6-month trend graph of sports coverage on blogs

blog sports coverage graph

This graph compares sports coverage on blogs of the NHL, NFL, MLB, WNBA, PGA, and NBA. The spike in posts for the NHL corresponds to the final week of the regular season, and game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between Carolina and Edmonton.

The NFL spike can be attributed to the NFL entry draft, with North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams being selected first overall by Houston. The Miami Heat's game 6 win over the Dallas Mavericks for the NBA Championship on June 20th drew over 0.7% of a very large blogosphere.

The Sacramento Monarchs defeated the Detroit Shock 95-71 in the first game of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday. The WNBA needs Sacramento's 3-point machine Kara Lawson (6 in game 1) or Stanford alum Nicole Powell to generate a little star power to encourage coverage of that final series.

NHL pre-season training camps and rookie tournaments also generate a spike in traffic every year. A complete list of training camp dates from the Hockey News can be found via James Mirtle. If you find a list of rookie tournaments that will be held this year, send an email here.

Anyone know of a similar graph of newspaper sports coverage? An interesting website chronicling the design of newspaper sports pages can be found at sportsdesigner.com.

[Update] Free Market Hockey and salary issues - tersa.livejournal.com.


Mike Grier "My NHL" Ad

Mike Grier

San Jose's new right wing Mike Grier was featured in the My NHL advertising campaign launched prior to last season's playoffs.

Veteran television commentator John Davidson summed up Mike Grier in two words for USA Hockey earlier this year, "Hard worker, hard worker, hard worker. That's what I think of when I hear Mike Grier's name." Grier earned a bronze medal with Team USA in the 2004 World Championships, and participated in the 1995 World Junior Championships.

After the trade to San Jose, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the official website "Take a look at the playoffs and we had to address penalty killing and size. Plus, both (Grier and Brown) have a great playoff history."

Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason may have the best description of what Grier will bring to the Sharks lineup. "He has only 10 playoff goals in his career, but that's not what made him effective. He was a punishing hitter, a wrecking ball in the playoffs. He wore down Philadelphia in the first round and did a number on Ottawa in the second. And he was a leader."

Sharks add depth and experience over offseason

The San Jose Sharks are looking to build on a regular season where linemates Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo took home NHL scoring titles and a Most Valuable Player honor. The Sharks rolled 2 potent scoring lines, developed more firepower from the blueline, and saw another #1 goaltender in Vesa Toskala emerge to join Evgeni Nabokov. Unfortunately, 4 straight losses to Edmonton in the Western Conference Semifinals raised concerns that needed to be addressed.

Needs: 1st line left wing, faceoffs, physical presence, defensive-defenseman.

C, Curtis Brown (Jul 4)
RW, Mike Grier (Jul 4)
D, Scott Ferguson (July 14)
D, Mathieu Biron (August 9)

D, Preissing (OTT)
C, Hennessy (OTT)
LW, Ekman (PIT)
LW, Scott Thornton (LA)
C, Alyn McCauley (LA)

- Mark Bell to the Sharks from Chicago for Preissing, Hennessy. Preissing, Hennessy, Barinka and 2008 2nd round draft pick from Chicago to Ottawa for Havlat, Smolinski.
- Nils Ekman, Patrick Ehelechner from San Jose to Pittsburgh for 2007 2nd round draft pick.

(Jul 15) Rob Davison, Scott Parker, Dimitri Patzold, Taylor Dakers, Joe Pavelski.
(Jul 16) Jim Fahey, Marcel Goc, Doug Murray, Tomas Plihal, Garrett Stafford, Grant Stevenson, Craig Valette.
(Jul 24) Mark Smith.
(Jul 25) Mark Bell, Christian Ehrhoff.
(Aug 10) Patrick Rissmiller.

Important Dates:
Rookie Tournament, Sep 8-12
Training camp, Sep 17
Pre-season, Sep 19 (LA)
Regular season, Oct 5 (STL)

The 6-4, 200 pound left wing Mark Bell will add another power forward element to the Sharks top scoring line. Strong along the boards, and with the size and balance to camp in front of the net, Bell should provide the ability to finish that Nils Ekman lacked. With many teams keying on Joe Thornton when he drops down low, or on Jonathan Cheechoo when he drives into the slot, Mark Bell will often find himself with the puck and a lot of open space.

Right wing Mike Grier instantly skews the height and weight averages for the Sharks roster. At 6-1, 227 pounds, Grier is a solid defensive forward who can take advantage of his size and wear down opponents. More on Grier in the next blog post.

