Archive for the ‘Non-Game Related Hockey’ Category

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Fact.

October 19, 2010

Fact: The Sabres can be good at hockey.

Fact: The Sabres can also be very bad at hockey.

Fact: The Sabres are not very good at hockey RIGHT NOW.

Fact: Derek Roy has apparently taken off his asshat and decided to become a real, grownup hockey player.

Fact: Derek Roy will probably do something to make us all hate him again very shortly.

Fact: Tim Kennedy was not the be-all, end all of the Sabres.

Fact: The Sabres organization has been known to not exactly make the most PR-friendly decisions when it comes to player management. (see: Numminen, Teppo; LaFontaine, Pat.)

Fact: Kennedy (and his agent) played the game at the bargaining table. They should not have been surprised when the Sabres played the game right back. (Especially since THEY WERE TOLD THAT MANAGEMENT MIGHT TAKE ACTION IF THEY DIDN’T LIKE THE DEAL!)

Sorry for shouting.

Fact: It was apparently Craig Rivet’s turn to bring the orange slices at practice yesterday.

Fact: Each person has their own personal threshhold at which they wish to push the panic button. There is no right or wrong time to do so, and just because people prematurely panic does not mean we get to make fun of them.

Fact: Telling people “it’s alright, do not panic” just pisses them off more.

Fact: It is perfectly acceptable to set off your car’s panic button in an overly crowded parking lot so that you can find your vehicle.

Fact: Setting your panic button off in your driveway will piss off your neighbors.

Fact: There are three Sabres games in the next four days. They will win at least two.

Fact: Pominville feeling better – and going on the road trip to Atlanta – is a good thing. Seeing him alive (and walking) might be the proverbial kick in the pants the boys need.

Fact: The pairing of Gerbe & Goose on a line is really comical. It looks like Goose’s much younger brother has been set loose on the ice with him.

Fact: Bears eat beets. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

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Bloggers. Teams. Media. Can’t We All Just Get Along?

August 26, 2010

So Greg W. of Puck Daddy fame posted today regarding the NHL wanting to ban bloggers & online based journalists from visitor’s locker rooms. It’s quite a provocative issue, as the growth of online blog conglomerates like SBNation & Bleacher Report has muddied the line between “professional writer” and “blogger.” It’s especially gotten stickier as traditional MSM outlets are now starting to rely on sites like Bleacher Report for their sports content. The thing is, there’s no real hard and fast playbook for how teams need to deal with the rapid growth of social media entities. Twitter & blogs have definitely changed how sports have been covered. Discussion happens instantaneously and teams have to monitor many different entities. It can be taxing role for whomever is assigned that duty by a team.

As has been pointed out by multiple entities, the NHL as a league has embraced social media. They run active Twitter & Facebook entities. They work to organize tweet ups where fans can meet. They “get it.” It’s when the ball is passed to individual teams that things start going haywire. Each team has its own social media effort and way of looking at things. Take the Sabres, for example. Their Twitter feed is especially active and helpful during the season, and if your only complaint is the all-caps postings and the circular links to Facebook and then to Sabres.com, then they have to be doing something right.  Other teams are different and may very well be dragged into the social media area kicking and screaming.

On Twitter earlier this afternoon, Mike Harrington pointed out that teams might be afraid that bloggers will become a substitute for team websites. That’s a valid point and one I hadn’t considered. But how many fans out there come to my blog – or any of the other blogs out there – to find breaking news? Most people still hit up team websites and MSM vehicles first. In my opinion, the MSM is a news destination, the blogosphere is the commentary/opinion/snark source. There’s nothing wrong with either, it’s just that news is news. Player A said this. Player B said that. There’s no room for an opinion in a news article. A blogger can take the words of Players A & B and add their own opinions & comments. Again, neither is wrong. It’s just two different ways of looking at the game and two different ways of consuming information.

