THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hockey "In These Times"

"(Blogs) are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective.”

-    The Fake Steve Jobs, Daniel Lyons, when writing for Forbes in 2005

“Because time after time, blogs are simply beating the shit out of the newspapers. They’re the ones who still dare to go for the throat, while their counterparts at big newspapers just keep reaching for the shrimp cocktail."

- The Fake Steve Jobs, Daniel Lyons, who now writes for Newsweek, 2009

hockeyblog

Excuse me, but you have found yourself in the hockey section. Hockey might have found its way off of ESPN TV in America, but a heart still beats. Oh, yeah, ESPN will try to say it covers hockey the same, since they like to consider themselves a sports news organization but, if you look at the order and time covered for hockey, you will see a vast difference.

Corporate beasts govern our sports nowadays. There is simply no denying it. Teams are large corporations, or connected to even bigger ones. The NY Rangers corporation parent owns the TV channels that that their rivals the NY Islanders are on. It is the same with the NJ Devils. They also now own the one main Long Island newspaper as well.

There seems to be no getting away these days from the reach or sometimes, overreach of companies. In Chicago, the White Sox and Blackhawks are intertwined in a marketing partnership. In Detroit it is the Red Wings and the Tigers that are co-owned.

Yet in the coverage of sports, you have a retraction going on, in many cases. Papers cut, people reassigned, new school of those who live one foot in the web are pushing out those who have found that both feet in print is one foot in a grave.

Bloggers share much space with mainstream press, especially in a sport that has lost much coverage between TV deals, previous lockouts and mainstream shrinkage. Sites pop up like zits on a teen, trying to capture the blur that lies between news, entertainment, fandom, and coverage.

In many cases, especially in smaller outlets, bloggers have seeped past the mainstream. Or, simply have become mainstream. This of course is a two-edge sword. The new king of the mountain is ripe to be kicked off that hill eventually.

Meanwhile, we all seem to hope that next year we exit a recession as a nation. What does that mean for a sport that has a perch between two differing movements: consolidation on the coverage yet a mega-monopoly of corporate owners? Well, for some, like Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals, it means just riding the wave wherever it leads.

Ted is one of the first to recognize the power of the blogosphere, allowing hockey blog pioneer Eric McErlain of the Off Wing Opinion and others access that only the mainstream and radio used to have. Leonsis even has his own blog, creating a transparency that other teams still do not have, even if they try.

It helps that Leonsis has a huge star in Russian wunderkind dynamo of personage: Alex Ovechkin. But, it also helps that Leonsis and the Capitals organization is a well-run unit. When all three things intertwine: good business ops, team success, and coverage outside the old-time parameters; there is something exciting going on.

The Islanders have also dipped their toes into the new waters. However, with business organization cuts, personnel overhauls, and a very secretive and insular hockey operations run by GM Garth Snow...they haven't achieved the same transparency. They also, unlike the Caps have not turned the corner on team and fiscal success. But, within their own battle, a genius idea of a blogger press box was born by their former VP Chris Botta (who has since made a hugely successful jump to the blogosphere himself). The Isles have run that Blog Box two years since Botta, and now is under Director of Communications Seth Sylvan and Communications Manager Kimber Auerbach, a busier than normal staff and interns attempt to juggle bloggers, press, a website and other priorities. There might not be a busier staff in all the NHL.

So, some teams have made jumps according to the movement and times, team success or not. Other organizations also have jumped onboard: Nashville, LA, and others.

And some have not that are set in their ways. Despite being run by Cablevision's and Newsday's Charles Dolan, the NY Rangers still do not recognize or accommodate hockey bloggers. This is despite that many of their of their own staff and NYR cover guys had to make the jump themselves.

So there is not a complete change of mindset and ways. It is a process. Meanwhile hockey sites like Hockeybuzz, SBNation hockey, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy and others have taken over. Yet, mainstream sites, especially hockey gold standards like the strong Canadian hockey outlets like CBC and TSN also made the jump into the pool. I even started my own hockey blogosphere that is on its way to 1 million views a year at HockeyIndpendent.com. Not bad for the 4th sport in the US and a sport that took a major hit post-lockout.

Old, new, it's not a battle of two sides anymore. Instead, it's a crowded pool where any fan can glean info, rumor, opinion, humor or just about anything else with a mouse click via the Web or Twitter. It is an information gold rush for fans. It is a huge adjustment for teams, with not all stepping with the hopes, understanding and smarts that teams like the Islanders, Capitals, and others have made.

These times are a changin’. Chances are how you got your information is far different than it was even 5 years ago. Come on, admit it, I just inspired you to download the Bob Dylan song from Itunes.

 

bd@hockeyindependent.com

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