This is Curtis Brown's second go around with the San Jose Sharks. Brown will add a needed faceoff touch, and a solid defensive game the Sharks will rely on come playoff time. Brown did not meet offensive expectations in San Jose or Chicago, but an uptempo offense will give him another opportunity to get it done.

The loss of Thornton and McCauley to Los Angeles changes the identity of this squad, but Grier and Brown are playoff-tested veterans who fill holes exposed in the last two playoff exits. Mark Bell adds another scoring threat on a line with the NHL's overall scoring and goal scoring champions.

The one weakness of the San Jose Sharks that the jury is still out on would be defense. Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren are solid and will log a lot of minutes. Ehrhoff and Carle are developing offensive threats, and Josh Gorges provides steady play that belied his 22 years and rookie status. Whether the Sharks can count on a steady contribution from Rob Davison, Jim Fahey, Doug Murray or Mathieu Biron, or whether the Sharks are not done dealing remains to be seen.

The last remaining, and oft-reported "problem" facing general manager Doug Wilson is the retention of two #1 goaltenders. The Sharks are a better team with both in the lineup, but can they afford it? San Jose has dipped far into the red the last few seasons, and dealing Evgeni Nabokov [salary] could bring the financial relief, or an impact defenseman, that the team needs.

[Update] Western Conference Midsummer Report - Forecaster.ca.

Off-season needs
The Sharks have a lot of depth in their system. Their most urgent issue is to solve the potential goaltending controversy by trading Evgeni Nabokov.

Done so far
They lost defensive forwards Alyn McCauley and Scott Thornton to Los Angeles, but the Sharks counter-attacked and signed free agents Curtis Brown and Mike Grier. We'll call it a wash. They then went on to trade away rearguard Tom Preissing and a pair of prospects to land that big, talented left-winger they have coveted to play with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo: Mark Bell.

[Update2] Sharks defense looks to be young - Fox Sports.

[Update3] Sharks sniper Cheechoo gets set to defend Rocket Richard Trophy - CP.

Cheechoo will have a new winger this season on his top line with centre and Hart Trophy winner Joe Thornton. The Sharks acquired physical winger Mark Bell and hope the former Chicago first-liner will mesh with Cheechoo and Thornton.

"Mark's a really good player," Cheechoo said of the 6-4, 205-pound Bell. "I played against him in junior (in the OHL) so I got to see him eight to 10 times a year. I know what he can do. He's talented, good with the puck, big and strong and good along the boards. I think he'll fit right in with the way our line plays. I've been on the ice a little bit with him already and I'm looking forward to getting in a game situation with him."

Joe Thornton named cover athlete for NHL 2K7 video game

Joe Thornton NHL2K7 cover

A press release from Take-Two Interactive Software earlier this summer named Joe Thornton as the cover athlete for NHL 2K7.

NEW YORK, NY, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., announced today that NHL All-Star center Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks is the official spokesman and cover athlete for NHL 2K7. The 2005-06 NHL assist and points leader was the catalyst behind the San Jose Sharks' 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, and has established himself as one of the best centers in the NHL.

The overall first pick of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Thornton has achieved many awards in his successful career. Named an NHL All-Star three consecutive times, Thornton has been a valuable member of Team Canada in international play, winning a gold medal for Team Canada in the 2004 World Cup, and was named MVP in the 2005 World Championship.

In his first year at San Jose, he helped lead the Sharks into the 2006 NHL Playoffs with his diligent work ethic, exceptional passing, and unselfish play. He is the 2006 recipient of the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the League's leader in points at the end of the regular season, as well as a nominee for this year's Hart Memorial Trophy as the League MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award.

"We're very proud to have Joe Thornton represent NHL 2K7," stated Erik Whiteford, vice president of marketing, 2K Sports. "Joe had an amazing season and it was through his leadership, team-first philosophy, and winning attitude that make him the ideal athlete to be the face of our finest NHL 2K title to date."

"It's a great distinction to have been selected as the cover athlete for NHL 2K7," said Thornton. "The NHL 2K series has been recognized as the top rated and premiere NHL video game for several years and to be associated with such a great product is truly an honor."

Available in Fall 2006 for the Xbox360 and Xbox video game and entertainment systems from Microsoft, PlayStation3 computer entertainment system and PlayStation2 computer entertainment system, NHL 2K7 features completely new and unique skating animations and delivers a fresh look and impeccable feel to each on-ice stride. NHL 2K7 also debuts a unique approach to viewing and experiencing virtual hockey with new dynamic cameras and an innovative presentation system that will immerse players into the intense drama of each hockey game. 2K Sports expects NHL 2K7 to continue the tradition as the best rated hockey game on any system.