If a team wanted to take away the perception that they won’t be the first source for team news (and really, it’s a source for PR), they can just add a newsfeed to their homepage. I’m not just talking about a link to The Buffalo News (which I’m sure their management would appreciate), but reports on the more fringe papers, like those of the players hometowns, the away teams for that week, etc. Adding a newsfeed would turn a team website into a content aggregator very quickly. If my fellow bloggers and I can operate “The Google” and find a link to a story in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle about the summer that Tyler Myers spent herding cattle*, then why can the Sabres website not do the same thing?

*To my knowledge, Tyler Myers has never been in Cheyenne, Wyoming, nor has he ever herded cattle. But you get my point.

As media consumption habits change, the traditional MSM is seeing its audience shift to other sources, whether it’s the traditional MSMs web presence or an independent internet source. We can’t deny that broadcast sports reports and newspaper column inches are shrinking as more and more people get their news from the internet. While the internet can sometimes be a scary place for sports teams, they should also embrace it, using it as a tool to mine suggestions on improvements that can be made (say to the off ice experience, the website, et al). While fans are your biggest critics at times, they can also be your biggest allies. And fans with blogs are the most passionate ones, the ones that take the time to write about their favorite team and sport. Aren’t these the fans you want to court? Or is it the idea that these fans don’t go to the games since they’re firmly indented on mama’s basement sofa so the team doesn’t have to worry about them?

Sorry, old stereotypes die hard.

Now I’m one of those bloggers that wouldn’t know what to do with locker room access. I’d get lost in the fuss in the locker room. If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m reasonably quiet & shy. I don’t burst in and demand attention. I’d probably trip over my tongue (or my own two feet) while trying to ask a question. However, that doesn’t mean that there are Sabres bloggers out there that wouldn’t want the locker room access. I’d love to see what it’s like in the press box, but I realize that my little blog probably won’t get me past the velvet rope up there, and I’m ok with that.

A lot needs to be done on both sides in order to come to a happy medium. Bloggers should have to “earn” their credential from a team, whether its by supplying writing samples or interacting with the media relations staff enough so that they can feel confident that you won’t be a blabbering idiot. Or maybe start with a practice and then work your way up to game coverage. Teams need to realize that bloggers are not the enemy. We’re all reasonable people, except for, you know, when we go on our bi-monthly weekly “fire them all” rants.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this discussion leads. The NHL has some of the most passionate fans, bloggers and media members out there. Getting everyone on the same page in the same book is probably going to be a long, frustrating road, but in the end, it will be worth it.

Moving on, the NFL is having a social media trouble of its own. Mediapost reported today that Ochocinco was fined 25k for tweeting from the sidelines during a preseason game.  That’s almost a “no shit sherlock” thing for me. I mean, these guys are paid to play sports and have their heads in the game. There’s a time and place for interacting with your adoring (or heckling) public, and in the middle of a game is not it. If the NFL wants in game tweeting about what’s going on on the sidelines, send an intern down with a smartphone or netbook and let them have at it. Tell me that Brian Moorman is chatting with Poz about the philosophies of Kant as they wait for kickoff. That’s fine. But players themselves should not have the freedom to tweet from the sidelines. I know football is a little different than other sports where there is a lot of idle time, but as professional athletes, their heads should be in the game at all times. And really, I’ve heard that a professional athlete or two has left the Twitterverse because he was upset that the fans were leveling criticism at him. How would he react to critical statements if he received them in game as opposed to afterward when he’s had a chance to cool off? It would not end well for anyone.

And finally, Drew Stafford wants to be a duck? You only have to watch until the 1:50 mark to get the gist, and there is some language in the video as well. And is it me, or does Mr. Staffy look slightly ticked off in this video?

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The Night Before

June 30, 2010

– So tomorrow is either the happiest day in all the land or the most frustrating day in all the land (depending on your point of view, whether you have any free agents to deal with or have a comically frustrating general manager). That’s right, it’s UFA Day! WHOOO! (Or not). So there are some things we know: someone will leave the Sabres, someone will join the Sabres, and Darcy Regier will be damned no matter what he does. The day is predictable in its unpredictability. We’re just all destined to sit back and enjoy the ride. We will welcome the new guy(s) to the team with open arms, and we will bid those that leave a fond farewell, wishing them well in their new endeavors. We will also sit back and exclaim “WTF is Team X doing” when the inevitable 15 year, bazillion dollar deal is signed. We will also breathe a deep sigh of relief over the fact that we will not have to freak out over a Ryan Miller UFA deal this year, since the powers that be got that out of the way last year.

