Posts Tagged ‘college hockey

15
Apr
12

Union College Hits the Jackpot

Union College hit the jackpot on its way to Tampa to play in the Frozen Four ice hockey championship. Matt Futterman, a Union College grad who now scribes for one of the top newspapers in the free world, the Wall Street Journal, wrote an op ed apology describing how wrong he was when he vehemently campaigned against the college’s reinstatement of the hockey program when he was an undergrad there 21 years ago. As a college senior, Futterman feared hockey was not a worthwhile pursuit for a college with the academic standards of Union. He describes his story HERE on the Journal’s web site.

Good thing he has had a change of heart. Head Coach Rick Bennett has done a great job picking up where Nate Leaman, now at Providence College, left off. Winning at Union can’t be easy. I’d liken it to recruiting for sports at Stanford. There are only so many males out there who are really good athletes who can also score well enough on the ACAT/SAT in order to get in. And who are diligent enough students in the classroom who can stay in. In short, you’re looking for a special breed of cat. Apparently, they found enough of them to win at Union. My eyes were opened to Union when they played here in Minnesota during the Mariucci Classic tournament during the Christmas-New Years break in 2010. They beat the Golden Gophers in the tourney’s first game, 3-2 in OT. Understand something: The Minnesota fan base does not think their team should EVER lose to someplace called Union College.  If we must lose sometime, we lose to brand names — North Dakota, Wisconsin, Boston College. Not Union. It was a big time wake up call for the Gophers, but more so for the rest of college hockey. Union may have it going, people.

Having the Wall Street Journal run Mr. Futterman’s piece in the paper plus doing a video with him is icing on the public relations cake. First, dumb people do not read the Wall Street Journal. Opinion leaders do. Smart people, people in leadership, people who can donate financially and maybe even afford to send their kids to Union read the Journal. Secondly, everyone except the most callas of people like a Prodigal Son story. Instead of pleading insanity for being the son of a psychotherapist and a lawyer, Mr. Futterman takes full responsibility for being wrong, even going so far as to apologize in person and on camera to the past president, Roger Hull, who spearheaded the drive to get a hockey program back at Union. Generally speaking, people don’t like to admit they are wrong, let alone do it publicly. Watching the video on the Journal’s site, it’s hard not to like Mr. Futterman.

Alas, he does have a vociferous critic in Zach Pearce, a contributor to — you guessed it — the Union College Hockey Blog. In a rant on his blog, Mr. Pearce doesn’t buy Futterman’s mea culpa and thinks he belittled Union’s history because he referred to it as “slightly-less-than-illustrious.”

“The troubling part of Mr. Futterman’s article is that it reads dangerously as a misinformed personal attack on the school,” Pearces asserts. Really? Union has its cadre of distinguished alumni to be sure, but lest’s be realistic: It’s not Harvard. In athletics it won’t remind you of Stanford either. The Wikipedia list maintained by Union itself is a little short on famous graduates since, say, 1960. It doesn’t mean Union isn’t a terrific school with wonderful people. However, as a contributing alum, Matt Futterman has done more to elevate the visibility of the school than President Chester A. Arthur has done lately. To use Mr. Futterman’s description of himself as a Union student, Mr. Pearce comes across as much of an “obnoxious punk” as Mr. Futterman was 21 years ago. Funny how history repeats itself.

If I were Rick Bennett, I’d welcome back Matt Futterman with open arms. In fact, I’d give him a jersey and have him write a piece on the program for the team’s web site. After all, he just did your program a favor by acknowldging his youthful stupidity to about three million Wall Street Journal readers. A lot of those people never knew about Union College. Now they do. Way to go, Dutchmen!

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11
Apr
12

Muzik’s Best Hockey Photos from this Year’s State of Hockey

There’s no playoff hockey here in Minnesota (again) this year, so we are confined to watching the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV (once again). All I’m left with now are souvenir photos. And more time to complete my taxes and let my sore lower back heal up.

Along with my co-editor (my dad), I put together my best hockey photos from thirty-three NHL games and a bunch of Minnesota Gopher games. While I live in St. Paul, Minn., judging by the photos you’d think I lived in Edmonton, Alberta. That’s because we saw the Oilers four times four times  (one preseason game, three regular season) by the first of the year. Please let me know what you think. You leave a comment on my blog or friend me on Facebook and leave a comment there. (To go to Facebook, please chick HERE.)

30
Mar
12

How I Helped the Providence College Friars Hockey Team

It’s been a while since I’ve made any new posts to my blog. Well, I’ve ben busy. Let me share what I’ve been doing.

Two years ago I had preliminary talks with Tim Army, then the men’s ice hockey coach for the Providence College Friars, about how I could bring my knowledge of new media to help the program at Providence. Whole it took some time to jump through the hurdles, I eventually got the chance to do consulting work for the Friars. Although it turned out to be Tim’s last year on the job – he’s now an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche — I am forever grateful I got a chance to make an impact. And I know I made an impact because some of things I started have been picked by the new coaching staff and the media relations department.