For more information, log onto http://www.2ksports.com.

More photos and videos of the online Jumbo Joe, as well as game details and a sample of NHL2K7 music can be found here. This photo realistic screen capture demonstrates how refined the detail of the top selling hockey video game has become.

IGN's Charles Onyett provided a rough look after previewing the game at E3. Paul Kukla links to a Business Wire feature on the game, as well as a NHL 2K7 video trailer.

[Update] Alexander Ovechkin was named as the poster boy for NHL 2007 by EA Sports. Washingon Capitals owner Ted Leonsis linked to a video interview Ovechkin did with AOL about the cover. Japers Rink and Offwing also reported the news.


San Jose Stealth NLL Lacrosse team announces 2007 schedule

San Jose Stealth NLL Lacrosse

The San Jose Stealth released their 2007 NLL schedule today. The Stealth open at home January 5th against Rochester, and finish the regular season Friday April 13th against the rival Colorado Mammoth.

Visit sjstealth.com or nll.com for more information. A full 2007 season schedule is available here. More from a Stealth press release:

Stealth open 2007 season on January 5th, National Lacrosse League 2007 Schedule Released

SAN JOSE - The San Jose Stealth and the National Lacrosse League announced the NLL 2007 schedule, marking the 21st season in league history.

Stealth schedule highlights include games against the NLL's two new expansion franchises: Chicago (Jan. 26 at home) and New York (Feb. 24 on the road). A Friday the 13th affair vs. Colorado on April 13 closes out the regular season.

The league has much to build on from the successful 2006 season, in which it drew more than one million total fans for the first time and recorded its highest average attendance in history (10,804).

"We're pleased to announce our 2007 schedule and look forward to another great season", said Commissioner Jim Jennings. "With thirteen franchises, including our expansion into New York and Chicago, and weekly national TV on OLN/VERSUS, we're ready to reach new heights in 2007". Information on potential Stealth broadcasts will be released at a later date.

The San Jose Stealth professional lacrosse team opens the 2007 NLL season on Jan. 5 vs. Rochester at HP Pavilion at San Jose. Additional information on the eight-game home schedule can be uncovered at sjstealth.com.

Season tickets, which include a host of newly created benefits, for the club's fourth season are available by calling 408-999-5700 or visiting sjstealth.com. Details on the thrilling Sports Pak were recently announced and the package includes Stealth season tickets as well as seats to other HP Pavilion events such as Fight Night at the Tank and the San Jose Sharks for one exciting price.

The Stealth earned a 10-7 win over the arch-rival Colorado Mammoth to win the first home game of 2006. After downing the defending NLL champion Calgary 12-10 on the road, the Stealth lost 14-10 against the Calgary Roughnecks to open the 2005 season at home. The Stealth scored a last second game winning goal over Colorado win the 2004 home opener 13-12.


The Hockey News proclaims the rise of California

The Hockey News rise of California

The Hockey News followed Chris Pronger from Edmonton down Highway 1 to California for last week's issue. The cover theme was "the Rise of California; America's West Coast rapidly becoming golden state for hockey". The govenator-free coverage lasts all of 4 pages, requisite surfing feature included.

The article "Welcome to Hockey's Boom State... Yes, we mean California", by Dan Wood predicts all three Californian NHL teams will have a strong year this season. Wood consulted Anaheim GM Brian Burke, Sharks GM Doug Wilson, and former Ducks and Sharks GM Wayne Ferreira on why they think hockey is doing well on the West Coast. Recent playoff success and young stars are cited as two reasons, but Wayne Gretzky's 1988 trade to Los Angeles is mentioned as the main catalyst for creating interest in the sport.

"I'm a pretty optimistic person by nature," [Doug] Wilson said, "but to realistically think it would be at this level, I didn't think it would get to this point. You have to credit the people who bought the (NHL) teams and the people who built the rinks. And they weren't just takers. They came in to try to build this game and they enabled the players to really get involved in the community."

By 2004-05, California had 16,758 youth players registered with USA Hockey, hockey's national governing body. That number had grown more than 700 per cent from a mere 2,225 in 1985-86.

"Watch beaches for NHL's future" examines a byproduct of this growing interest in hockey... more prospects heading to NCAA and Western Hockey League hockey programs. Wood notes that 3 Californians were selected in each of the last two NHL entry drafts, and that 4 youth hockey programs took home National Championships this year [including the south bay's own Santa Clara Blackhawks Tier II 12-and-under National Champions].

