Archive for November, 2010


This summer there was a big hoopla on Twitter when Phoenix Coyotes left wing Paul Bissonnette unexpectedly (or expectedly depending on how you look at it) deleted his Twitter account @PaulBizNasty.  The departure from tweeting came after controversial remarks surrounding the announcement of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract and its subsequent rejection by the NHL.  It was widely speculated that either the Coyotes or the NHL forced Bissonnette to delete the account, but when I questioned him on the subject his original reply was, “No comment. God I hate saying that. I miss it to. Tell everyone I love there support. It’s good for the fans. Get to know the players personality.”  He has since stated on his Facebook page (which has grown in friends exponentially to over 4,400 since the incident) that it was his agent who made him shut down the page and partnered with Sauce Hockey to create t-shirts with creative BizNasty slogans. Profits from the sales will be donated to Phoenix-area homeless shelters, as Bissonnette often expressed his love of “bums” on his Twitter account.

Bissonnette returned to Twitter at the start of the NHL season at @BizNasty2point0 and now has 16,662 followers. While the league, athletes and agents are constantly trying to figure out how to tap into the free advertising that social media provides and how to “do it right,” this incident plays back to the popular public relations mantra, “No publicity is bad publicity.”  If anything, Paul Bissonnette’s Twitter account is an example of how not to “do” social media. He is constantly offensive and far from politically correct.  However, the public reaction to the shutting down of his account proved that the fans crave a sort of “realness” from athletes, especially from hockey players, who have long been criticized for having no personality.  So where do we draw the line on what is appropriate?

The NHL GM’s meeting is today and one of the items on the table is the league’s social media policy, or lack thereof.  The NHL is the only major sports league that does not currently have a policy in place. Sports Business Daily recently held a roundtable of ten team and league executives to discuss the pros and pitfalls of social media. Most agreed that there are not yet strict policies in place, just “common sense” guidelines and a “we’ll know it when we see it” attitude to what athletes and team representatives should not do in the social space.  Regardless of guidelines or agreement on how to operate in the social space, it is evident that everyone agrees on the importance of existing in social media, as it is something that appeals to the fans. While in some cases, it has not translated to dollar-for-dollar ROI, the “behind the scenes” look at a team or athlete definitely enhances the experience for fans. Melissa Brenner, Vice-President of Marketing for the NBA said, “Whatever trepidation we might or might not have had at first was outweighed by the fans’ fervor for this.”

It will be interesting to see how new policies develop and change over time among the professional sports leagues and teams. One can certainly hope that restrictions don’t take away the inside look at player’s personalities, as in my opinion, that is what makes social media unique. I had the opportunity to talk to one of hockey’s best Twitter personalities this summer, goalie for the Albany Devils, Mike McKenna. Mike has done a fabulous job of growing his fan base through Twitter (@MikeMcKenna56), but also occasionally guest blogs on goalie-specific topics for InGoalMag. McKenna actually started using Twitter for the same reason that hockey fans are using it…to follow a favorite sport (in his case Indy car racing). He now has over 2,400 followers and Tweets regularly. He joined Twitter completely on his own.  McKenna said, “it’s a terrific way to engage and interact with fans, and that’s a high priority for me.  I make a point of being involved in whatever community I am playing in, and Twitter is just an extension of that.” This summer he even ran a contest via Twitter for his followers to help him choose a new design for his goalie pads. Although he says the pads that were selected weren’t his personal favorite initially, nearly 400 people voted and he wears the pads proudly. He hopes fans who voted can look at his gear and say “I had a part in choosing that!”

The great thing about Mike McKenna is that he is extremely aware of how social media can build or damage an athlete’s personal brand. When asked about why he uses it, McKenna responded, “I believe Twitter is more than a social networking platform.  For professional athletes and people with a modicum of celebrity, it’s also a personal marketing device.  I started Tweeting because it was fun and useful, but over time I have seen the professional benefits associated with it.  Although I truly enjoy interacting with my followers, I also realize that having an account aids in creating a personal fanbase.  In the sports world, a good reputation goes a long way, and presenting yourself in an interesting yet calculated manner on Twitter can only help.  With that knowledge comes the realization that self-censoring must happen constantly.  I have very strong political and religious opinions but I shy away from such topics.  I’d hate to alienate a fan purely based on beliefs. All too often, the only way fans get to know players is through media interviews, which very rarely show off the player’s true personality.  Twitter is pretty much the antithesis of that.”

