,” said Wright.
He also developed an older, much more mature group of friends.
“It’s definitely different when you’re going from hanging out with your friends on Friday and going to a bar to ‘we’re gonna have dinner with the girls’ and they’re all 87 and up,” joked Wright.
“Someone is paying me to watch hockey and as long as I still get to do that, I think I’m pretty happy with the way things are going”
At the onset of his journalistic career, Wright envisioned himself as a reporter and dreamt of covering his hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks. It wasn’t until a failed bid to become The Eyeopener‘s sports editor, which snowballed into an eight-month stint with the Ryerson Rams athletic department, that he realized the world of journalism had much more to offer.
“I never knew that working for a team was a potential career path,” said Wright. “I thought you just had to be a reporter and work for a newspaper or news organization.”
After building a portfolio covering Ryerson’s men’s and women’s hockey teams during the 2010-11 season, Wright sent a cold email to the Islanders with his work. The response he received shortly after forced him to choose between following a lifelong dream or pressing the pause button on his studies.
Wright was invited to interview for a media position with the team, but they only offered a one-year internship. He went to the initial interview and was invited back for a second one, for which he flew from Vancouver to New York. He was offered the internship soon after.
As an intern, Wright was responsible for gathering video clips, aggregating Islander’s news every morning and giving out credentials to members of the media before practices and games. Throughout the year he began to pitch his own stories, which opened up more opportunities to be in the action.
“If you can pitch your own ideas you’ll get to write the stories you want—you shouldn’t necessarily wait for someone to come and assign you stories,” said Wright. He was told early on in the internship if he wanted to write, he had to pitch his own stories.
The Islanders finished the 2011-12 NHL season second-last in the Eastern Conference. But while the team wasn’t finding much success on the ice, Wright was finding success off it. His role as an intern expanded to writing game previews, recaps and managing the Islanders’ live in-game chat.
There’s a cliche in sports called the “welcome to the league moment” and, as an intern, Wright had many.
He recalled times where he had to run stat sheets from the press box to the general manager’s suite. “It’s one of those moments where you’re just like ‘this is not what I expected when I [started] school a couple of years ago,'” said Wright.
Becoming an NHL writer was always his dream, but Wright couldn’t have imagined how fast he’d be up close and personal to players and executives he grew up watching on TV.
Soon enough, the season ended, and his internship along with it. Despite being entrusted with a lot of responsibility, the Islanders’ staff made it clear they wanted Wright to finish his degree, which is something he said he’s always appreciated.
“It was important to the people there that [I got my] degree. I don’t think they wanted to say ‘We’re the reason you didn’t graduate from university,’” said Wright.
“I never knew that working for a team was a potential career path…I thought you just had to be a reporter and work for a newspaper or news organization”
Having had a taste of the NHL world, Wright was hungry for more and emailed every NHL team in hopes of finding employment before graduating from Ryerson in 2013.
Before another team came calling though, Wright was notified of an opening with the Islanders who were eager to bring him back to Long Island. Wright’s been working for the team ever since, currently working as the Islanders’ senior manager of web content.
Prior to the pandemic, he would make about an hour commute from Brooklyn to Uniondale, N.Y. for Islanders home games at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The team’s practice facility is located across the street, which eliminates another commute.
On a practice day, Wright watches from the stands and takes care of work from the media area. If the team doesn’t have any community events after practice, he’ll head back to the office, type up a practice update and upload interviews and highlights to the website.
“Then [during the game] it’s live coverage, whether it’s updating the highlights on the front of the website, helping out with social media [or] cutting some gifs,” said Wright.
Despite going into journalism with the plan of working in print, Wright has come to appreciate some of the advantages of online content production.
“What’s nice about writing for a website is that you don’t have hard deadlines after the game, but you want to [leave the arena] as soon as you can so that’s usually when it picks up the most,” said Wright. “From 9:30 [p.m.] to 11 [p.m.], it’s just writing, editing and posting it to the site.”
Wright travels with the team for road games too. Over the years, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Rogers Arena in Vancouver and Madison Square Garden in New York have become some of his favourite places to work.
“Being on a team charter is always a big thrill,” said Wright while recalling nights spent travelling with the team.
Wright worked remotely while the Islanders took part in the NHL bubble in Toronto this past spring. He said he misses the face-to-face interactions, being in the locker room with his colleagues and, like all sports fans, the atmosphere of actually being at the games.
However, while Wright’s been forced to adapt amidst a changing landscape, he remains grateful for everything he’s achieved. The sports media landscape is often a revolving door and the six years he’s spent with the Islanders still feels like a dream.
“Someone is paying me to watch hockey and as long as I still get to do that, I think I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.”