Using the tools of new media – blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – is an essential thing in what Seth Godin calls our “sharing economy.” However, in order to share your story it needs to be packaged as interesting content. Yes, being interesting is important. Using your Facebook page to tell the world you had strawberries this morning for breakfast does not qualify as interesting.

Providence College (PC), while it has a huge brand name across the country, is actually a very small school. My first trip to the school was an eye-opener for me. The campus was about as big as Hamline University here in St. Paul. PC’s undergrad enrollment is only 4,000. Given the shrinking numbers of people working in newsrooms in both TV and newspapers, it’s critical for an athletic program to have a structured method to get their message out. New media is the great equalizer a program at Providence has to get their message out to recruits and fans. Recruits first, fans second. If you don’t have the players who can play – even of they are good students in the classroom – you won’t win, fans won’t show up and coaches will get fired. That’s the way it goes.

Here are some things that the Friars have done that have them headed in the right direction. I’ll also discuss some things I think they need to do.

Friar Hockey Blog and Twitter

Having a blog is the most foundational thing you can do in new media. Why? The algorithm Google uses to search the web love blogs. So, I got one started last year and they picked it up. Mine was heavy on opening visuals, as you might imagine. All my copy lead with a photo or photos at the top or an embedded video. I believe strongly in using a compelling photo or video in everything. There’s still a lot of truth in the Chinese proverb “A picture is worth a thousand words.” See mine here.

You can check out the official Friar Hockey Blog on the PC hockey web site HERE. Way to go, Friars.

With the proliferation of smart phones, using Twitter is another absolute essential. I got it started last year, a separate Twitter account just for the men’s hockey team. And I started tweeting from the penalty box when the Friars played at Merrimack. (I was also shooting photos from there, too, which was a challenge.) This season the program fixed up the Twitter page and delved into using it. Come game night there was nothing better this year than getting game updates on my phone. I loved knowing how the Friars were doing and not having to search for any information. There’s still a ways to go, different ways to use Twitter to get the message out about the Friars. But they are off to a great start.

What PC Needs to do Next

1. To get to the next level, PC needs to organize like a newspaper or TV station does. Ever heard of an editorial calendar? From a PR standpoint, you use it to plot important dates on the calendar you want to get your message out. Of course, you have to decide what your message is and by what method you are going to use. Putting out content on a consistent basis is crucial to developing an audience.

2. Use video and audio way more. Technology has made it possible to create and post high quality video quickly. PC isn’t doing much in this realm, and that’s where they must go. Words on a computer screen are OK, but the most powerful communications media are moving pictures with REALLY good sound. In fact, if I had to pick one or the other, I’d take great audio first.

Here’s perfect example of something very well done! It’s the audio podcasts from the U.S. Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede, right from their home page. They keep you updated on the current team as well as their alumni. Simple stuff, but it’s excellent.

Nate Leaman was hired away from Union College to be the new head coach at Providencen last year. Coach Leaman has worked for some great coaches, Shawn Walsh at Maine and Mark Mazzoleni at Harvard. And he worked with one of the legendary college hockey recruiters in Grant Standbrook while at Maine, too. I’d like to hear Coach Leaman talk about what he values, his formative experiences, what he wants in a player, etc. At the very least, he should do his own version of a weekly coaches show. Something short in audio or video format that’s just a few minutes long.

And if PC wants to get really, ambitious they can do a version of Friars 24/7. Tim was very much in support of showing what playing at PC was about and his style as a coach. When you have a coach on board like that, you have the that magic word — access! And that’s what wins awards. Not to mention, it’s the sort of thing that builds on audience. And that’s what we were after. This is the sort of thing that’s worthwhile for a school to do internally because they can control the message. Moreover, they can deliver something an audience can’t get from the local TV or newspaper. The North Dakota fighting Sioux did something similiar this year and got very position comments from it. While I won’t claim mine was anywhere near the HBO version, you can check out my version of Friars 24/7 on YouTube. Just click here.

One opinionated suggestion: Skip doing the media guide in PDF format or any other format. Use the company and their software the Wisconsin Badgers use, ProForma, to do online-style magazine. Why use this? In a world of smart phones and iPads, this format fits perfectly. It allows you to use video, use big pictures and share content. It won’t be long before a major athletic department like Wisconsin will abandon at least partially if not totally printing game day programs for football. Why print thousands of programs that run the risk of going unsold when folks are brining their iPads to games anyway? Customers are already using their smart phones will shopping at Tartget and Best Buy. My bet is it’s only a matter of time the proliferation of the hand-held device leads to this. This is just a way cooler way to do things.  You can catch a sample of Wiscon’s magazine, Varsity Online, here:

3. Use Facebook to connect with recruits and fans.

Why an emphasis on Facebook? Virtually every athlete you’ll recruit from now on is on Facebook. And if you have compelling content, you can be feeding them information all the time about your program. It’s that simple.