Another big proponent of Twitter is agent, Scott Norton of Norton Sports. Norton encourages all of his clients to “get active with social media, as long as they will do so in a professional manner.  I know that both Twitter and Facebook can help any of the players from a PR and marketing standpoint, and am willing to assist them in the process.” Norton acknowledges that although he helps his athletes with setup and the technology, everything they post is their own.  One of Norton’s star clients Dustin Brown launched his DLo23 line with Combat Sports this summer and most of the promotion for the event was handled through the use of social media. Norton’s latest project launched with the help of social media is “Make My Day Monday, ” in which people are encouraged to take some time out of their lives each Monday to make an impact, no matter how big or small, on someone else’s life. This initiative has gotten a lot of press for Norton Sports and its clients and already made a big difference in the lives of many. Followers from everywhere Tweet in each Monday things they have done with the hashtag #MMDM, ranging from donating money to a cause to simply giving a coworker a ride home from work to help out.  Norton Sports also partnered with State Street Sports to host the first ever “Make My Day Monday” event in October.

As the public craving for the look inside the lives of professional athletes grows, it is in the professional league’s best interest to create rules, but not make them too restrictive. If athletes are not able to let their personalities show through in their use of social media, it will lose its appeal. Fans love social media because it gives them a chance to identify with their favorite athletes and realize that these guys are human beings, most with similar interests and concerns. In addition, the power of using social media and celebrity to do good can not be overlooked. After all, didn’t you get your “BizNasty Feeds the Homeless t-shirt?” I bought two…one for a friend for #MMDM.

I know I preach over and over that AHL fans need to move on when guys get traded to other teams, but I also like to keep tabs on guys I’ve seen play in Cedar Park. The AHL is a developmental league. NHL teams are looking at their affiliates for potential impact players at the next level. Players are also looking for an opportunity to make a jump. Here are some updates on former Texas Stars players from around the league:

*Mathieu Beaudoin (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Currently ranked 8th in overall points in the AHL. Beaudoin has 7 points and 7 assists through 12 games in San Antonio with the Rampage. Beaudoin has a plus-1 rating.

*Garrett Stafford (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Stafford has 3 goals and 8 assists in 11 games played with a plus-2 rating. Stafford was scratched in the contest in Cedar Park earlier this season.

*Matt Climie (Phoenix Coyotes/SA Rampage) – Matt Climie is currently on a 5-game winning streak, having allowed just 7 goals with a 1.37 GAA and a .958% over that stretch. However, he started in net during the 2 early season losses to his former team, the Texas Stars, allowing 7 goals against.

*Andrew Hutchinson (Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre Penguins) – Hutch is the only former Stars player that has spent significant time with his new NHL squad, as he was called up for 5 games to fill roster holes left by injured Pens defensemen. He did have an assist during his time with Pittsburgh, but had a minus-3 rating. The Wilkes-Barre Pens look like the team to beat this season as they are now 9-0 on the season. For Wilkes-Barre, Hutchinson has logged 2 goals and 5 assists.

*Warren Peters (Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros) – Peters is still a menace on the ice this year for the Aeros, constantly stirring up trouble with other teams, but not making a big impact on the scoreboard. In 11 games he has 1 goal, 2 assists and 14 penalty minutes.

*Ethan Graham (Charlotte Checkers) – Graham has played 4 games with the Checkers and logged 1 assist.

*Dan Jancevski (Philadelphia Flyers/Adirondack Phantoms) – Jancevski has the misfortune of playing on one of the worst teams in the AHL. Phantoms have a 2-9 record on the season and have already dismissed one player because of attitude problems, as well as warned two others. Jancevski wore the ‘C’ in one of the preseason games for the Phantoms. He has one assist.

Other random notes on Stars’ prospects/guys that have been in camp with Dallas or Texas (I know there are a ton more…these are just guys that have some good/interesting stats):

*Jack Campbell (Windsor Spitfires/OHL) – Campbell was signed to a 3-year entry-level deal this past week by the Dallas Stars. Campbell has played for 738 minutes in 13 games for the Spitfires and has faced 396 shots. The Spitfires weak defense has not done Campbell any favors this year and his stats show it. Campbell has a 3.82 GAA and a save percentage of .881.

