A New System, Volume 2February 19, 2011
Note: if the Sabres aren’t going to put in the effort on the ice, I’m not going to put in the effort to discuss their lack of effort. See how that works? Blogging’s fun, right?
Anyway, the news that the Sabres hired Ted Black to be Larry Quinn, 2.0, got me wondering about potential changes that could be coming for the Sabres. I’m not going to speculate on the hockey related changes, since right now I’d like to send most of the team on an all expenses paid trip to a gulag in Siberia; so I’m going to talk today about the changes I’d like to see off the ice.
Black has a background in television, so let’s start there in discussing how things could be improved. First, drop the asinine arrangement that exists with MSG for road games against the Devils, Islanders and Rangers. If K-Syl and a camera crew can schlep over hill and over dale to cover the rest of the team’s away games, then there is no reason why they can’t cover games in New York and New Jersey. So what if the home team already has MSG cameras there? The Sabres should not be the redheaded stepchild of the MSG broadcast empire. In addition, K-Syl needs to have someone on the road with him to interact with. He’s perfectly cromulent as a solo host, but really shines when he has someone to banter with and respond to. And for the love of everything holy, give the man a box to stand on when interviewing certain players!
Continuing on with TV improvements, whatever happened to those intermission features talking about the players, their charity work, their odd or interesting hobbies? We used to see at least 3-4 minutes of feature during each intermission. Now, it’s 3-4 minutes of The Whip with a brief recap of game action interrupted by commercials. We know the players have personality and charisma in spades and are active in the community. Why is the team not taking advantage of these things? Was it because of poor reception to the Sabres lifestyle show hosted by Maria Genero a couple years ago? Selling the players as something other than soulless automatons spouting the latest party line helps sell interest in the games. Selling interest in the games allows for more viewers on TV and potentially more butts in the arena seats.
Golisano’s attempts to keep the team within a specific budget level affected the TV side of things. Fortunately, the changes that need to be made are minor and things are easily fixable.
Moving on, the team needs to expand its communcation efforts, specifically on the social media side of things. I’m not saying the team needs to go all New Jersey Devils on us, but there are some subtle improvements that can be made. Let’s start with Twitter. The team has a loyal fanbase on Twitter that shares news, discusses the game and even offers witty commentary. We know that the Sabres organization and Sabretooth have their own Twitter accounts. One of the PR guys has a Twitter account. Pegula’s daughters have Twitter accounts. For the love of Lindy Ruff, let the players have personal Twitter accounts! Look at Mr. BizNasty out in Phoenix. Sure, he put his foot in it on occasion, but he is overseen by a PR department member and yet still manages to let his true persona shine through. I think he and the other NHL players out on Twitter have shown that you can interact with fans and show them a slice of life in the NHL without the world coming to an end. The team can establish a Twitter code of conduct covering things like trades, locker room discord, picking up puckbunnies, discussing late night antics, etc. These are grown ass men, for pete’s sake. I think the Sabres would be surprised at how much response the player’s would receive. (Of course, that does require that the fans cooperate and not act like pompous, know-it-all arseholes towards those players that do engage on Twitter.)
Along a similar line, the team needs to work on expanding communication efforts to prompty announce transactions. Don’t rely on print journalists, radio hosts, 6 bloggers and East Side Eddy to do it for you. Lift the cone of silence once and a while. You’d be surprised at how much the fans and the media will appreciate it.
I’ve saved what might be the simplest improvement for last. We know that a serviceman/woman attends a home game for free through Butler’s Tickets for Troops program. The recipient is announced and acknowledged by the crowd at the rink. How about making it a regular announcement so that the folks at home know about it as well?
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