Media Access, COVID-19, and You

We are all mind-numbingly aware of the COVID-19 virus (I’m only going to call it C-19 moving onward) and we know what it’s done to the social landscape of the world. Obviously, sports is put into this and has led to leagues shutting down their locker room access and even possibly playing in front of empty arenas (although the AHL already did that).

My opinion is good. While it might be an overreaction, you rather err on the side of caution rather than have to clean up the mess that comes from not taking the right moves in the first place. Playing catch-up is never fun, especially in a wide-spread illness.

But seeing media people hem and haul about the shutting down of locker rooms and access to players and give a vague threat to the leagues bascially saying, “This better be temporary,” makes me tilt my head. As someone who has pieces of laminated paper saying I’m part of the media, I’ve never once thought that locker room access is needed to have a good story. Hell, at the University of North Dakota games; all the interviews for the masses are done in a scrum style with two or three players and head coach Brad Berry. We all get our stories, we all move along. Brad Schlossman is one of the finest writers in hockey and he rarely gets the locker room access some of these reporters in sports get, but he’s still churning out bangers week after week.

Does that help with some stories and such?? Sure. Is it a necessity?? That’s a hard sell for me. Does it equate to better stories?? I’m sure it does. Ken Rosenthal thinks it does (subscription because innovation). To a point, it can be true because access and having a good standing with the players can lead to things down the line and becoming an insider. Also, the point that it’s making the media members look petty because they’re getting singled out and other groups aren’t.

But, when the Colorado Avalanche have a sign reminding media members not to hug players or sit at stalls seems more to me like writers are mad because they can’t be buddy-buddy with some players. There’s not many other entertainment industries that allow people to be as tight-knit as the sports community. It can be considered both awesome and invasive all in one.

If you’re a good reporter, you’ll find a way to get the story without having to make brunch plans with the top-line guys or deal with the stench of equipment by your nose when you sit down in one of their stalls. People’s story writing abilities aren’t tied to all-access approaches in locker room settings. Yes, it makes a story better…but there’s tons of people out there writing quality stuff without having a fraction of the access or really needing it– but they’re still getting respect from people who enjoy the content they put out– access or not.

If worst comes to worst– everyone is connected. If you have a good relationship with a player now and need access to the room without getting access to the room– you should have their number. Text them, call them, email them– if they’re really your buddy, they’ll find a way to make time for you either in-person or virtually. Does it tell the whole story you’re looking for?? No, because it doesn’t have those subtle nuances of a locker room…but it’s still better than no access at all.

And yet, the story the writers are really missing are the impact around the games. The fans who may have taken a vacation to see a game, but will have to wait because the game was shuddered down to fans. The impact this will have on local businesses on top of the impact of non-gameday happens with this panic. The workers inside the venues who are going to be losing money and might already be on a tight budget as it is.

But no, let’s talk about the locker rooms shutting down. Let’s talk about the lack of access being the reason some can’t create a good story. There’s stories to be had out there that don’t require direct player access. You just have to be good enough to find it.

The State of Wazz Address

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The State is Maryland….always has been, always will be.

In any case, it’s a new NHL season today since contracts for players only go to July 1st, really screwing over the broadcasters who have to cover this event in Canada on their Independence Day– but that’s the NHL for you. However, with a new year– probably time to give some kind of update about what will happen this upcoming season with regards to blogging, podcasting, and the like. New year, new me, right??

BLOGGING

Okay, so I took some kind of break because there’s not much to write about and there’s only so much John Tavares content people can bear. It’s been a fun time with the Capitals playoff run, but it won’t all be about the Caps and Maryland Black Bears– it’ll be a very heavy influence; but as the season goes on, I’ll get back to all the Tepid Takes and other “feature-esque” work that I’ve done in the past. It may be a little slow in the summer months (as it always is), but it’ll pick up from there I hope.

There’s a possibility I’ll do some minor league stories, but to be honest– I fell out of love with minor league hockey. It was something to try and reinvent myself for a bit and it worked for a while. Then things changed and I lost the passion for it. Maybe the bug will come back, but I really don’t think it’d be the same as it was during the FOHS Farm Report/The Sin Bin time. Interests changes, things happens, and you have to move on from something you’ve lost interest in if it’s completely a by-the-numbers role you’re playing.

There’s an off chance that there could be more NASCAR coverage, so if you’re into that– awesome; if not– that’s cool, too, but don’t get annoyed if it does happen. I mean, I do co-host a NASCAR podcast so….

PODCASTING

There’s not going to be major changes in the substance of the podcasts– let that be known. It’s just a matter for us as a whole to be better with the promoting and things like that. Expect Face Off Hockey Show and The Soderstrom Bubble to be more active promoting things overall. If we want to leave any kind of mark where we can’t be denied about our participation in big NHL events, this is the way to do it. We will hope that you help in that process for promoting stuff you like about our Media Faction. Even if it is talking about our Patreon to others to help offset costs and things like that for the show.

That said, there could be a new Untitled Podcast coming your way from the FOHSMF– that just depends on time, effort, and actually doing it. Stay tuned around early September for a decision on that.

In The Draft Show with Wilson and Wazz will continue on as normal– which I know you’re all happy about. Or not. I really don’t know the feeling about my readers and NASCAR.

OTHER LIFE THINGS

Aside from the whole “try to eat better and workout more” and other usually January 1st resolutions….there’s a project I’ve been collecting things for. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but just keep putting off and doubting myself in terms of what the response would be from it. It’s really just a matter of actually doing it– as it goes with most projects– so I’m going to try and be better with actually making that come to life.

And be a little more present in life and actually thriving in the moment. Yeah, it’s zen BS, but it’s my zen BS.

