NHL marketing: An exercise in futility

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NHL marketing: An exercise in futility

By Jon Fucile
WickedGoodSports.com

The NHL, unfortunately for hockey fans, is often the distant fourth among the four major sports and if the job done by the crack team of NHL marketers for the All-Star Game is any indication, no one should really be surprised. They are a league that is so out of touch with their audience and a calendar that were surprised they can function at all.

When the commercials for the All-Star Game debuted and featured Meant to Live by Switchfoot, we immediately became worried. That song debuted in 2003 and wasnt even that good then. But hey, obviously the NHL did their homework and found out fans loved that song. Right? RIGHT?!

It only got worse. Leading up to the game, the NHL announced that Clay Aiken would sing the National Anthem. Sure hes from Raleigh, but what were the NHL marketing people smoking when they thought hockey fans would tune in to see Clay Aiken?

Aiken finished second in American Idol in 2003 and hasnt done much since. Really. Name the last song he had on the radio that isnt at least five years old. We dare you. Well wait . . .

. . . see? NHL marketing 0-2.

At least Aiken is from Raleigh, so in some weird way it almost, sort of, kind of, maybe a little bit, makes sense. Did they NHL think they would draw in new fans if they brought in Aiken? Pretty sure they over estimated his drawing power. Fans could not possibly have been less interested.

Then the NHL announced their first intermission entertainment.

Surely the NHL would pick someone relevant. Maybe a recent star. Maybe theyd look at the current Top 40 songs and pick someone, anyone, fans would recognize. The NHL then announced theyd be bringing in . . . Three Doors Down!

Wait . . . who? Didnt they have a song about 20 years ago?

When Three Doors Down started playing during the first intermission, all three of their fans in the crowd went bananas. If you listened closely, with one of those old time ear horns up to your ear, you could even hear a few Woos!

Luckily it was dark in the arena because whenever there was a speck of light during their set you could see an empty arena, fans predictably much more interested in grabbing a pretzel and a beer than seeing a band whose hit song is almost 10 years old. They couldve just played a Now Thats What I Call Music 5 CD and got the same reaction without actually have to pay Three Doors Down to appear. What did that marketing meeting look like?

When Three Doors Down eventually played their one hit, Kryptonite, there were still roughly just five people cheering. Why the NHL thought a band that hasnt been relevant since the Kennedy administration would be a big hit amongst fans beats us.

We havent seen a team of people screw up this much and be this wrong since the crew that built the Titanic said it could stand up to icebergs.

Generally when people are this bad at their jobs, they get fired. Unless you work for the NHL. No wonder theyre considered the fourth-class citizens of the sports world.

Its like that episode of South Park, Prehistoric Ice Man, where the kids found a man who has been frozen for 32 months and cant cope with the fact that he has awaken in 1999. But instead of 32 months, the NHL marketing department apparently was frozen for over eight years and still thinks Three Doors Down, Switchfoot and Clay Aiken are relevant, cool and exciting.

Maybe while theyre at it the NHL can bring back that glowing puck. NHL fans loved that. And by loved with mean loathed.

We can only imagine what their To Do list for All-star weekend looked like.

Maybe someday the NHL will hire competent people that understand its audience and understand how to attract new fans. Sure, Clay Aiken probably brought the American Idol crowd over to watch hockey. Of course. Seriously.

But hey, us NHL fans are used to failure like this. Cant wait for the 2012 All-Star where Hinder will perform their hit song Lips of an Angel. Were sure that will bring in huge ratings.

Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

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Talking Points from the Bruins OT winner

GOLD STAR: Solid night’s work from Ryan Spooner, who finished with the OT game-winning strike and was solid throughout the game as the de facto No. 1 center. He had four shots on net, six generated shot attempts and won 12-of-19 face offs as he continues to improve in that area while training camp rolls along. Spooner is trying to hold onto the No. 3 center spot in the lineup despite the addition of David Backes via free agency, and Friday night’s big boy performance with speed, playmaking and skill showed exactly what his potential can be when he puts it all together. It was also a nice little bounce-back from an up-and-down game on Wednesday night against the same Detroit team when he struggled in the face off circle and was part of a team-wide malaise.

