Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 12/18/07 at 02:25 PM ET
Paul’s post about the Red Wings’ continued inability to promote themselves to both a local and national audience stuck in my head all day long Monday. As I watched the Wings defeat the Capitals by the hair of their chinny chin chins, rolling over a team that outplayed them once again, I kept thinking the same thing…Why?
All I know is this: Mike Babcock said nothing remotely controversial during his conference call, but it still took almost three hours before the Red Wings approved a transcript of the conversation that usually takes 15-20 minutes to appear on the NHL’s media website.
The Red Wings talked about reducing ticket prices for the balance of the regular season—that ended in October.
It’s $55, plus a “convenience charge,” plus a Ticketmaster fee, for a lower-upper-bowl seat again. We heard a rumbling from Chris Chelios about the Wings possibly reducing ticket prices again in January on Monday, but it was the first we’d heard of it.
The open practices ended at “one” doled out at the start of the regular season, and there might be one in January—if the Wings feel like actually getting off their butts and finding a charity to get involved so that they can make the entire endeavour a tax write-off. There have been, outside a few charity drives, no attempts to bring the players and fans closer with a “meet and greet” or two.
While it’s great to see the Wings’ website offer up real recaps and locker-room content, and I cannot emphasize enough what a welcome change that is, the media scrums still don’t render players in three dimensions—it took Dan Moriarty from Inside the NHL to reveal something as simple as the fact that Tomas Holmstrom wears the same three gray shirts under his gear for every game, which makes finding the “lucky shirt” pretty difficult.
He’s been a Red Wing for what, eleven seasons, and that simple, “He’s a human being like the rest of us” detail was never allowed to be leaked out of what is still very much so a closed locker room and a tight ship.
I’ve received some lip service from the organization simply because I upset them, but the facts of the matter remain—the Red Wings are under-marketed, overpriced to watch in a metropolitan area whose residents won’t pay $55 for upper-bowl seats (unless what Chelios said has been confirmed, anyway), they’re kept away from the public in terms of both media censorship and player access…
And the Red Wings are really proud of themselves despite the fact that “$1 hot dog night” is not exactly an earth-shattering promotion. The reported 11,000 dogs sold probably earned them a little more than the 2,000-3,000 that they sell for $3.50, and it got a decent amount of butts in the seats against an unfamiliar Panthers team.
It’s a great start, but they’ve got to do that every night. We’re at 300,000 jobs lost and counting, so anything that gives fans more perceived bang for their buck, especially relating to the Joe’s high concessions and parking prices, is huge, just huge.
It’s sad that even when they put in what they see as an honest day’s work promoting their players and drawing fans into their rink, it still doesn’t hold up. As Paul so wisely noted, Monday was all about new University of Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, Lions coach Rod Marinelli’s latest comments about the probably-out-of-the-playoffs Lions, the college basketball programs at Michigan State and the University of Michigan, Sunday’s NFL scores and Monday night’s Vikings-Bears match-up—and oh yeah how about those Red Wings and Ovechkin now back to you and your report about what Rich Rodriguez ate for breakfast three weeks ago.
Did anybody in the media even catch the obvious joke that Dan Cleary snuck into the Versus broadcast, suggesting that the Wings got a “tongue-licking?” Has anybody in the press ran with the fact that the guy who constantly quotes Google and Wikipedia and claims he’s right about everything has been given the nickname “Bear” by Jiri Hudler, like Steve Irwin’s successor, Bear “This lava right off the tourist path is really dangerous!” Grylls? Can you imagine the marketing possibilities of “Dan vs. the Minnesota Wild?”
I guess there isn’t enough room in the press box for both insight and a little creative thinking. That’s too bad, because the Red Wings continue to roll along atop the NHL, playing (most nights, anyway) a ridiculously fast, take-no-prisoners style of hockey based upon furious forechecking and making highly-skilled plays while embracing the “bump and grind” necessary to succeed in today’s NHL. It’s delightfully fun to watch the Wings play, and ridiculously silly to see the gorgeous tapestries of highlight-worthy material Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Holmstrom weave, but the local sports media would rather spend fifty minutes discussing a quote from Rod Marinelli’s weekly press conference—which receives a show of its own on Fox Sports Detroit—instead of the fact that Detroit is, without a doubt, home to the best team in the NHL, a team whose crowd is slowly but surely starting to come around and chant “Let’s go Red Wings!” when the team needs a lift—which is something we didn’t hear in October or November.
The Wings are still a “given” in this town, a steady hum amidst the background noise, but not the star attraction they should be, and it’s only the bloggers who seem to care—and our attempts to promote the team are met with derision from the organization. At times, it seems like it’s us and Chris Chelios, whenever he’s allowed to speak to the media, anyway.
The Wings did one thing really well this season—they asked Fox Sports Detroit and WXYZ to come with them to Children’s Hospital for the team’s annual pre-Christmas visit, where the only smiles larger than the ones on the sick kids whose days were brightened by the Wings’ presence were those on the faces of the players themselves. That was precious to see, and wonderful to see some real human beings be genuinely touched by such a simple event.
Otherwise, it’s background noise, because while the organization is trying harder, “harder” and “hard enough” are two different things.
Is it wonderful to see the progression? Yeah, but this is a learning curve other NHL teams climbed years ago, and it took a full year’s worth of both criticism from outspoken bloggers and loads of empty seats—especially in the playoffs, when the U.S. and Canadian media spotlight was not nearly as kind to the scores of empties as the local media (which would note the number of tickets sold, not visual butts-in-seats count) had been—for the Wings to get this far, and while this one is between you and me, not everybody in the organization’s getting equal time to do what they do best to promote the team.
Welcome to Detroit, where the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Wings beat Ovechkin. Back to your report on Rod Marinelli having a hangnail, Bill…
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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