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.

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/

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.

NHL gets hit over head with reasons for new rule

Several weeks ago I borrowed The Code by Ross Bernstein from one of the Kent State hockey players. I was asking for blog topics on my Facebook status, and he thought the book might give me some good ideas for a post about fighting. Then my fighting post was put off by the latest hot topic in hockey violence. Right before the NHL general managers’ meetings kicked off, Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke served a dangerous head shot to Boston’s Marc Savard on March 7. The GMs had planned on discussing hits to the head, but that agenda item suddenly held new prominence at the meetings. 

Boston's Marc Savard is wheeled off the ice on a stretcher following a hit to the head from Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke.

Boston's Marc Savard is wheeled off the ice on a stretcher following a hit to the head from Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke. Photo by Associated Press.

The GMs announced that hits to the head will now be punished. Specifically, the managers’ statement said, “A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline.” 

Normally decisions made at the GM meetings take effect in the following season. However, with the hits that have been popping up more frequently in the past two weeks many are pushing for immediate enforcement of the new rule. Here’s an example of a bad hit courtesy of HockeyWebCast and Fox Sports. The clip shows a hit given out and a hit received by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. 

According to Pierre LeBrun’s ESPN hockey blog, if the new rule is passed this season, it will only allow for “supplemental discipline regarding blindside hits” until next season. Personally, I’m all for the immediate implementation of the rule. Absolutely no good comes from hits to the head. And it seems that many in the hockey blogosphere agree. Jack Todd from The Montreal Gazette and Tom Murray from ESPN both made very convincing points about how dangerous those hits are. 

Brent Seabrook hit

Chicago's Brent Seabrook falls to the ice after his head was slammed into the glass. Photo by Victor Decolongon, Getty Images.

I’m reading The Code right now, so I have a new understanding of how fighting impacts the game. I’m learning about how a fight at a pivotal moment can change the game and how sometimes players can police the game better themselves through the threat of a fight. Some people say those fights are too violent, and when the fights end badly it creates a negative buzz about the NHL. However, those fights generally serve a purpose. These vicious hits to the head during game play serve no purpose in my mind. Players just end up injured, and hockey gets a bad name in the process. From a PR perspective, when a moment in the NHL finally gets covered in the media, I would much rather have that moment be a hat trick or an overtime goal than a hit to the head that ended a player’s season. 

For the sake of the game, and to maintain some honor on the ice, I hope that the new rule makes a difference in the league. How do you think this will change the game?