Monday, March 24, 2008

Old Time Hockey Meets New Media

Regular readers of this blog know that I've been involved with online media - podcasting and the like - for quite some time (obligatory Unleashed plug here). So it should come as no surprise that I'm a subscriber to the various podcasts made available by the NHL. Like much of what the league does promotion-wise, they kind of suck. I mean, it's not that the content is BAD, exactly, it just falls way short of its potential.

For the most part, the podcasts appear to be chopped-up segments from the NHL's weekly Westwood One/XM radio show:


Doc's Classic NHL

Doc Emrick, who may be the best play-by-play man in the league, hosts a weekly feature highlighting some the sport's seminal figures. For those of us who didn't grow up with the game, it's a great way to get caught up on the last hundred years or so, in an easy-to-swallow capsule form. (NOTE: Actual swallowing not necessary). From this week's piece on Gordie Howe, I learned that Mr. Hockey actually came out of retirement in his mid-forties to play on a line with his two sons in the then-nascent WHA. It gives me hope that Martin Brodeur will stick around long enough to back up his goaltender son, assuming that a) Lou Lamoriello signs him and b) cloning technology has not been perfected by the time Marty is ready to hang it up.


That Announcer Voice

The one that says "Visit for the latest stats, scores, news, and highlights." It is terrifying. They put more computerized vocal effects on that guy than Britney Spears, and with an equally appealing result. I understand that hockey is an extremely manly sport, but that throaty, borderline-Satanic rumble makes Barry White sound like Paul Lynde. It's a little much.


Sam Rosen

Can anyone explain to me how this guy has a job in broadcasting? You've heard the expression "He's got a face for radio?" Well, Sam Rosen does. But he's also got a voice for silent movies. I understand the NHL offers a 20-hour-a-week internship just squeegeeing up the spittle that collects on the inside window of the Rangers' broadcast booth (3 credits, must be a currently-enrolled college student). Seriously, Sam Rosen makes Sylvester the Cat sound like David Niven. (NOTE: This will be the last "A makes B sound like C" joke in this post, unless I think of another one).

So what to do?

One solution would be to follow the example of owners like the Capitals' Ted Leonsis who, as you may have heard, is leading the charge when it comes to exploiting (in a positive way) the enthusiasm and creativity of the fan community. Believe it or not, we can be more than Score-O contestants and t-shirt gun targets. A more deeply involved fan community will have more cause to be evangelical when it comes to promoting the game...there's an army out here waiting to be mobilized, and a country waiting to be reintroduced to the greatest sport there is. Check out this, this, this, and this for a few samples of what AHF did in DC with some home video equipment, hardly any preparation, and zero budget. With the full cooperation of the league, and some dedicated resources, we (the collective we) could do so much more.

There are people who read this blog who aren't even hockey fans...and I think it's because of the unique editorial perspective we provide (also the Lauren Pronger pictures). And as true fans of the game, I know the staff at AHF would love nothing better than to help the effort to it regain its former standing. But it will take some open minds at NHL Headquarters, and admittedly no small amount of courage to relinquish some modicum of control over the brand in an effort to find the real pulse of the fan community.

Or, you know- we can leave it to the guys who design hockey stick sculptures.

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