The Blown Call Sports Blog examines the issues in modern day sports. It is meant to be a commentary about what is wrong and right in sports. For fantasy junkies, there will be plenty of juice here for you as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Future is Robotic

Some sound advice to the NHL: get rid of the f’n cliches!

Jeremy Roenick mentioned it at the start of the season when asked about Sean Avery’s criticism of the NHL’s lack of success in term of marketing: more and more players, especially the younger generation are becoming too robotic during press opportunities. This is part of the reason why the NHL’s marketing schemes have not been as successful as they liked. They have focused on Sidney Crosby, and rightfully so because he has been dubbed the “next one” since he was 8 and when you have a talent like that, you have to take advantage of it (unless if you are Alexander Semin). However, the other part of the NHL’s marketing problem is not their problem at all - it is the players’.

Too many times, especially after the lockout period, I have seen the younger players being too careful in what they say. Often times, I see myself predicting to the TV exactly what they will say, and more times than not, my predictions come true. The big problem is that from a young age, blue chip talent is recognized and immediately given a big thick text book on media relations. This text book will dictate that athlete’s personality for his or her career. And it is boring, predictable and in the end - impossible to market.

What makes other leagues successful in marketing and selling their game is what they do off the ice. People are interested in what players have to say. Look at the NBA with Shaq. Nothing is scripted with him and the result is that he draws interest from fans to the game. In the NFL, Chad Johnson is consistently featured on SportsCenter with his locker room chatter. Sure, there are more examples of text book media relations in those leagues than not, but the NHL rarely has anybody speaking out.

If the NHL wants to evolve, they need to convince their players to be more... interesting. Fans flock to Alexander Ovechkin, not only because he scores goals, but he allows himself to be exposed to the media and he does not follow the media relations text book. His Youtube video of he and the Caps rolling around on Segways around the city are an example of this. He is very open to joking around with the media and not afraid to censor his thoughts.

This is not to say that media relations is not important. Media relations is one of the most important thing when managing professional athletes. However, showing a little personality will do wonders for NHL’s marketing project. Even if it is Jeremy Roenick dancing on skates, or Jason Spezza sounding like an amateur in every interview, it shows personality that has the potential to draw interest from the pubic.

I point out this issue because I felt uncomfortable and disturbed as I watched James Duthie interview John Tavares tonight on TSN. Inteviewer Duthie opened the door numerous times to provide the hockey world with some personality to the potential 2009 #1 overal draft pick, but Tavares looked scared, with his head down, answering questions that I would have rather read in a text book.

Jon Toews keeping it real.

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