3 part guest post by Matt Rietz —creator of View From My Seats.
The in-depth, intelligent blog has been listed all over the hockey blogosphere, on various newspaper blogrolls, the Huffington Post, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy and, most notably, on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Tired of seeing the same sports websites that were completely detached from what the fans were thinking, he created his own site in 2007. Early in 2009, the website transitioned into a hockey-only site and has shown steady growth.
VFMS is a potent elixir concocted with equal parts wit, intelligence, sarcasm and reality. Served liberally between October and June at just below 32 degrees. At the heart of each article is one simple fact: In order to be smartass, one must first be smart.
When I think of forward progressive organizations, the National Hockey League isn’t exactly the first thing that jumps into my mind. We’re talking about a League that had a labor stoppage in the mid-1990’s just as hockey was competing to make a dent into the Big 3’s market share in the United States. As if that wasn’t enough, the league shot itself in the foot again the mid-2000’s when they experienced another labor stoppage. This time, the stoppage was because their business model was so severely flawed that even teams that were successful on the ice were epic failures on the profit front. Any time there was a hint of momentum, the league squashed any glimmer of hope. Think of a drunken Inspector Clouseau in a China shop. I’m sure you can figure out how this is going to go.
Ironically, it might be technology, Web 2.0 and an extremely fanatic fan base that might be what pulls the NHL out of obscurity and back to its place among the Top 4 sports in the U.S. When there are some sports leagues that are trying to figure the world of Social Media out, the NHL is surprisingly in front of the curve for once. Instead of playing the reactionary game, they’re proactively doing something to bring their great game to as many people as possible. While they might be unconventional means of communication today, the NHL is banking on New Media and its participants becoming the MAINSTREAM media—not an afterthought. Check out Facebook and Twitter—they might be onto something here.
The NHL may have turned their attention to non-traditional forms of media out of necessity, but they’re taking this blessing in disguise and running with it. Traditionally, how have sports fans received most of their news? Three major outlets provided the vast majority of the coverage: Newspapers, television and radio. The gradual demise of the newspaper industry has been well chronicled all over the internet. But think about this: how many people do you know that get their hardcore sports information from the radio? Better yet, how many members of Generation Next even know what AM radio is? The newspaper industry might be dying, but radio is in the next bed on life support itself.
That leaves television as the major traditional player for all of the sports league. Any discussion of television and the world of sports begins and ends with ESPN. If you want me to start with Fox Sports, then I’m guessing that Rupert Murdoch is either signing your checks or is a relative. If that’s the case, I mean no disrespect—but Fox Sports is largely irrelevant compared to the Worldwide Leader. I didn’t make up reality, I’m just acknowledging it.
When was the last time you heard ESPN talk about hockey and they didn’t mention a fight, suspension or Sidney Crosby? They neither have the quality reporters, insiders or the desire to cover hockey the way they cover baseball, basketball or football.
So where do hockey fans go when they want information? In the absence of traditional media, they have had to find non-traditional methods of tracking their favorite teams and players. Enter the internet—and more specifically the hockey blogosphere. Big players like From The Rink of SB Nation and Puck Daddy on Yahoo have filled the void better than the radio and newspaper industry ever did. But just as importantly, blogs with a narrow scope have emerged for individual teams and leagues.
The NHL could have turned their back on their emerging corner of media; but instead they took the opportunity to embrace the bloggers, their hard work and their community. They’ve redesigned NHL.com to truly be one of the best websites for any sport. They provide scores, stats and schedules like all leagues are expected to on their home page. But they’ve gone a step further—they have specific play highlights, game highlights and even podcasts for fans that are looking for more than goals and assists stats. It’s like every A.D.D. Hockey fan’s wet dream!