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Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

The NHL lockout will be over soon and I have mixed emotions about it.  I am an arena staff worker who dreamed of working for the NHL one day, preferably the Detroit Red Wings full time in marketing/social media.  The collateral damage this lockout has done is too much to ignore.

How can you alienate 100,000+ fans plus sponsors for a big event like the Winter Classic?  How does this affect the NHL and how do they just ignore what they have done to the industry they love?

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When this is said and done, how is the NHL going to recover as a brand?  Your best employees are your biggest cheerleaders and largest assets you have in a business.  But when you ignore them, trim down their hours and if they live based on a commission, how are they supposed be to happy?

The little people struggled, the everyday Joe’s who depend on this job for a living.  They chose to go into sports knowing there is long hours with little pay.  They do this for the love of the game, but when the game doesn’t respect you or give you a reason to stand by them.  Is it enough?

Business partners have been burned and from the looks of it Kraft might have backed out of their sponsorship in Canada. To most Americans who don’t get CBC and Hockey Night in Canada they might see this as a small thing.  The truth is Kraft brought together old rickety ice rinks and gave them funding to the community who deserved it the most by voting.  I wish Americans could have had this kind of promotion.  The kids in the community benefited by having their hockey heroes come and play a pre-season game there, they got funding to fix the rink, and the community got recognized nationally.  It just hurts me to see this go by way side because the league burned the bridge.  Kraft Hockeyville was one of the things I looked forward to seeing during Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.

Leadership has to change for change to really happen in the NHL.  If every eight to ten years there will be a work stoppage will the full time employees and some of the part time staffers look for other places to work?  I love the game and I had a different view of this lockout which was really frustrating me.

The brand is damaged and I am sure sponsors and television networks are just as frustrated as the fans.  They should have been working this hard months ago before the Winter Classic was trashed for the year.   You have a product where there is a large chain of businesses that depend on your product to survive.    It is when you think of them and solve the problem before it gets to this huge level that you have a better understanding.

If employees have suffered and they are your greatest brand ambassadors, die hard fans are ticked, then who will bring your brand back from the dead?

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Steve Yzerman is the adoptive son of Detroit and he took a position as the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in May of 2010.  After 23 years as a Detroit Red Wing and four years as an apprentice to General Manager Ken Holland.   Stevie learned the ropes of the National Hockey League from the business stand point and took his team to one win from the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.

There are quite a few things from a business stand point we can learn from Stevie.

1. Do not burn bridges

Stevie will always be remembered as a Red Wing.  He signed my puck at the team practice in Troy and even used his number 19 on it.  He will always be a member of the Red Wings family no matter how far he travels or whose team he is employed by.  He is adopted by the city of Detroit and by the Red Wings family for bringing hockey back and using his perseverance to win three Stanley Cups and be in the office for the fourth.  He has not burned bridges but he still has the connections he once had and probably uses them.  Just because you leave an employer that you have been with forever does not mean you lose the connections you once had.

2. Surround yourself with people who can help you

Stevie won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.  Canada, his  native country put him in a very pressure packed situation.  He had taken the time to surround himself with A players so his team can have success down the road.  I am pretty sure the Red Wings believe in this philosophy and this is how it was passed along to him.  He did not graduate from high school yet he has a Masters degree in the NHL.  You learn from the best and you can have long term goals.  He sees the future and I am pretty sure he believes this philosophy.

3. You can always come home

Detroit will always be home for Stevie Y.  He has done the right things for this city and always kept the windows of opportunity to success open.  Mike Illitch will probably always think of him as an adoptive son since he has been through every phase of hockey with the Red Wings.  He speaks highly of the Detroit area and has had many life experiences here.  So when his paths cross again or maybe not with Detroit he knows he can always come home because people will always respect him.  He never brought a scandal to Detroit but he brought grit,  determination and was a quiet leader.  He is doing the same thing with Tampa Bay and seems to be just as loyal.

This video is a really great  because it shows what he has learned about the business, his team, what he hopes to accomplish and everything great  Steve Yzerman brings to the table.


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This is the final installment from Matt Rietz over at Viewfrommyseats.  Sorry this took so long but I was going through some job hunting issues and needed a break.  I hope you enjoy Matt’s take on Social Media and the NHL and you learned a lot about what the NHL is doing correctly.