Plus, Coach Leaman has shown a genuine interest in reaching out to the student body at PC through his Mission 3000 program. I’d best most of the students who could fill Schneider Arena are on Facebook. Moreover, coaches should be monitoring potential recruits social media use. Many colleges are using software for student recruitment alone, making it possible for admissions offices to capitalize of the role of social media. What students say on social networks offers the most complete picture of their interests, concerns and goals. Knowing that enables you to engage them in ways that are the most relevant to them.

There you have it. There’s a lot more to be done, but I that’s all the free stuff I’ll give out for now. Thanks, again, Providence for letting me be part of your athletic program.

16
Jun
10

Two Minutes in the Box at the Air Force Academy

Online websites are the great equalizer in college recruiting these days. Would you take a job without looking at a company’s site to see what they are about? Of course not! Recruits are doing the same thing. This idea I’m profiling here is so original my friend the Nike marketer Andy Pawlowski over at the Digital Hoops Blast blog is absolutely going to love it.

One of the best recruiting tools any school has is their own student/athletes. If they like the experience they are having, they’ll be more than happy to spread the word. One of the best features I’ve seen in this regard is “Two Minutes in the Box,” a short, two-minute or so interview show done by Cadet Jeff Hajner, a hockey player at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Hajner really did his homework for the show which consisted of interviews with various members of the Air Force Academy staff and students. In the first part of the show, he asked questions about various things from a guest’s bio. The second part consisted of a five-question quiz against the clock. Fun stuff considering Hajner got most of the top-ranked officers who run the academy to be on his show: Brig. Gen. Samuel Cox, Commandant of the Cadets; Brig. Gen. Dana Born, Dean of the Faculty, and Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, Superintendent of the Academy (he’s the top dog!).  These are some pretty accomplished people, and they all walked out on the ice to get into the penalty box to be interviewed by Cadet Hajner.

Hajner had to love it, too. In his interview with Lt. Gen. Gould, the last question he asked on the quiz part was open-ended: “Lemon jello or chocolate pudding?” The head honcho of the U.S. Air Force Academy picked chocolate pudding, which, according to Hajner was the wrong answer. I guarantee you this is probably the only time a cadet at the academy could tell a general he was wrong!

So, what does this tell me about playing at the Air Force Academy? These people obviously take their jobs seriously. (Since they are part of defending our nation, let’s hope so.) However, they are not above having fun with what they are doing without making it a joke. Anyone who can handle the academic load at the academy will undoubtedly get a great education. But it’s obvious they are about more than the serious business of the military. They have a personality and it definitely comes out through “Two Minutes in the Box.”

30
Mar
10

Making a Coach’s Day…

Photo by Vince Muzik

Rarely, rarely, rarely have I ever engaged in conversation with an athlete during competition. It’s not professional and can be downright dangerous to your career. Ever great now and then, when the spirit moves me, there’s an exception — and Monday night’s game between the Minnesota Wild and the L.A. Kings was one of them.

One thing I noticed about TV timeouts in the NHL is that they can completely bring the momentum of a game to a stand still, particularly when you are on the bench. As I was shooting from the team bench during the second period, the first TV timeout out did just that. I noticed just around the glass next to me sat King’s defenseman Jack Jackson, a guy who played a year for my friend Tom Ward down at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (SSM), a boarding School in Faribault, Minn., with a killer hockey program and a list of impressive alumni: Actor Marlon Brando was expelled, but lengendary Oklahoma Sooners football coach Bud Wilkinson and sportscaster Brent Mussberger went there along with nine guys who became NHL first round draftees, including some guy named Sidney Crosby. On my way back to the Twin Cities a couple days earlier, I stopped by to see Tom. SSM doesn’t hide their success. Hanging in the on campus arena lobby are the jerseys of their accomplished alumni — Zack Parise, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews hang from the ceiling and greet you as you walk in. Jack has his jersey hanging just around the corner with a bunch of others.

To get to the point, as we were all staring off into space I turned around the glass with my Nikon to the short lens and ripped off three frames of Jack sitting there. When I finished, I put the camera down and said, “Tom Ward says to say hello,” then turned around to resume looking off into space. (I figure if Tom knew I was standing next to one of his guys he’d want me to say hello.) A few seconds later I felt the tap, tap , tap of a hockey stick on my right shoulder. I looked back to see Jack leaning up to me, figuring he was probably to tell me what to do with myself using some hockey player language. Instead he said to me, “Tell Tom I miss playing for him.”

Boy, does life get any better for a coach than that? That’s a pretty complimentary thing to say. The brotherhood must run strong for those Shattuck-St. Mary’s guys.