Stockton Thunder San Diego Gulls

This issue also covers the rise in popularity of ECHL. With the sudden demise of the San Diego Gulls, who could not find a last minute buyer for the franchise, 4 ECHL teams remain in the Golden State. Last year was notable with the Stockton Thunder leading the league in average attendance, the Bakersfield Condors earning the record for single game playoff attendance, and the Fresno Falcons hosting the nationally televised ECHL Allstar game.

Club college hockey is also making a push in California. With 6 ACHA second division men's programs, and 8 ACHA third division men's programs, PAC-8 and ACHA regional tournaments, student spectators have yet another outlet to consume adult beverages and root against their college rivals.

I believe I can accurately sum up the crux of this Hockey News issue and this blog post as a firm challenge directed by California at the province of Alberta. We Californians may not know what a province is, we may not paint ourselves blue and red and hang from streetlights in Mexican wrestling masks after a single playoff win, but we can guarantee that the Stanley Cup will be visiting here before stepping foot on Albertan soil again.

Oh, and thanks for Chris Pronger. Next time send him a little farther north.

[Update] San Jose Sharks eye Pleasanton as home of proposed ice-rink facility - Contra Costa Times.

The San Jose Sharks are swimming around the Tri-Valley again, trying to broker a deal with Pleasanton officials to build a 10-acre ice sports facility just off Interstate 580. This is at least the fourth time the Sharks have tried to build such a center in the Tri-Valley.

The proposed complex would include four ice rinks, a sports bar and other amenities. The project would be part of the Staples Ranch development -- a 124-acre site just south of the highway and west of El Charro Road expected to include a senior continuing-care facility with 766 units, an auto mall and a 17-acre park.


2005-06 San Jose Sharks season in review

A review in blog of the San Jose Sharks 2005-06 season:

[August 2005]

Mike Rathje signs 5-year deal with Philadelphia. Mike Ricci signs with Phoenix. Confusion about the status of Alexander Korolyuk. Complete list of unprecedented free agent and trade movement post-lockout.

Carnival of the NHL #5. OLN named new U.S. television broadcast partner.

[September 2005]

Vincent Dampousse retires. Sharks new top line in training camp: Sturm-Marleau-Dimitrakos. Training camp photos: gallery1, gallery2. Goaltender Jamie Holden raises a few eyebrows. Nabokov and Toskala solid.

Sharks open preseason with a double-header against the rookie Kings, and the big league Kings. Sharks win the big game 4-3, and the rookies lose 3-2. The Hockey News names San Jose the NHL's fastest club.

[October 2005]

Sharks finish pre-season 7-0 with a one-goal win over the Phoenix Coyotes and new head coach Wayne Gretzky. NHL.com works with Paul Kukla of Kukla's Korner to detail the new television deal with OLN. Sharktober. The Sharks open the season with a 3-2 loss at Nashville, and open at home with a 4-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

An "upper body" injury to Evgeni Nabokov forces the callup of AHL goaltender Nolan Schaefer. Sharks captain Patrick Marleau scores in overtime against Dallas to break a four-game losing streak. An injury to Vesa Toskala forces the callup of AHL goaltender Dimitri Patzold. Schaefer and Patzold are both suiting up for San Jose while Nabokov and Toskala are out.

[November 2005]

A comparison of the Sharks 2-5-5-1 start in 2003-04 with the 7-5-1 start in 2005-06. Right wing Steve Bernier recalled from Cleveland. Evgeni Nabokov returns. A liveblog of a Vancouver 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Steve Bernier and Ryane Clowe sent down to the AHL Cleveland Barons. Forward Grant Stevenson recalled.

9-game losing streak continues with loss against the Detroit Red Wings. Sharks land Joe Thornton in a trade for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. More on the Thornton trade here. Down a man, and down 3 talented players, Sharks lose 10th game in a row 4-1 to the Dallas Stars. Bleak performance.

[December 2005]

More questions about the Joe Thornton trade, and a final wrap of the post-trade news. Liveblog of San Jose's 5-0 win over the Buffalo Sabreas, Joe Thornton's first game as a San Jose Shark. Vesa Toskala and Ryan Clowe recalled from Cleveland. Nolan Schaefer sent down to Cleveland. San Jose Sharks win 6 straight games with Joe Thornton in the lineup. Jonathan Cheechoo scores his first hat trick of the season in a 4-2 win over Anaheim. 4 third period Coyotes goals lead to 5-4 Sharks loss. The loss is San Jose's 5th in the last 6 games.