And that’s my hard hitting analysis of UFA Day.

– I tweeted the link to this article yesterday, but Ad Age discussed how blog conglomerate sites like Bleacher Report and Huffington Post generate so much content from an unpaid staff of writers, and how such content has even made its way into the MSM (mainstream media) through assorted partnerships. From the MSM side, it’s good that they can potentially get access to free content for probably much less than it would cost to pay a writer or two, and from the readers side, the “voice of the people” is heard. Whatever. However, an MSM site relies on its credibility to draw traffic. People visit an MSM site to read professional writing, done by those with access, knowledge, and sometimes, even a little thing called fact checking (Exhibit A being BR’s recent kerfluffle over a post that said Gonchar was traded to San Jose). If there’s too much rumor mongering, incorrect reporting or bloviating, then both the content provider, MSM vehicle and audience all suffer.

– I wonder how I’m going to make it through the next couple episodes of Deadliest Catch. We all know how Captain Phil’s story ends, but my god, getting to the end is going to be hard as hell. I do have to give Discovery a ton of credit for how tastefully they have handled this entire story. They could have sensationalized the hell out of it, but instead are treating Captain Phil and his sons with dignity & respect.

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First One That Calls Me a Puckbunny, Pow. Right In the Kisser.

June 2, 2010

So the Daily Beast posted a column discussing why the NHL has seen such a dramatic increase in the number of female fans. They provide some pretty compelling stats backing up their claim. Female viewership for this year’s playoffs is up 8%, the highest level that it’s been since 1997.  This normally would be a good thing, right? Yes, but the argument used to support this increase is completely out there.

So what exactly is the author’s justification for this increase? The game is exciting and easy to follow? Nope. Female fans probably grew up in the game or watching the game with their fathers? Not even close.   The  increase in women’s hockey programs has grown interest in the sport? Sorry, please try again.

Instead, the author claims that it’s because the hockey players are hot and are now suddenly tabloid darlings due to the relationships that Comrie and Fisher have with Hilary Duff and Carrie Underwood and the tabloid/fashion antics of Sean Avery.

Really? You’re kidding me, right? I know that US Weekly and the other tabs are the first place I go to check out hockey news.

Do I deny that hockey players are hot? No. In fact, they’re quite nice to look at both on and off the ice. But that’s not why I watch the game. I watch the game because it’s easy to follow. It’s just pass, shoot, score. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. Add in some fantastic goalie play and you’ve got a great back and forth sport that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Throw in historic rivalries, tradition and a set of teams that seem to understand how to connect with their fans, and it’s a win/win situation. Hockey fandom shouldn’t have a gender, but it sadly does. Exhibit A is the popularity of the “pink” line of  ladies apparel and the NHL’s introduction of some uh…interesting products for the ladies (Does anyone really need a Sabres print thong?).

I guess what also has my irish in an uproar is that the NHL re-tweeted this story. Is any publicity good publicity? To a certain extent, yes. But at the same time, the league needs to be careful about alienating a significant chunk of its fanbase. Labeling female hockey fans with the “they just watch the game because they think the players are hot and want a sparkly diamond ring from one of them” is a dangerous path to take.

Thoughts?

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Playoff Predictions and Thoughts – Round 1

April 13, 2010

If you’re looking for factual, statistical analysis, you’ve come to the wrong place. This post is going to be based on nothing but what my murky crystal ball and tralalalafeelingbits tea leaves say.

