Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

An Interview with an NHL Employee

Instead of talking about how the New York Rangers were able to beat a tough Pittsburgh Penguins team on Wednesday and lose to a team that was struggling to score goals on Thursday night (Montreal Canadiens), I am going to share an interview I did with Michael DiLorenzo, the NHL’s Director of Corporate Communications.

Mr. DiLorenzo was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us about how he got into the sport, his role with the NHL, a look at the league’s marketing/promotion efforts, as well as his Stanley Cup Finals predictions.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back to discussing all things Rangers hockey soon but figured I’d give you guys something to enjoy before tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames.

Let’s hear your comments!

Goal Line Report: How did you first get into hockey?
Michael DiLorenzo: My brother played youth hockey in Acton, Mass., and my father was always watching local Bruins telecasts on TV38. After a couple of years, I got the itch to try my hand at playing. After my serious playing days ended, I had the itch to coach high school. And then landed here at the NHL.

GLR: Growing up, who was your favorite team? How about your favorite player?
MD: My dad was a Rangers fan, and the same year we moved to Boston (1975), Brad Park was traded from New York to the Bruins. So my first years as a hockey fan were rooting for the Bruins and Park was my favorite player. Then around 1983 two things happened: Park left Boston for Detroit and someone from my hometown, Bobby Brooke, joined the Rangers. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked on the Rangers. Though, now I root for all 30 teams. Ahem.

GLR: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be involved in hockey?
MD: When my high school career ended, I knew that I wanted to be involved in coaching or management. I had been a role player on some good high school teams, but I had the hockey bug and wanted to be involved in any way I could, even if not on the ice.

GLR: Prior to working at the NHL, what were some of your other jobs?
MD: After graduating from UMass (Amherst), I was a sportswriter in the Boston area. Then I moved into public relations, representing primarily entrepreneurial technology companies.

GLR: What is your title at the NHL? What responsibilities do you have?
MD: I am the director of corporate communications. My job is to communicate business news, events and storylines. I also help keep our internal departments connected to what’s going on around the company.

GLR: Since the lockout ended, how do you think the league has done with regards to promoting/marketing the game?
MD: Virtually every key metric of fan engagement is up since the lockout (attendance, ratings, revenues, unique visitors). It all starts with a compelling product on the ice. The fans need to be delighted and compelled. But the investments being made in marketing and direct/digital marketing are definitely having an effect on fan engagement. Especially in serving the 50% of our avid fans that live outside the geographic area of their favorite teams. Those folks have long had an access constraint that is now being met.

GLR: The game is obviously popular in Canada. What is the league doing in regards to shaping the game in the United States?
MD: Our strategic imperative in the US is to get our avid fans to spend more time with the NHL. Within that imperative, there are two key tactics: super-serve the geographically displaced fans (mentioned above) that can’t see or read about their favorite team as often as they want to; and also, get NHL fans to think beyond their favorite team affinity and become more engaged with national storylines.

GLR: Speaking of shaping the game in the U.S., tell us about how you think bloggers have impacted the game.
MD: I think bloggers are forcing all of us - corporations, communications pros and consumers alike - to rethink how news and opinions are consumed. One thing they’ve done in all areas of news and opinion is to shrink the news cycle dramatically. So you have more things being covered and opined on by more people. Some of it’s legit and worthy of discussion, but not all. I think the wheat just needs to be separated from the chaff.

GLR: How do you think that bloggers will be involved with the game going forward?
MD: Personally I think in the future the line that divides traditional media and new media will be completely obscured. Those writers that are covering the game legitimately and tastefully will still have a seat at the table.

GLR: Now for some actual hockey talk: In your opinion, what has been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season? Why? How about the most disappointing?
MD: I am surprised that we’ve not seen Mats Sundin back on the ice yet. I was certain he’d be playing by now because he clearly has a lot left in the tank and the reports were that he had some very attractive offers to come back. I think the Boston Bruins have also been a surprise. I thought they would be a good, gritty team, but didn’t think they’d be cruising along quite this smoothly. The Dallas Stars also have to be one of the most surprising teams, though for a much different reason. OK, call them disappointing.

GLR: Look into your crystal ball: If you had to pick the 2009 Stanley Cup winner right now, who would you pick?
MD: I’ll take the safe route and say Detroit. They’re the champs until someone comes in and knocks them off. That said, the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy in team sports to win and nearly impossible to win back-to-back. Better to ask me about high school hockey in Boston!

GLR: Any words of wisdom for our readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
MD: Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck! And some bonus wisdom from Fred “The Fog” Shero - “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident and money takes wings. Only one thing endures, and that is character.”

Thanks again Mike and we hope you’ll stop by again in the near future. 

Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
  Tags: bobby+brooke, boston+bruins, brad+parl, calgary+flames, detroit+red+wings, michael+dilorenzo, montreal+canadiens, new+york+rangers, nhl, pittsburgh+penguins

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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.