[January 2006]

Vesa Toskala trade rumor aired by Globe and Mail reporter Eric Duhatschek on the Hockey Night in Canada. Trade rumors will follow Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala for the rest of the season. Cleveland Barons AHL francise announce move to Worcester, Mass. Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, face Sharks team that has won 5 straight. Montreal is motivated by the move and defeats the Sharks 6-2. More trade rumors about Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala lead to this blog post recapping all of the reports. In the end? Neither was traded.

[February 2006]

Jonathan Cheechoo scores his third hat trick of the season in a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The win is sandwiched by 3 losses on either side [1 OT, 1 shootout], capped by a rough 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames at home. The loss draws harsh criticism by members of the local media. Fingers were pointed at the coaching staff, and the Sharks were labeled "roadkill". Predictions were made that they would not make the playoffs.

Jonathan Cheechoo is re-signed for 5 years, Evgeni Nabokov signs for 4. Nabokov named starting goaltender for Russia in the 2006 Olympics. Canada melts down with 2-0 loss to Russia in the Olympic quarterfinals. Team Sweden celebrates Olympic gold. Toskala signs 2 year contract.

[March 2006]

Sharks hammer depleted Red Wings 5-1, score franchise record 5 power play goals. 4 gold medal winning Swedish players were unable to suit up for Detroit, 1 regular [Niklas Kronwall] was sent down to minors or that number would be 5. Owen Nolan announces he will not play this season. Kyle McLaren and Scott Thornton question lack of team effort after weekend losses.

Sharks acquire Ville Nieminen from NY Rangers for a third round pick. Flury of deals at the NHL trade deadline. Niko Dimitrakos sent to Philadelphia, Friesen to Washington, Theodore to Colorado, Dwayne Roloson to Edmonton, Sean O'Donnell to Anaheim, Mika Noronen to Vancouver, Keith Carney to Vancouver, Mark Recchi to Carolina, Sergei Samsonov to Edmonton. Sharkspage gave the trade deadline award to the Edmonton Oilers.

Sharks edge Predators 3-2 in OT, Scott Parker and Brendan Witt fight over the glass on the bench. NHL suspends Scott Parker for 2 games. Sharks sign Denver University defenseman Matt Carle. MVP discussion begins, Jagr, Thornton and Kiprusoff are the main contenders. Steve Bernier throws a one-handed spin-o-rama when scoring a goal against the St Louis Blues. Jonathan Cheechoo scores franchise record 45th goal against the Minnesota Wild. Toskala named NHL player of the week.

Back-to-back losses at Columbus and at home against Phoenix put the Sharks playoff hopes on the outside looking in.

[April 2006]

The turning point of the season could be the Sharks 3-goal rally in the third period against the Coyotes. Shark-killer Steven Reinprecht scored in OT to give Phoenix a 4-3 OT win, but the Sharks willed themselves back into a game that was all but out of reach.

The Western Conference playoff bubble is now realistically down to about 5 teams at the start of April [5-Colorado, 6-Anaheim, 7-Edmonton, 8-Vancouver, 9-Los Angeles, 10-San Jose]. Vancouver and Los Angeles drop key games and lose playoff position with few games remaining. Jonathan Cheechoo scores his 50th regular season goal. Vancouver drops a home-at-home with San Jose to back out of the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Kings down the Sharks 4-0 in the final game of the regular season, snapping San Jose's 8 game unbeaten streak. San Jose linemates Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo win NHL scoring titles.

[W.C. Playoff Quarterfinals - Nashville vs San Jose]

After dropping the first game of the Western Conference Quarterfinals to Nashville 4-3, San Jose rebounds by pasting the Predators 3-0 in game two. Video of the Shark head dropping at HP Pavilion prior to the start of game 3 was popular with a few fans. Nashville stumbled literally and figuratively in game 3.

Goaltender Chris Mason performed well in Tomas Vokoun's absence, but the Predators were outmatched up front and on the blueline. Rookie Patrick Rissmiller scored a nifty behind the back goal in game 4, it was the start of 4 unanswered goals by San Jose. The Predators fought back in the third, clawing back to within one goal. Toskala and the Sharks held tight for a 5-4 win. It was a pivotal win, as San Jose took game 5, and the series, with a 2-1 win in Nashville.

[W.C. Playoff Semifinals - Edmonton vs San Jose]

Still giddy after an upset win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Edmonton-Sharks matchup appeared to favor the younger and faster team out West. Fans in Edmonton were going wild, fans in San Jose were a little more subdued. Jonathan Cheechoo makes the cover of The Hockey News, "Out of the Blue".

Sharks open the semifinals with a 2-1 win over Edmonton, Canadian media shocked. Sharks survive 5-on-1 penalty kill in game 2, defeat Oilers 2-1.