Let’s start with the East (with my east coast bias and all)

#1 Washington vs. #8 Montreal

I’d love to see Montreal upset the Caps. Seeing Ovie go home with his tail between his legs would make me so happy. I cannot stand the way the media fawns over him like he’s the second coming. And I don’t like his style of play. Sure, he’s aggressive, but at times he’s often reckless ( just ask Brian Campbell). Sure, Montreal has noted Crunchy breaker Scott Gomez, but Gomez’s transgressions do not match up to Ovechkin’s. If we look at fanbases, sure Montreal fans can be annoying (that damn “Ole” song) and have a tendency to act like they’ve never been there before (rioting after the first round a couple years ago), but it sure beats whining and calling other fanbases classless because they haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid and see your star player as the league’s lord and savior.

On the positive side of things, Montreal kicks Washington‘s ass in the mascot department. Youppi just rocks. The Habs saved Youppi from being sent to a farm in rurual Quebec, for pete’s sake! It’s a mascot rebirth and a well deserved second life for an awesome character. If you need a giggle, go to the Habs site and make Youppi dance and cheer. Hilarious.

All of that said, unless Montreal pulls off a miracle (or Washington gets too cocky), I think the Caps will win in 6.

#2 New Jersey vs. #7 Philadelphia

Judging from what I know about the Devils from reading Interchangeable Parts, I should be running far far away from picking the Devils in this series. But hello, they’re playing the Flyers. The Flyers were the ones whose management was forced to sign Chris Pronger so that a grownup would be in the room. Their captain held a media blackout because he didn’t like what the media was saying about him. And for some reason this season, they appear to be cursed by the ghost of Pelle Lindburgh, as Flyers goalies were dropping like flies in the latter portion of the season. (Admit it, you all thought the Flyers would have to put an orange construction pylon in the crease at some point.) And while Brodeur has his moments, Brodeur trumps Boucher.And if the Devils offense pulls their collective heads out of their collective arses, they could be dangerous.

In the battle of the mascots, New Jersey wins by default, since Philly doesn’t have a formal mascot. And NJ Devil still trumps Philly’s unofficial mascot of asshole fans.

Prediction: Devils in 7, but Pronger makes a stupid, useless and injurious gesture at some point.

#3 Buffalo vs. #6 Boston

This matchup seems to be the one that the professionals think has the biggest chance of garnering an upset. Goaltending in this series is a push, as Miller/Lalime cancel out Rask/Thomas, unless Thomas becomes sieve-like, then the advantage swings towards the Sabres. The Bruins were last in the league in scoring, but were deadly when it came to penalty killing (you all heard about the three shorties on one power play on Saturday). The Sabres defense is killer, when it’s not having it’s moments (Yes, Rivet and Sekera/Butler, I’m looking at you three). The Sabres have some slight injury problems, as Stafford, Hecht and Connolly all are members of the walking wounded. But the kids called up from Portland have done so much more than be a band aid over the bullet hole of their absence.

In the battle of the mascots, it’s a close battle between Sabretooth and Blades. While Blades has a kickass series of commercials, Sabretooth is on Twitter. How he manages to tweet with those large furry paws, I still do not know. I have trouble navigating Twitter on my iPod touch and I have normal sized fingers. While Sabretooth has his own house, Blades has his own biography on the Bruins website. But you know what pushed Sabretooth over the edge here? The fact that Sabretooth rumbled with the Geico gecko. I presume the tiger won. Heh.

Prediction: Sabres in 6. (Because when a sabretooth battles a bear, the ‘tooth wins every time.)

#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Ottawa

Is there any doubt that I’d love to see Pittsburgh win this one? Crosby and Malkin trump Alfredsson and Spezza. And Ottawa has Chris Neil, who never met a dirty hit, play or turtle that he didn’t like. Pittsburgh also gets hockey and doesn’t hokey it up too much, ahem Ottawa.

In the battle of mascots, Spartacat trumps Iceburgh…even though the cat is in good need of a mane trim.

Prediction; Pens in 5.

And now onto the Western Conference…

#1 San Jose vs. #8 Colorado

A notorious playoff choker versus an eighth seed? Push.

That said, I think San Jose is going to overwhelm the Avs. Something tells me this is the year they throw off the mantle of playoff choker.

In mascot land, Bernie the St. Bernard is much warmer and fuzzier than SJ Sharkie. If you were a kid, would you rather have a cute & cuddly St. Bernard give you a hug or a Jaws wannabe?