People that are active in the online hockey community know where the most up-to-the-second information is available: Twitter. Big websites are dependent on their writers and the bloggers may hear about the information quickly—but it still takes time to put together even a 2 paragraph article. Even when it’s done, it’s not like everyone in the world will see it. But Twitter, that’s a different story. How long does it take for someone with a breaking story to knock out 140 characters? But that’s only the first part of the story…

The true power of Twitter is the speed at which information can spread from a single Tweet to across a community. If someone tweets that Jay Bouwmeester signed a contract with the Calgary Flames a day before free agency opens, they’re reaching all of their followers with the press of a button. But when I hear that news, I’ll be quick to re-tweet the information to all of my followers. Some of them, will in-turn share with all of their readers. When a story goes viral—THAT’S the power of Twitter.

From a news point of view, blogging and Twitter go hand and hand. But that’s only a single area that social media helps the NHL. Another area that is just as important is how Social Media can promote the sense of community between fans—whether the fans are in different cities, different states or even different countries. Bloggers and fans alike are increasingly using places like Facebook to strengthen friendships with people that they’ve interacted with in other venues. Maybe the met at a team function. Maybe they met at an NHL TweetUp. Whatever the case may be, Facebook and the like give them a place to keep in contact and share their ideas.

Specifically for hockey fans, it gives them a place to talk to other hockey fans about the sport they love. They can share articles they’ve read. They can share videos that they saw on YouTube (or NHL.com). They can vote on polls they saw on Twitter or even share Fan Pages to their favorite hockey blogs. Whatever the reason for communication, it provides a venue that hockey fans can interact with one another as much as they’d like. It’s like an electronic self-help group for puck crazed addicts (minus the 12 steps).

The NHL and individual teams have jumped head first into the New Media arena as well. During the playoffs, the Blackhawks and Penguins were serving up contests via Twitter for fans to win prizes—up to and including game tickets. Teams like the Los Angeles Kings will have contests on both Twitter and Facebook for their fans to win prizes as well. They’ve learned that they have a huge opportunity through the social media channels—they can either take advantage of the channels or watch another team do it for them.

Twitter and Facebook also serve as the newest way for bloggers to promote their articles. The high-end hockey blogs are rapidly becoming the backbone of hockey media for information for a huge percentage of the fan base. Unfortunately, bloggers often times can get lost in the huge sea of the World Wide Web. They need to get the word out—and they need to get the word out to the right people. Again: Enter Social Media.

Follow the right people on Twitter and you’ll have a never ending stream of quality information at your fingertips. Some might be from sources that have been around for decades, some might be up-and-comers that have always been good but have never had the chance. The genius of social media is that YOU get to decide who YOU want to give your attention to. If you find someone that you really enjoy, you can further engage the conversation on their blog or a Facebook page. It’s a two-way conversation—and it’s up to YOU how involved you want to be. You don’t have to, but at least now the choice is yours.

Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston

At the end of the day, I have to give a ton of credit to the NHL for being so accepting of the new media world. The old way of thinking was that online content was GIVING the product away for free. The NHL has realized that this isn’t giving hockey away for free—it’s PROMOTING it for free. The league could either acknowledge or shun it. They’ve acknowledged it and embraced it with open arms! They’ve certainly been through some rough times (and they’re still dealing with the hard times), but this is the way that they’ll save their league.

For the first time in a while, I can say this: The NHL is doing something right! Thank God, there’s hope for them yet.

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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!

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The Stanley Cup could be won tonight and 5-6000 or more people will NOT be making the trip to Joe Louis arena to see the Cup be won at Joe Louis Arena.  This is terrible for many reasons.

I had never been to a Joe Vision before last year when they won the Cup in six and I was working section 221 or so.  This is a big disaster for NBC for multiple reasons. I am an usher at the Arena, passionate fan, and well love the business of sports.  Consider me, as a small bridge builder between what the fan wants and needs and what my passion is.

The arena staffs are looking for one last chance to work.  This brings them money and access to merchandise.  I would NOT have bought as much Red Wings stuff as I did last year had I NOT had access to the merchandise.  The team wins and the league wins by having this.

When you have happy fans coming into the City for a game.  This brings money into the City which may not have been there had they not had Joe Vision.  They also are die hard fans so with this the merchandise sales will go up with the instant access to the Red Wings stuff.   The team gets the money back on paying for the arena staff and the fans get merchandise too.  Plus, charities win by having the extra day of an event.

NBC’s stance on NOT having a viewing party for fans is ridiculous.  They act like they are the Kings of the castle.  Well their castle looks to be made out of sand.  They do not play the entire NHL season and they cut in for the Finals and think they are able to man handle everyone.

This is NOT only terrible PR but it is terrible for the fans they have.  NHL isn’t the NFL.  They don’t have a huge audience but they have dedicated regional fans who are being alienated.

How does this work for the NHL?  How does the sport grow when it has a shotty tv deal.  They are barely represented on ESPN Sportscenter and on SportingNews Radio.