Oilers win game 3 in triple overtime, Longest game in San Jose Sharks history. Directly after this game I mentioned to a brother, if the Sharks lose the series the asterisk will be placed next to game 3. Sharks lead the series 2-1.

Edmonton scores 4 goals on 11 shots in third period to win game four 6-3. Series tied at 2. An unfortunate few booed the Canadian National Anthem in San Jose prior to game 4. Edmonton and Canadian fans responded with class by cheering the U.S. athemn prior to game 5, while the Oilers unceremoniously put a 6-3 hurting on the Sharks. The anticlimactic series finale ended with a 2-0 Edmonton shutout. After 4 straight wins, the Oilers are headed to the next round, the Sharks are going home.


Joe Thornton was awarded the NHL Hart Memorial Trophy given to the player judged to be most valuable to his team during the regular season. The Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to give captain Rod Brind'Amour his first championship in 16 NHL seasons.

All next week will be Shark Week on this blog.


Library of Congress hockey photos

Library of Congress hockey photos

This is a classic Chicago Blackhawks hockey photo from the Library of Congress American Memories photo collection. The photo was originally taken by a Chicago Daily News photographer in 1929.

The Library of Congress encourages research of copyright and restrictions on materials before use. A statement from the Chicago Historical Society allows the publication of this image under the fair use clause of the 1976 Copyright Act, as long as a credit line is included.

Only a small selection of historical hockey photos are online at the Library of Congress. Much of the collection has not been digitized. Use this page, and the search term "hockey" or "boxing" to see more classic sports photographs.

Visit copyright.gov to learn more about copyrights and "fair use" policies.

Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig, author and founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, is one of the leading proponents of "fair use" online. Visit his blog, or an archive of his articles for more on the subject.

[Note] More classic hockey photos for sale can be found on hockeylegend.com.

Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post reduce NHL coverage

Earlier this month, radio host Ben Maller reported that the Los Angeles Times would no longer send reporters on the road to cover the Anaheim Mighty Ducks or the Los Angeles Kings. Maller noted that the weekly NHL column written by Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Helene Elliott would also be pulled.

Southern California blog L.A. Observed contacted Times Sports Editor Randy Harvey, who mentioned that Elliott will still write about hockey often. L.A. Observed also noted the fan reaction from locals on LetsgoKings.com.

This decision will impact hockey fans outside of California. During the lockout, Helene Elliott and Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times were two major sources of information while most newspapers were reducing staff. On several big stories, a lot of the information making its way around the blogs and the wires could be traced back to the L.A. Times sports section.

20-year journalism veteran Steve Gosset at the blog Reality Bites Back compares the L.A. Times cost-saving reduced coverage with that of the New York Times, and asks what that will mean for fans of the sport.

So, when the nation's fourth-largest newspaper decides to curtail coverage of a still-major sport, what hope is there for smaller newspapers? Actually, little or none, as they don't make road trips either.

Hey, at least the Tribune gang in Hollywood is actually covering the teams when they're home. The New York Times has cut back to one hockey writer who covers the Rangers, although even that team was subject to road wire coverage occasionally. As for the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, who between them have won seven Stanley Cups, they might as well have not even existed. Rare was a reporter sent even to a home game. That the Times relied instead on the AP was apparently viewed with little embarrassment on West 43rd St.

And with word that the Times will shrink in size by 2008, cutting the newshole by 5 percent, expect a lot more of the same.

The Sports Editor of the New York Times, Tom Jolly, is answering questions from readers all this week on nytimes.com. Hockey fan Fred Winters asked Jolly about the lack of New York Ranger coverage in the Grey Lady:

[Q] As a longtime NY Rangers fan, I am certainly used to frustration both due to the team's historic futility and from the relatively anemic coverage and analysis of both the Rangers and the NHL in the NY media, including the Times. I hope you can shed some light on this. As the Rangers prepare to field their second surprisingly interesting and competitive team in as many years, does The Times Sports section plan any special or supplemental coverage for the upcoming season? -- Fred Winters

[A] Your email is one of several from fans who would like to see more coverage of a particular sport. One of our challenges is deciding how best to allocate our resources, both in terms of the number of reporters we have and in the space available in the sports section.

Decisions on what we are going to cover are constantly under discussion and change by the hour, depending on news. Remember also that we are an international news organization, responsible for covering not only the local teams but news of significance around the world.

In other words, we have to make some tough choices. Our approach is to cover the teams that have the biggest following, and that generally includes the Rangers, especially when they are playing well. But while the lockout may have helped solve the NHL's financial problems, it had the unintended result of showing that hockey's following is significantly behind that of football, baseball and basketball.