Prediction: Sharks in 6.

#2 Chicago vs. #7 Nashville

I’d love to see the Predators go far in the playoffs in order to see JP Dumont’s playoff beard develop into it’s full lumberjack beard. In my opinion, I feel like this series might be the one with the biggest upset potential if Nashville can find a way to manage Chicago’s offensive firepower. However, I have a soft spot for Chicago thanks to some lovely ladies on Twitter, and the Hawks addicting goal song got me to go out and buy a Fratellis CD. Also, Tommy Hawk is a much more “original” mascot than Nashville’s Sabretooth wannabe, Gnash.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

#3 Vancouver vs. #6 Los Angeles

I have a soft spot for the Canucks. It must be from watching them on HNiC and having the Sedins and Luongo on my fantasy team, not to mention that the Canucks and the Sabres are 1970 league entry twins. Henrik Sedin and his fellow Swedish Canucks have a great scoring touch and if Luongo can stop making like a cheap hooker and keep his legs closed, the Canucks can go far. And the Canucks also have Ryan Kesler, the player whom I most wish Miller would have smuggled home from Vancouver in his suitcase. His gritty determined style is exactly what is needed in the playoffs.

On the mascot side of things, Fin the Whale can’t hold a candle to Bailey the Lion. To be perfectly honest, Fin is kind of terrifying.

Prediction: Canucks in 6.

#4 Phoenix vs. #5 Detroit

Phoenix has got to be the people’s favorite going into these playoffs. The franchise has been through a ton this year with the ownership issues and the constant rumors of being moved here, there and everywhere. If Phoenix manages to knock off Detroit, someone will have to be standing behind Bettman with the paddles at the ready, considering a team that isn’t in a traditional hockey market knocked off the self-proclaimed “Hockeytown.” And really, it’s about time someone knocked off Detroit. I’m tired of them making it to the Cup Finals. As Herb Brooks would say, “screw ’em.”

Prediction: Coyotes in 7.

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I wish WGRZ had put the Sabres superstition video from today’s 6pm newscast on the web. The video contained Rip Simonick explaining how previous players had their own little rituals (personal ashtrays, riding to the rink with your right winger on the passenger side of the car, etc) and the current Sabres denying that they have “superstitions,” just “habits.” Hearing about the former Sabres superstitions was neat, and I would have loved to have heard more from Simonick. However, did Channel 2 expect to have the Sabres fully explain their superstitions/habits/rituals? The Sabres know enough to not reveal information that would make them appear completely effing insane to the average person watching the 6pm news (you know, the ones that might not know that sometimes hockey players can be completely crazy about things like that).

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We’re #3!

April 5, 2010

Mediapost provided a nice summary of the Brand Keys Sports Loyalty Index. The NHL ranked #3 in terms of fan loyalty (with the NFL and MLB tied for 1st and the NBA running 2nd). The study measures fan loyalty based upon four criteria:

  1. entertainment/excitement level of the team
  2. how they play as a team
  3. level of bonding fans have with players (the puckbunny index?)
  4. team history and tradition

So why does the NHL rank so low on the list? I think we all can agree that the games are exciting and most teams are relatively exciting (except those playing the dreaded trap). Hockey is a total team sport that requires the cooperation of all 6 guys on the ice at the same time. While there are individual stars, no one star is responsible for the fortunes of a team (Do you hear me on that one Sabres? Step up and stop relying on Miller to carry your asses.) The NHL players and fans for all intents and purposes have a good relationship…that occasionally is not dependent upon looks, talent or the amount of alcohol consumed. And with few exceptions, NHL teams have a solid history and sense of tradition.

The president of Brand Keys offers the following hypothesis for the low popularity of the NHL:

“…it isn’t TV-friendly, and because of players’ gear, is not amenable to player-fan loyalty. “It’s very hard to set up a situation where you can bond with players. They all look the same.”

