This is the third and final post in the "Enhance Your Experience" series, sponsored by Samsung. Our two previous entries can be found here, by Brandon Worley, here, by Art Middleton, and all across the SB Nation NHL network.
SB Nation writers across the NHL network have attacked this in so many ways, it's amazing. There are so many possibilities and changes to propose to the teams, the television networks, the fans themselves, the league, the arenas, PR departments, the media, etc...
Most of these changes are cost prohibitive, pie-in-the sky fantasies that will not ever come to fruition. There is something simple that can be done on the part of the players and media alike to bring the game to life in a different way and at the same time grow these team and individual brands. After all, the best way to enhance the fan experience, at least in this country, is to grow the game itself and I believe the people who have the most control there is the player.
What am I talking about? Personality. Show us some personality!
Two weeks ago, rather famously around these parts now, James Neal was walking around the event level of the American Airlines Center after having pasted the Sabres 4-0 on a Saturday night. He joined the post-game show on KTXA-21 and, in his good mood, proceeded to give a pretty entertaining little interview where he mentioned doing some "curls for the girls," in reference to working out with Gary Roberts.
It was just a tiny little throw away comment, but it was a piece of the real James Neal that he took out of the locker room and put out there for the fans to see, and they LOVED IT.
A little personality goes a long way...
More after the jump.
There is a belief out there that hockey players don't have much personality. If you've ever seen Darryl Reaugh interview Brad Richards (for instance last night) you might think this is as well. Athletes are trained over their careers to offer up "generic sports player speak" whenever a microphone or camera is pointed at them.
This happens in all sports. Brad Richards is a master at it as are many Stars, so much so that Razor actually convinced the production staff to STOP between period interviews altogether last season because there's very little value there. [Read Razor's take on it here]
Maybe the between period interview isn't the right venue for showing the fans that you're a funny, smart, human being with opinions and not just a hockey playing robot. Fine. Do it some other time. There are lots of opportunities.
Please don't think I am saying that players owe this to fans or that they SHOULD do this and that. They don't have to do anything and they don't owe anything to anyone. That's an important distinction to make. They're paid to play hockey. They're paid to work out, and to practice, but they all talk to the media sooner or later, and here's what happens...
The players are sitting in the locker room after morning skate. They're taking the tape off their pads, etc...they're throwing their stuff in the big laundry basket in the middle of the room, and they're talking to each other. They're giving each other crap and they're generally having a good time. Then someone turns a microphone on, asks a question, and the demeanor changes from fun to business like so fast that it's just plain unnatural.
Part of this is the fault of the media. Players in every league are afraid to open their mouths and say anything but "we need to get more traffic in front of [GOALTENDER]" and "yeah, you know? We just need to stay out of the box." As someone who may or may not be a part of the media, I guess I'll apologize for everyone now: I'm sorry. It's unfortunate that some unprofessional types out there will exploit payers for their own purposes.
Somewhere between "The bounces just didn't go our way" and reporters exploiting their personal lives or trying to create bulletin board material, there has to be a happy middle ground. There has to be a place where players can be themselves and the media can ask the occasional question that breaks the mold. These personalities should shine and the game would grow. A lot.
As I type this, Steve Ott is on The Ticket with Bob and Dan talking about his mustache for Movember, expressing his opinion about the Kings Oscar worthy performances last night, and it's great. He's not telling us his most intimate thoughts and feelings...He's not divulging team secrets. He's not talking about his personal life, but he's being charismatic. He's letting a little of himself out there.
The game doesn't need more characters. The characters are already there. Just let it shine through every now and then. The game will grow because of it. (And there will be a lot of women lining up to buy your jerseys)