That puts hockey in the category of sports where we look for opportunities to do the big stories that we think will be of interest, or use, to the most readers. Last year, we wrote major stories on the resurgence of the Edmonton Oilers, the NHL official responsible for enforcing new rules designed to increase scoring, the five Czechs who formed the heart of the Rangers and other stories.

Look for more of the same in the coming season.

Jolly's response was posted in full because it is important for the league to take notice of his comments. The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, three of the largest papers in the U.S. have all expressed similar concerns about the league. In each instance, editors will cite individual stories that prove that they still keep an eye on the sport. It takes regular day-in-and-day-out coverage to build a fan base, and that is the coverage that is drying up.

Adam Proteau gives his usual colorful advice courtesy of the Hockey News and ESPN, The NHL's next step: a personality infusion.

Proteau believes that the NHL is underperfoming (to put it mildly) when marketing its main attraction, its players. Unfortunately, he uses a quote by Art Ross trophy winner Joe Thornton to illustrate his point. I am tempted to send this shirt to Mr. Proteau to help cheer him up.

The bottom line is that the NHL far exceeded expectations after a brutal season-ending lockout. The 30-team lottery to determine Sidney Crosby's future, unprecedented free agent movement, new rules meant to open up the game, a television broadcast partner in the U.S. willing to try new ideas, two teammates winning the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies, five 50-goal scorers (Jonathan Cheechoo, Jaromir Jagr, Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley), another Canadian team in the Stanley Cup finals, all helped boost interest in the NHL last season.

The NHL got it right. The question now is whether they will continue to innovate and build the fan base, or if last year was a creative anomaly.

Traditionally, when hockey fans do not get the coverage they want from television, radio, or in print, they would move online. It began 15 years ago when fans would dial into BBS bulletin boards set up by Chuq Von Rospach. They would post the latest news, discuss the latest trades, and compensate for a lack of coverage by creating their own distribution of what news was available. All of this happened before the internet was opened up to the public.

The NHL can mitigate some of the above problems by expanding and offering compelling content that will keep fans informed and entertained. The N.Y. and L.A. Times cited cost-cutting measures as a reason for reducing hockey coverage, but they are also missing a financial opportunity. Put expanded scouting reports, video scouting reports, in-depth informative interviews behind a paid wall at opportune times and hockey fans will pay to find more information.

The NHL should also look into non-traditional ways to promote the sport. During the playoffs, I contacted the media relations directors for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Los Angeles Kings (among several others) and asked them about working with blogs to cover their teams. The Ducks had a policy of only working with major media sources. The Los Angeles Kings Director of Communications Jeff Moeller also noted that they do not have a policy with regards to hockey blogs, but he did answer a few questions about their efforts to draw fans back to the sport.

The NHL took a step in the right direction recently by adding Paul Kukla of Kukla's Korner to its stable of NHL.com bloggers. The Drudge Report of the NHL, P.K. scours the internet for hockey news and occasionally competes with major media sources for breaking information.

Paul's new blog can be found here for August. On Wednesday, he spoke to San Jose Sharks equipment manager Mike Aldrich:

Hey, aren't you Mike Aldrich, head equipment manager of the San Jose Sharks? What are you up to these days? You can't be doing much can you, relaxing, catching up on some sleep, maybe taking a full month off before the season starts?

"Ha, I wish!!! Soon after the season ended for us in June, the equipment staff did most of the clean up work and took physical inventory of all of the equipment."

Then you took a long break, right?

"Most of our equipment orders had to be in by the end of June. Once the NHL Draft was completed, the hockey department began to compile a list of potential players for development camps, rookie tournaments and, of course, the Sharks' main training camp. We spent the better part of the summer contacting players, gathering their personal information on custom pieces of equipment such as skates, gloves and sticks. Then, beginning last week, the staff starts prep work to make sure all of the Shark's facilities are in good shape and organized for upcoming season."

I would be remiss if I did not mention Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis inviting blogger Eric McErlain to a game. Eric wrote about the evening on offwing.com here and here. They discussed a few of the issues repeated in this blog post, but more importantly it demonstrated an owner individually headed in a direction that the NHL needs to move towards as a whole.

The league needs to open up on the media front in a similar fashion to the way it opened up on the ice last season. There is no golden solution, but if the NHL "keeps its feet moving" in hockey parlance, it can build on the gains it made last year.

[Update] More on the Washington Post from my interview last season with Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis:

[Q] What do you think about (Eric McErlain's) suggestion that the Washington media has downgraded coverage of the Capitals this season.