I’m sorry, what? All NHL players look the same? Is he implying that hockey is a predominately white sport – which it is, I won’t deny that – and that’s why it doesn’t appeal? Or is he saying that from the cheap seats – both those at the arena and at home – all five skaters look the same and only the goalies really stand out? I beg to differ on both arguments, as really, the first one is just a bunch of crap. And the second one is easily disproven, considering it can become fairly easy to start picking out particular hockey players once you start paying attention to the game. Using the Sabres as an example, you can start differentiating the Myers/Ennis/Gerbe/Roys of the world because of their height. Then you start weeding out the Mair/Gaustad/Ellis types: the muckers and grinders who are all heart and effort, all the time. And you keep going from there.

I’d also call bupkus on not there not being any fan/player loyalty in the NHL. How many player specific jerseys do you see at any given game? And more importantly, how many “special” player specific jerseys do you see? I’m referring here to the Michigan State Miller jerseys or the Minnesota Vanek sweaters that you see sprinkled around the arena. Also, let us not forget the fan uproar when Briere and Drury left town. Those gentlemen still get booed at the arena. Maybe Buffalo is a special case, but the NHL not being conducive to developing player/fan loyalty is bunk.

So who does this study say are the most loyal fans in the NHL?

  • Detroit
  • Philly
  • San Jose
  • New Jersey
  • Boston

I’m kind of shocked by the inclusion of San Jose and New Jersey on the list. Maybe it’s just my East Coast “old” team bias, but the Sharks are a relatively new team and yet still rank in the top five…playoff chokes and all. New Jersey is shocking because although they have a team that has won championships and has consistent management, they’re often overlooked for their regional neighbors when it comes to media coverage.

I feel like I wandered around a bit in this post, so thank you for bearing with me. What do you all think?

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Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear to Tread

March 8, 2010

Both the NHL and NASCAR have come under fire in the past 24 hours for reasonably blatant – and pretty dangerous – rules violations. The NHL was thrust into the spotlight when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke – a player with a history of making questionnable hits – knocked Boston’s Marc Savard into next Tuesday with an ill-advised shoulder to the head. NASCAR made the news when Carl Edwards intentionally wrecked Brad Keselowski as payback for an earlier wreck and sent Kesolowski flipping into the air. Both leagues/sanctioning bodies are going to be under a microscope for their responses to these two incidents.

In the case of the NHL, this is just the latest in a long list of questionnable hits to the head in the past couple of years. We don’t need to read the Reggie Fleming report to know that hits to the head and brain injuries can lead to pretty significant physical and mental issues. The league needs to step up and find its balls and figure out some way to eliminate these massive hits to the head. Why not utilize something similar to the international hockey rules and make a hit to the head and ejectionable offense? Sure, accidental hits will happen, but much like accidentally high sticking someone in the face, you do the crime, you pay the time. It will eliminate some of the more “devasting, crunchy” hits that the hockey purists love, but at the same time it should make players more aware about their surroundings on the ice and their body positions as they skate around. And who knows, it might even improve the game of hockey in the long run.

What sucks is that there is no one answer that will make all the major constituent groups – players, management, media and fans – happy. But I would rather watch a game with less hitting as opposed to a game where a crunching body check leaves someone severely injured, paralyzed, or god forbid, dead.

On the NASCAR side of things, racer Carl Edwards wrecked fellow driver Brad Keselowski as payback for an incident last October. The video of yesterday’s incident can be found HERE, starting at about the :40 mark.What’s so appalling with regards to this situation is that Edwards admitted that it was intentional, and that he didn’t mean for him to get airborne. You see in the video how close Keselowski came to hitting the catch fence. He hits that fence the wrong way and I’d be writing a different blog today.

In the past, NASCAR has almost turned a blind eye to this “rubbin is racin” attitude. However, when one driver blatantly admits that he did something, and the fans, media and drivers are in effect calling for the head of John the Baptist on a platter, they have to do something. On the other hand, if they do something, then they’re seen as “wussying” up the sport formerly occupied by hard drinking and hard living guys. But if a fan or driver gets seriously hurt as a result of a retaliatory effort down the line, NASCAR has a massive liability issue on their hands.

It’s kind of an uncomfortable position between a rock and a hard place, isn’t it?