…and that’s what’s up. It’s the update you didn’t know you wanted and probably still don’t care much for. Such as life and it’s an outlook on what you can expect from me this summer and moving forward.

Fixing the NHL on TV: NHL Awards

In this format, I’m going to see what could be done by the NHL to help their off-ice product hit a little more with viewers and actually have people give a damn about what they throw on there. Also, what could actually be put onto the NHL Network or NBCSN or wherever and really hit hard.¬†

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I mocked the NHL Awards. I mocked it hard. I mocked it when broadcasting.

Outside of NASCAR, I think it’s the NHL is the only sport that has their awards banquet televised (EDIT: The NBA is putting their awards show on TV for the first time this year). To be honest, it’s very unnecessary and with all the dull sketches, terribly written banter, and awkward moments– shows that it doesn’t need to be on TV at all. But, if the NHL insists on broadcasting it– here’s some things to make it better.

POINT 1: Put it on NHL.TV: The TV aspect doesn’t work. Only 2.3-million people watched the Awards show across the three networks covering it. The fact you needed to actually span this out along with the Expansion Draft showed that no one cared. If you put this all on NHL.TV, not only do more people have to log onto the site and bump those pageviews, but it’s not a big thing for the ratings bug that the NHL, NASCAR, and WWE overly care about.

POINT 2: Don’t force celebrity hosts: Joe Manganiello is a lot of things, but a host of an award show, I don’t think he is. Of course, not entirely his fault, but there were so many other people that hockey people know that could have been in that position. Though, any team who has a host that pays attention to him would go over the top with that stuff, like Manganiello did– hell, if I was host and the Caps won, I’d be intolerable. But Jay Baruchel would have been great in that role, rather than a presenter, hell– put a host of the NHL on NBCSN or Sportsnet there; like Daren Millard or Liam McHugh there. Sure, they aren’t funny– but it’s not meant to be funny. Just put people out there who know how to move from one part to another in an almost seamless way.

POINT 3: Lessen Awkward Moments: Look, that Marcel Dionne thing is bad….like, Joe Namath bad. You know what could have helped that?? Not having odd-ball presenters that don’t have any kind of tie to each other or just meet seconds before they go out on stage. Sure, it’d be boring and all that, but if people know each other– you can have the awkward moments not happen and if there is a bind, they can get out of it better than most. Or just have the host be the presenter of every award, too.

POINT 4: Don’t give them away beforehand: I know there’s some awards we don’t care about as a whole, but if you have to give them away the day before– maybe they’re not worth giving away. Sure, the Expansion Draft helped bump those awards to the day before but maybe they were test driving awards not being televised. Sure, one of the awards was the Mark Messier Award, but as long as someone cares about winning it– they should get the accolades in front of the crowd rather than random assembled media. Of course, they shouldn’t have gotten bump– which leads me to….

POINT 5: Don’t combine anything with it: The Awards should be special and by putting the Expansion Draft with it lessens both allure. There was no need to combine them, especially when you saw how awkward Bill Foley and George McPhee looked on stage during the whole thing. Let the Awards breathe and speak for themselves. No need to mix anything with it.

POINT 6: Enough with the music: There’s no need for the Arkells to be there. I’m sure they’re great in their own right, but I’m sick of the music that the NHL throws at events that hockey fans are pretty “meh” about. Look at Neon Trees at the Draft Fan Fest this weekend– they were a “meh” pick. Is there a need for music?? Probably not– so let’s do away with it except for the All-Star Game and maybe the outdoor games.

Okay, that’s that– it’s the summer and it’s going to be stuff like this that could make things better or marginally watchable. That’s all I want to convey.

Putting the Minor Leagues Into the Mainstream

During the Memorial Cup Final on Sunday, NHL.com’s AHL writer Patrick Williams brought up an interesting concept when it came to the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals coming up and how to get some buzz to those casual minor league hockey fans.

Williams is not wrong. The AHL putting their games out there for free on AHLLive.com, but even with that, people need to have a purpose to go to that site and put in all the things in order to watch the game. It’s not like the CHL had in the US and Canada where you could be flipping around the channels and find themselves watching the game because it caught there attraction. Yes, you can make the argument that the NHL is not in and around many prime channels and you may need a reason to turn to that channel– but it’s still on TV is the point.

However, for the production value of the games will have to be better by ten-fold. On the AHL Live feed, all the things that are shown on the jumbotron are shown on the broadcast, including in-game graphics and promotions, are shown during the broadcast with the radio play-by-play being over top of the action. It’s not like you can see replay and have those plays broken down, so it’s a real disadvantage. Though, there are times AHL Live simulcasts TV broadcasts, but it’s few and far between.

At this point in the season, you would think that both the AHL and the ECHL would want to show off their product in the best of lights. The member teams, you would hope, would find a way to get a local TV station to help with the production of their game film and make it very presentable for a championship series and not grainy quality you’d expect to see in archival footage from the 1970s.

Of course, a budget factor would come into play. You wouldn’t think teams would have much money earmarked for the TV side of things,¬†though at this point in the season– you could splurgs for something like this. Plus, you’d have to imagine that if they got on regular TV, the NHL Network would be able to grab that satellite feed and broadcast it on their airwaves because, well, they don’t have anything else going on right now with the Cup Finals being the story of the next two weeks or so. Why not put the AHL or ECHL playoffs onto the channel to give hockey fans even more hockey that matters on the air.

I’ll always advocate for minor league hockey and to get minor league hockey out into the mainstream for people to not only check-up on their team’s prospects, but to learn about new players, areas, teams, league, and whatever else they can take away from watching the games. Making them watchable has to be the first step for minor leagues– first on a production level and next to get it out to the masses.

If there’s anything I missed with what the AHL and ECHL could do to improve upon their broadcasts, hit up the comment section.