[TL] Very much so. Last week there were days when we did not have a single word in the newspaper. Basically I have two reactions. The first reaction is that we have to keep working the press, make news, and create an environment where they are interested in writing about us. The second is that the Washington Post is shrinking. I grew up in a world where Moore's Law ruled. Every year you would offer more and more, and charge less and less. Petroleum-based print products are on the opposite role. They charge more and more and offer less and less. And the Washington Post readership is significantly down year over year. What I said is that they are one of the outlets, and we have to create our own outlet...

[Q] Do you think it is important to use the Washington Post to appeal to non-traditional fans. Not only fans who did not renew their season tickets, but maybe fans who have never been to a game, or have only been to a handful of games?

[TL] ...We are basically saying that the Washington Post and Washington Times are outlets. Important, but not the be all end all that newspapers used to be. In our market we have cable, broadcast, radio, internet, we have search. We have our website. We are trying to encourage the blogosphere. We want fans to build their own homepages. And we even offer them tools on our website to help people blog. We want 1,000 communication flowers to bloom. That would be in our best interest, but also in the consumers best interest. The concept of an editor and a couple of reporters deciding what is news is kind of 19th Century. We are in the 21st Century. So I pay the Washington Post respect, but they are not my first and last stop for everything we do.

Similarly, blogs are not the be-all-end-all of what will improve the NHL. They are one good option, and one I think would help. Each team should evaluate them on an individual basis to see if working with them is the right fit for their organization.

[Update2] The newspaper industry: More media, less news - The Economist.

[Update3] Philadelphia Inquirer writer Tim Panaccio obtained more details of the Los Angeles Times planned hockey coverage from Times sports editor Randy Harvey:

Finally, the Los Angeles Times has decided it no longer will send its hockey writers to cover Kings and Ducks road games. It's a frightening day in the NHL when one of the world's largest newspapers decides to write off hockey. Last fall, the New York Times decided not to cover the Rangers on the road, until it became apparent that the newspaper could no longer ignore how good they were. "There are some markets in the United States in which hockey remains one of the major sports," and "some in which it has become a niche sport," Randy Harvey, sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, said in an e-mail interview. "In our market, it's a niche sport." That hockey is viewed in such terms should be of grave concern to commissioner Gary Bettman.

The "niche sport" comment makes the decision a little more serious for the NHL. Panaccio calling for Gary Bettman to take notice is the same reaction this blog posted here. Thanks to Steven Ovadia at Puck Update for the link.

Nike Hockey Commercial, French Canadian goalie taxi driver

Hands down, my favorite hockey commercial.


Shark Week next week

Shark Week

Next week on this blog will be Shark Week.

From Monday August 28th until September 4th there will be a handful of posts daily catching up on the San Jose Sharks offseason and the NHL at large. This Friday I will post a review of the 2005-06 San Jose Sharks season.

San Jose Sharks week

Hope you have had an eventful summer.


It's time for Hockey

Its time for Hockey

Classic Coca-Cola ad featuring Chris Chelios.


A.J. Allmendinger's thoughts on the 2006 San Jose Grand Prix

san jose grand prix

The Champ Car World Series broadcast interviewed A.J. Allmendinger trackside prior to the Sunday Champ Car race.

It is pretty amazing if you think about it. When you are 16-17, you never dream about it. You just never think that something like this can happen. Racing at Laguna Seca was great when we get a chance to do that, but here on the city streets where I grew up, having a huge fan base like this, it is a dream come true.

I just want to thank the whole San Jose GP and Champ Car. They took a pounding for the track last year, and they have improved it 100%. I am proud to say this is my hometown race.

A few race fans mentioned that Michael Andretti used to be visible at the Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey. Andretti would be seen mixing with fans, signing autographs, and checking in with his cart on different parts of the course. They noted that the sport needs more ambassadors like Michael Andretti.

After a 7th place finish at the San Jose Grand Prix on Sunday, A.J. Allmendinger completed a succession of television interiews, then headed to the Champ Car paddock to trade stories with fans and sign autographs for every last person in line.

Later, Allmendinger could be seen signing more autographs at the Team Forsythe trailer. When asked what he thought of the course improvements this year, Allmendinger noted "I proved you can pass on this track." The young driver with 3 wins in his last 5 races is as good an ambassador for open wheel racing as race organizers could have hoped for.

With more race teams, and a more competitive Panoz DP01 Champ Car body for 2007, the SJGP is quickly becoming an entertaining fixture downtown.

[Update] Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Cristiano da Matta Still in Critical Condition - Paddocktalk.com.