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t necessarily a bad night for Brian Ferlin, but it was more of the invisible variety with just a registered hit and one face-off taken in 13 minutes of ice time. The forward earned some NHL time with the Bruins a couple of years, has battled concussion woes over the last year plus and is trying to push his way back into the crowded forward picture during this training camp. While he certainly showed some toughness and skill around the net a couple of years and didn’t seem shy about going there on Friday night, the results just weren’t there and Ferlin didn’t have much of a presence in the game. In general it was a pretty decent performance for the Bruins, so Ferlin’s game was quiet more than problematic.

TURNING POINT: Credit the Bruins coaching staff for switching up the lines in the third period, and that sparked the offense a bit after zero goals through the first 40 minutes against Detroit. Zach Senyshyn was moved with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash, and they became a threat in the third period before Heinen broke through for the game-tying goal from his knees. That score allowed the B’s to push things into overtime, and then Spooner made it a quick extra session by snapping home a shot from the slot after a good effort from Joe Morrow down low. It all was made possible by the adjustment to the lines that took place between the second and the third periods.

HONORABLE MENTION: Joe Morrow is battling to hold onto his NHL roster spot with the Bruins, and that is absolutely underscored by the news that Christian Ehrhoff is being brought to Boston on a PTO. So it was expected that the young D-man would come out with something a little extra after a mediocre performance in his preseason debut, and the left shot D-man was an impact player in the win for the Black and Gold. Morrow dropped the gloves with young tough guy Givani Smith in the second period as part of a B’s group that played with a little bit of an edge on Friday night, and then he won a battle down low in overtime to set up the Ryan Spooner game-winner. Morrow had two hits, two shot attempts, the assist and the fight in 19:48 of ice time, and showed that he’s ready to battle in camp to hold onto his spot.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of goals in two preseason games thus far for Danton Heinen, who scored important game-tying goals in both instances in the shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and Friday night’s overtime win against the Wings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “The compete level, especially when he got down 4-0 [on Wednesday night], I don’t think it was high enough. So we talked about it, and we expect a better effort for sure.” –Ryan Spooner on Friday morning prior to going out and snatching the win away from the Red Wings in Detroit with an OT game-winner. 

First impressions: Ortiz moves past pregame ceremonies, hits game winner for Sox

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First impressions: Ortiz moves past pregame ceremonies, hits game winner for Sox

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Toronto:

* What's left to say about David Ortiz?

Ortiz acknowledged before Friday's game that the pre-game ceremonies and the attendant fuss over his pending retirement have created a challenge for him. Sometimes, it's hard to go from being feted to trying to win a game.

Not that you would know it by Friday night.

In his first at-bat, he singled home the first run of the game. Two at-bats later, he lined a bullet that was right at Jose Bautista.

But he saved his best for the seventh when, after the Red Sox tied the game at 3-3, Ortiz promptly untied it with a laser down the line, landing in the right field seats.

One more clutch hit from Ortiz in a career full of them.

* Brock Holt's defense at third has stood out.

John Farrell is looking for someone to step up with the third base job, given that Travis Shaw is hitting under .200 since the All-Star break and Aaron Hill has had difficulty hitting righties.

Holt, meanwhile, has seized the job somewhat by default, with a .319 average in the last 24 games.

But since starting the last four games at third, Holt has also contributed with his glove.

On Friday night, Holt made a fine stop with his backhand, on the third base line, and fired to nail Devon Travis on a close play at first.

Later, he came on a slow roller to gun down Josh Donaldson out at first.

* The Red Sox have done a better job of late capitalizing on opponents' mistakes.

Last week in Baltimore, the Red Sox were handed a gift by the Orioles when a throwing error by Chris Davis resulted in five runs being scored -- all of them unearned. It took exactly two pitches for the Red Sox to pounce on the opportunity.

On Friday night, it happened again.

Trailing 3-1, the Red Sox used a throwing error by Russell Martin to score one run and put another runner in scoring position. A groundout and single by Mookie Betts tied things, and Ortiz's homer broke the tie and gave the Red Sox a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Good teams take advantage of mistakes. Two of the last six Red Sox wins are prime examples of that maxim.