*Tyler Beskorowany (Idaho Steelheads) – Besko logged his first career shutout for the Steelheads opener against Victoria this season. He has played in 8 games and is 3-3-1-1 with a 2.49 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

*Cody Lampl (Idaho Steelheads/ECHL) – Lampl has 5 assists for the Steelheads this year, almost halfway to the number of assists he had in the entire season (12) last year. Lampl also has a plus-1 rating. Random fun fact? Cody was the first Idaho-grown player to sign with the Steelheads.

*Tyler Ludwig (Idaho Steelheads/ECHL) – Ludwig also has 5 assists for the Steelheads…big downside? He also has a minus-4 rating..

*Nino Musitelli (Allen Americans/CHL) – Musitelli is leading the team with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists)

*Colton Yellow Horn (Allen Americans/CHL) – Yellow Horn has 11 points for Allen (3 goals, 8 assists)

*Scott Glennie (Brandon Wheat Kings/WHL) – Glennie has 2 goals and 13 assists in 16 games in his 4th season with the Wheat Kings.

I had a job interview in Frisco, Texas this past Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm. At precisely 12:31 pm , when I was 22 minutes away from the interview location, I received a call from the company saying they needed to reschedule the interview and asked if I could come in on Wednesday morning at 9 am instead. Considering the fact that I was already off work and I was very interested in this position, I replied that I could make the change. What I didn’t know at that time was that this day would be the beginning of an epic road trip. I would travel from Austin to Dallas to San Antonio to Houston to New Orleans to Lafayette to Houston and back home to Austin…1574 miles on the road….Boy, I love my Jeep.  Here are a few other things I learned on the road this week.

*When interviewing for a job, the words, “I don’t want to waste anyone’s time here” can be very valuable for both the interviewer and the interviewee. These words often trigger a brutal honesty from both parties that can cut through a lot of dancing around an unspoken issue. Such was the case with the job I interviewed for in Frisco. Throughout this job search I have run across several people who have a hard time believing I’d give up a wildly successful career in real estate for an entry level sports job. As many times as you say “It’s not about the money,” it’s still hard to convince a potential employer that you’d be happy making $30-40K a year after pulling in six figures. While I was initially asked back to Dallas for a second interview, those words led to a later phone call from the employer stating that it was likely they wouldn’t actually hire for this job for another three months, so it might be better to keep searching.

*Good friends are there for you at the times when you need them most, even if you haven’t been the best friend yourself. I absolutely adore some of the people that are and have been a part of my life, but lately with all of the job searching and moving from DC, I haven’t kept in touch with some people I should have. Somehow, those people swoop in when you least expect it and provide you with a much-needed heart-to-heart phone call and a free place to stay in New Orleans. Those people are also great at stating the obvious, but sometimes uncomfortable truth about what you should be doing with your life.

*Twitter is such an amazing connector of people.  I talked to a lot of people about Twitter on this trip…reason being? It’s part of the reason my trip went the way it did. I ended up with free tickets to the Rampage game on Wednesday night, press row seats by some awesome Houston media people for the Aeros game Friday night and some great conversations along the way. After the Twitter drama that did not involve me that I was somehow sucked into last weekend, it was really refreshing to be reminded of the other side of things.

*It is great to get outside your comfort zone at times and see the world….even if it is only Houston or San Antonio! It was nice to experience AHL games in two different arenas this week, see what types of in-game promotions other teams are doing, see things that work and things that don’t. I think a lot of times in the sports industry we get tunnel vision. The only people that travel with the team don’t really pay attention to the game production and share things they learn with others back in the trenches. I think it would serve all professional sports teams if their road crew occasionally shared some things that other cities are doing well.

*Texas Stars fans have a long way to go when it comes to getting rowdy at the games. I lived in Washington DC for four years and was lucky enough to experience the Red-ness at Verizon Center when the Caps play. Visiting Cedar Park Center for the first time, I was a little disheartened by the lack of fan-involvement in the games, but brushed it off as an AHL thing. After being in San Antonio and Houston, I think Texas just needs to step up their game. Yes, there are some people that get very involved at the games, but the Houston chants knock “Texas Stars” out of the water. Even in a huge arena the fans echo and get loud.

*I’m a very adaptable person. While it would drive some people crazy, there is something thrilling about waking up in a different city every day. Why I didn’t pursue a job younger in life where I could travel more, I don’t know. I love the constant change of scenery, meeting new people, discovering a new place. Of course, it is always nice to revisit the familiar (Julien’s PoBoys in Lafayette, oh how I love thee!!) but also fun to see new things.