Facts on the Fly: Nasher’s thank you and Toew’s magic trick

It’s been just a little bit too long since my last update. I apologize for the lapse in posting. We’re getting down to the wire with just three weeks left in the semester here at Kent State, and it’s been incredibly hard to pencil in time for my blog. Between wrapping up my junior year and getting ready to jump into a summer internship, I’ve been busy. Throw in the playoffs, and there’s just no telling when I’ll have enough time to sit down and write something worthwhile for you.

Until I have time to post a thorough, interesting hockey PR entry, I thought I would put up another installment of Facts on the Fly.

Nasher thanks CBJ fans

As an Ohio girl, I am very seriously aware of the loyalty Bluejackets fans have shown their team. Ups and downs, through many years without playoff action, the Columbus faithful continue to raise the flag. After missing the playoffs this season, captain Rick Nash reached out to the fans. If you haven’t seen the ad, make sure to check out the public thank you. Wow. I was impressed. Regardless of whether it was Nash’s idea or the work of someone in the public relations/marketing office, it tugged at my heart. Yes, I’m a bit of a softie for a hockey fan, but how can you read that and not want to cheer them on again next year?

Toews is a puck magnet

In Game 5 of the Chicago-Nashville series, a puck got lost in the equipment of Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi. Play was stopped and officials searched the goalie, but weren’t able to figure out where the puck had disappeared to. Hawks captain Jonathan Toews skated over, touched the goalie’s sweater and the puck magically appeared. Does this have anything to do with hockey public relations? No. But the video is great.

Please let me know what you’re thinking about the playoffs so far. I’m hoping to see some interesting public relations moves during the next few weeks. Have you noticed your favorite team doing anything fun or handling a PR situation in a good or bad way? Let’s chat.

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Stanley Cup Playoff beards raise money and awareness

Playoff beards. In hockey, they are a tradition and a superstition. You know the best hockey of the year is about to be played when your favorite players stop shaving. You hope your team stays in the running long enough that the young guns can actually grow more than peach fuzz. Over at The Sports Dish, you can see pictures of the best beards in recent years.

Former player Denis Potvin knew how to work a playoff beard. He led the New York Islanders to four Stanley Cup victories. Photo by Getty Images.

Former player Denis Potvin knew how to work a playoff beard. He led the New York Islanders to four Stanley Cup victories. Photo by Getty Images.

It started as just something the players did, but now it has spread through the fans and is even being used as a tactic to raise money for charity. Beards as a public relations tool? In the National Hockey League, I would expect nothing less. Each team in the playoffs has its own Beard-A-Thon website to bring fans together and fundraise. There are also Facebook and Twitter outlets for the cause.

A best practices case study:
The Pittsburgh Penguins Beard-A-Thon

Last year the Penguins put the playoff beards of players and fans to good use and raised money for The Mario Lemieux Foundation through the Beard-A-Thon. Along with the players, more than  1,700 fans participated and they raised more than $113,000 for the foundation. The money comes in through donations of “beard sponsors,” people who give money in support of your beard. Pictures showing growth through the playoffs are posted online for everyone to see.

Pittsburgh Penguin Max Talbot shows off his playoff beard in full force while hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2009. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

Pittsburgh Penguin Max Talbot shows off his playoff beard in full force while hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2009. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

It’s a perfect public relations tactic. The entertainment factor is met by allowing fans to “grow one for the team,” and hockey fans (especially in Pittsburgh) are known for going above and beyond to show love to their team. An event like this one is also bound to garner media coverage. Each year during the playoffs, sports news outlets talk about the beards. Through the beard-growing contest, the Penguins will get even more coverage because there is an important cause behind the event. And to me, that’s the most important part. Regardless of the media coverage or the extra bond it creates among fans, the best part of the Beard-A-Thon is that it has a true, worthwhile purpose. That’s something every sports fan can get behind.

A new weekly beard feature

In honor of the beauty of playoff beards, I will be posting regularly about the best beards of this year’s playoffs. I was thinking about picking the best beard of each round or maybe posting photos and asking you readers to guess who the beard belongs to. Let me know what you would like best!

*This blog post was inspired by and is dedicated to Katie Young, my friend and fellow Kent State PR student. Katie has a pretty serious love for beards of all kinds, but especially playoff beards (and Rick Nash’s beard in particular!). She suggested (really demanded) that I write a blog post about the power of playoff beards. Katie also writes for The Art Experience, her own art/art museum public relations blog. Check it out!

The Frozen Four: College hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals

College hockey is a pretty important part of my life, considering I work for the Kent State hockey team. Kent State, however, is part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the largest governing body of club hockey teams in the United States. I have Google Alerts for the league sent to my e-mail, and I follow our rival teams closely during the season. Some would say college hockey takes over my life between October and March, but then after the ACHA wraps up for the year, I have a whole new world of college hockey to focus on. Most Americans would think of NCAA hockey first when the collegiate level of play is brought up in conversation, but I don’t get interested until it’s time for the Frozen Four. Between the ACHA and the National Hockey League, I don’t have time for any other leagues during the regular season.

The 2010 Men's Frozen Four is being played at Ford Field in Detroit.

The 2010 Men's Frozen Four is being played at Ford Field in Detroit. Image courtesy of the NCAA.

Taking it to the field
The Frozen Four kicks off today in Detroit. The semi-final round breaks down to: Wisconsin vs. RIT and Boston College vs. Miami (Ohio).  For a preview of what each team is bringing to the ice, check out The College Hockey Blog. The teams will be playing at Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions football team. Fans can’t seem to get enough of ice rinks being placed on the field of other sports venues.

As an Ohio girl, I feel obligated to cheer for Miami....

As an Ohio girl, I feel obligated to cheer for Miami....Photo by Cathy White/CNATI.com.

For the fans
Based on the schedule of event’s for the long weekend, it seems like the NCAA is making fans the top priority at the Frozen Four. Not only is there a great, one-of-a-kind venue, but each day is also full of activities to make the trip complete. On Wednesday, practices were open to the public, and today there are restaurants in Detroit designated as gathering spots for those loyal to each team. I especially like the idea of fans coming together at restaurants in the city. I see that as knowing your target audiences and reaching out to each audience in a specific way. Being able to go somewhere that has been set aside for fans who bleed the same colors is a way to bring together the die-hards.

But I'll be in Boston this weekend. I hope to see some BC faithful rooting on their team. Photo by Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

But I'll be in Boston this weekend. I hope to see some BC faithful rooting on their team. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Other events include autograph signings, fan festivals, award presentations and skills challenges. It’s clear that if you made the trip to Detroit, you’re going to get much more than a few of the greatest collegiate hockey games of the year. One of my brothers is going to be there for all of it, and I hope he takes advantage of everything the NCAA and the Frozen Four sponsors have provided.

If you plan it, they will remember
From a public relations viewpoint, I think the Frozen Four is a great example of doing everything possible to maintain current fans and reach out to new fans. Regardless of whether or not people at the games have followed hockey all their lives or just bought tickets because their alma mater made it to the semi-finals, those people at the Frozen Four will take away a true experience from this weekend. All of the extra activities will keep attendees engaged, and those memories will be linked to hockey forever.

So all of those in attendance will be able to carry a little piece of the greatest sport in the world with them for the rest of their lives. Hopefully that translates into life-long love of the game.

What do you think? Let’s chat about what was done right and what was done wrong in marketing the Frozen Four.