Hockey for a purpose

October is Hockey Fights Cancer Month in the NHL. The movement, which began in 1998, brings all of the teams in the league together to raise awareness and money for cancer-related organizations and research. In addition to league-wide promotions and purple apparel, each team hosts its own Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night.

Hockey Fights Cancer, Colorado Avalanche

A Colorado Avalanche helmet sporting the Hockey Fights Cancer logo. Photo courtesy of NHL Pinterest page.

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Because it’s the Cup…

That’s the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff tagline. Not sure how I feel about it from a creative marketing view, but I get it. And you can work it into just about any ad or commercial…because it’s the Cup.

I saw the first playoff commercial today during the Penguins vs Flyers game on NBC. And that’s all I’ll be saying about that game. Besides the fact that Hartnell better be ready for retribution come April 1 in Pittsburgh.

Back to advertising — I love the new commercial because it focuses on the fans, and hockey fans are the best fans in the world. We are the most underserved fans, yet the most dedicated. The season runs from October through June. It’s a long haul. Our teams play several times a week. There’s a lot to keep up with, and ESPN doesn’t make it easy on us to watch the highlight reels. We have to order all kind of special channels (Regional FSNs, NBC Sports Network, The NHL Network, etc.) to catch our team on the ice if we don’t live in-market, and catching our team on a major network like NBC is cause for celebration.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re a dedicated crew. Hockey fans take loyalty and commitment to a different level, and I love that this Stanley Cup Playoffs commercial is all about the fans.

What do you think? And how ready are you for April 11?

Pucks & Pixels

I love this interpretation of the new campaign. Image designed by Pucks & Pixels.

Getting back to a love of the game

Well, that hiatus was definitely not a short one. I got my computer back a few weeks ago, but I’ve been busy celebrating the 4th of July and visiting my sister in North Carolina. Then today I got online and read my friend Erin’s blog. She posted a great, opinionated piece about LeBron James turning his back on his hometown. It made me realize that it’s about time I step up and get back to work on this blog.

I love hockey. I love writing. I love writing about hockey. So why on earth am I not updating this more? I’m not sure. It might be because I’m interning for a hockey team this summer, and it’s making me see hockey more as work and less as fun. And that’s a damn shame.

To get back to my love for the game, I need this blog to keep me sane. I’m switching over from a hockey PR blog to just a general hockey blog about my thoughts on the game, with a focus on the NHL and maybe some occasional college hockey posts.

My first order of business: Let’s consider the fact that Ottawa Senators player Mike Fisher just married country music star Carrie Underwood.

Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood

Hockey and country music? It doesn't get much better than that. Photo by John Shearer/WireImage.

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Great clients attract great public relations

I’ve heard it many times in my PR classes here at Kent State University: Don’t work for a client that you’re not morally and ethically okay with representing. To me, that means working for good people. Wherever I end up working (hopefully in the NHL), I want to know that the people I represent are good people. That does’t mean they have to attend a charity event every day or give money to community groups all the time. (Although they better do those things often.) More importantly, I want them to have kind, caring hearts. That kind of goodness matters the most in life. And that kind of goodness always has a way of coming out to the public in time. 

Enter: Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich. Following the Caps’ very unexpected and highly disappointing Game 7 loss against the Montreal Canadiens, Laich showed that athletes can actually make the news for something positive these days. Not far from the Verizon Center in D.C., a fan’s car hit a pot hole and got a flat tire on a busy bridge. Around that time, Laich was heading home, still upset about the season-ending loss. Then he saw the car on the side of the road, and he pulled over to lend a hand. 

Brooks Laich changes a tire following the Caps' Game 7 loss.

Brooks Laich changes a tire following the Caps' Game 7 loss.

Dan Steinberg wrote a detailed account of what happened on D.C. Sports Blog, an arm of The Washington Post. From a PR viewpoint, the best part of this story is that it wasn’t distributed by the public relations or marketing department. The driver’s daughter immediately went home and posted what happened on her Facebook status. Word spread, and the media latched onto the story. Before the Caps even heard what happened, reporters were talking to the woman and her daughter. They sang the praises of Laich, and rightfully so. Think of all the people who drove by that car without stoppping. And a man who was just trying to get home after suffering a terrible hockey loss was the only one to stop. 

Way to stay classy, Laich. I’m impressed. 

This is a great example of how great clients attract great public relations. There wasn’t a PR professional whispering in Laich’s ear, telling him to pull over and make sure he smiled for a photo opp when he was changing the tire. It was just a good guy doing a good deed. Someday I hope I can work for people with hearts like Laich’s.

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.

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.