Versus which is a station no one can find.  Let’s everyone see the games and they allowed Mellon Arena to play the games.  They have a different production contract then NBC which is ratings based.  People are going to party and when push comes to shove the die hard fans which are being alienated at this point. Fans are not going to turn on NBC when they have an option to turn on CBC.  The Canadian Broadcasting Company is better then NBC could ever be.

CBC is king in Detroit.  They have a better production staff and they know what they are doing.   The announcers know what they are doing and who the players are.

NBC can’t grow the sport until they have an announcing team which actually knows players names and numbers.  This is something which is easily done by studying the media guide before you go on the air.  They constantly screw things up.

This is the BIGGEST PR disaster and show of greed which really hurts and shows a true sign of arrogance.  Needless to say, in business, your product the only person who cares about it is YOU.  At the end of the day, would you rather have two cities that love and adore you and are passionate about the game or two major cities which don’t want anything to do with you and would rather turn you off?

I would take the the first choice.  To grow a game you have to be serious about it.  With out a serious effort the NHL will be ranked lower then horse racing or tennis.

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The World Junior Championships are taking place in Ottawa, ONT Canada from 12/26/2008 – 1/5/2009 and it will be a story of a dreamer that fulfilled one of his dreams of representing his country. Over the years Team Canada has had a wealth of talent. Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Wayne Gretsky and even Dan Cleary.

Dan Cleary and Angelo Esposito have a lot in common. Cleary became the first NHL player from the province of New Foundland to win the Stanley Cup. He had been cut from the World Junior team 3x and he finally fulfilled his dreams. He often credits his wife for the change in his attitude.

Angelo Esposito may NOT be the dream player that John Tavares is and not the shiniest start on the team. He was determined, held strong, and would not take NO for an answer. The two of them represent what it takes to fulfill your dreams.

Persistence is often a hard thing to come by. The things that we often want most are harder to find and to be focused enough to center of your dream, have faith that things will go your way, and work hard to fulfill it. That takes guts and determination.

Whether or not you are a hockey player playing in the spotlight. Things often don’t go your way. Heck, no team wanted Cleary after the lockout. They passed him up because of his lack of work ethic, he used the time to go to California and train and got a recommendation from Matthiew Schenider to try out out for the Wings. He not only excelled but had a new role and a second chance and now he has his name on the Cup.

Angelo Esposito got cut from Team Canada and his rights have been traded from Pittsburgh to Atlanta before he even got a chance to play. He knew what he wanted and where he had to go to make a difference in his career and perception. So when the team is shining and trying to win the Gold. Just think of how much determination and perseverance some of these hockey players have been through.

Sometimes it isn’t all its cracked up to be. They both were high draft pics and they both got passed up on because of poor work ethic or just injury and bad timing. Change can happen if you believe in yourself and believe in your dream.

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Over the course of the season, the Detroit Lions have revealed that they are NOT a franchise that the NFL should have respect for. They are 0-15 with an OWNER that comes from OLD money and probably is part of an OLD boys club. He won’t fire the coach Rod Marinelli and he also let him hire his Son in Law as the Defensive Coordinator. William Clay Ford did NOT want to fire Millan and signed him to an extension. He has no desire to WIN what so ever. Does his arrogance and knowing that he controls the football in a dominate Michigan Football fan state? I guess the question remains is this.

IS William Clay Ford trying to do this on purpose? He has a history of being a loser as far as the Lions go. He has owned the team for 45 years and in his old age his front office staff has gotten worse. He chased the only person that could have helped his team to WIN out of town when Barry Sanders retired.

Bill Wirtz was almost the same way. He refused to air Chicago Blackhawks games on television because he thought that if people wanted to see a hockey game that they should go to the United Center to see it. Then whenever he got top talent, he would trade them away, Jeremy Roenick, Tony Amonte, and the list could go on.

What does these owners have in common. They ruined two of the major sports in two major markets. NFL is king and when you are screwing with people’s money for your own greed and get a sick thrill out of losing every year. There is NO fight for even trying to get the team back on track. Was there ever?

No one wants to be a loser. Is there some sick thrill in seeing a team lose? Bill Wirtz knew that he could control the city by keeping games not on television and it took the salary cap in the NHL to save his team with the combination of his his passing.

Is that what it is going to take for the Lions to get on track? William Clay Ford is 84 years old and seems to be the major obstruction to the team winning. Will there be someone strong enough to stand up to the OLD money and the corporate sponsorship that the Ford Company brings to the table for the NFL. There should be a standard at which you say, enough is enough.

Losers should NOT be treated with golden slippers. The Lions need to improve and they will not do that if he is in charge. He breeds losers and that team chemistry can not be a winning one. You can change your life but you can’t change an organization.

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