Press Creds: A Few More Thoughts

You wouldn’t think there would be any more to say about press credentials than I said yesterday, but here we go.

- Press credentials are the badge of honor that says you are a successful blogger. This isn’t to say that they are not useful, or to downplay their importance for some, but that they are another indicator that a blogger has ‘made it.’ whatever that means. When I started this blog (get off my lawn, you kids!), my indicator of success was being linked to. I got a ton of links for my writing at the time, and as new blogs would start, they would put me in their short blogrolls. A few people even said they started their blog in part because of my blog. That’s as flattering as it gets, and it told me that I was doing something right.

That changed when AOL Fanhouse came about. You knew who the top tier bloggers of the time were, but now they were in one place, and they were getting paid to do it. They weren’t getting paid much, but it was more than most other blogger were getting. And suddenly what success looked like was a little different. Not long after came Puck Daddy, and then SB Nation. There was money out there, and people wanted it. There were invites out there, and people wanted in. The bar had shifted again.

Press credentials are another shift. There were a ton of bloggers and podcasters who were at the 2010 Draft. It’s great to see them there, and some of them did great work with their newfound access. But it isn’t everything. And it shouldn’t be treated that way.

- I guess I should say what I would want for myself. I don’t really want a seat in the press box. Maybe once for the experience (and if it worked out or I really liked it, then do it again), but overall, for now, it doesn’t sound that appealing. I would like to be able to pick up the phone and call an organization for an answer to a question or a statement. I would love to be able to talk to someone at a team and get a helpful voice on the other end, or simply some clarification. That doesn’t have to mean locker room access, or a seat in the press box. But it does mean being recognized as some sort of media outlet.

I am considering applying for press credentials for the 2011 NHL Draft for The Rink Podcast. I’m actually less interested in talking to the draftees and hockey personnel than I am talking to the people in the stands. A press pass means I could bring my recording equipment in, and not get hassled talking to the fans for the show. Also, a press pass gives people some idea that what you are doing is legitimate.

- Eric McErlain, the man who wrote the guidelines for the Washington Capitals on issuing credentials to bloggers, weighs in. This is must read, but this is the takeaway for me:

In the meantime, I do have a message for independent bloggers who have been watching this episode with growing alarm. At the end of the day, your credibility is based on the trust you build with your readers everyday, not whether or not you have a laminated plastic badge hanging around your neck. If you follow your passion and develop an audience, there will come a time when the powers that be have little choice but to let you inside the gate, if that’s what you really want.

Please note that little bit at the end. Press credentials aren’t something that are for everyone. And you should consider if you really want them or not before going after them. Really think about what you would do with them. Not having a press pass for every game doesn’t make you any less of a writer, and it doesn’t mean less people will read you. Just like the Jim Rome show, have a take. Or in more blogger friendly terms, have a voice and use it. Then see where that leads you.

- I had a few questions on twitter yesterday for the bloggers out there, and I would love to get some responses. Have you called your local hockey team and asked what their policy for giving credentials are? And I mean, have you yourself picked up the phone and made contact? And are you proud enough of the work you have done to submit it for consideration? Because you are going to have to do that at some point. Like it or not, and no matter if you feel like a review is going to be about controlling the message, someone at a team is going to take a look at your work and make a decision. Are you happy enough with your work to say it’s ready?

- What happens next? Well, we sit back and wait. The credential issue is in the hands of others for now (some of whom are on the bloggers side). In the meantime, write your ass off, develop a voice and a style, and don’t worry about your site meter. Do all the things that will make your work shine, instead of taking shortcuts for short term gains. And don’t sweat the credentials. Just go create something excellent with these wonderful tools we have at our disposal.

There, I said it.

Bloggers and the Press Box: All Of This Has Happened Before…

To quote a song from Consolidated, “Well, well, well, here we go go again.”

This blog is just past four years old, and for the life of Jerseys and Hockey Love, the issue of credentials for hockey bloggers has been kicked around and debated to the point of becoming stale. I started before there were big blog networks, before Fanhouse, before Puck Daddy, before Sports Blog Nation, and the Washington Capitals were just starting to allow bloggers into the press box. Not that this is a feather in my cap or anything, it’s just my personal point of reference.

Chances are, I don’t have to tell you about Eric McErlain and the excellent work he has done for other bloggers to help them get into the press box. If you haven’t read his draft of blogger guidelines for getting credentials, you really should. Read them, and then take another look at the date of that post. August, 2006. Four years ago, the fight for credibility was being fought by people who deserved to be there, and for people who would come later. And the fight continues.

Greg Wyshynski talked about a conference call that happened this week about the media and bloggers getting access to the locker rooms of teams who don’t credential bloggers. The gist of the issue, from Puck Daddy:

Yet several prominent NHL franchises, including the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers, have strict “no blogger” policies in their arenas. They don’t see them as working journalists, and they certainly don’t see a need for them to have access to cramped locker rooms after the game.

On Monday, these teams emphatically voiced those concerns during an annual preseason conference call between NHL executives and team media-relations directors. Their issue: If my team doesn’t credential bloggers in its home arena, why should bloggers haves access to my team’s locker room on the road?

Well, it is a good question. If the credentials are issued from the home team, then yes, I feel like a visiting team should respect the home team’s decisions in these matters. It seems simple enough. When any media is critical of a team, they should just realize that not every voice out there is going to be on your side. If an MSM reporter doesn’t write in a way the team wants to be represented, they don’t lose their credentials. As a professional courtesy, the same behavior that is displayed towards professional journalists should be extended to bloggers who are credentialed. If a blogger is expected to behave professionally when granted the privilege of press credentials, then they should be treated like a professional as well.
But not every blogger should be granted full access to teams. Hockey blogs are too often treated like they are a genre, and not a medium. The complaints range from not being journalistic enough (I’m proud not to be a journalist) to being too classless. But a quick tour shows that blogs vary in their voices and styles, and all it is easy to see the differences (as long as you are willing to make the effort or have an open mind). My blog isn’t like your blog, and even network blogs are different from one another (take a tour of the SB Nation blogs, and you will see what I mean). I don’t look or act like Deadspin, and I’m damn proud of that fact.
Being established and building a voice, style and reputation should count for something. You shouldn’t be asking for credentials if your blog is under six months old (and I’d even take that to a year). Teams know that the local newspaper isn’t going away overnight (mostly), and that if a beat writer leaves, the paper will have someone there soon to cover the job. Blogs come and go, and you can’t guarantee that one will last longer than half a season these days (I’ll save that rant for another day). It isn’t the job of the team to subsidize a blog with credentials (here, have a press pass and make something of yourself, kid). It isn’t easy to keep a blog going with little support, but establishing yourself should come before the credentials.
The journalism complaint is the one I hear the most, that blogs are mostly opinion, and not suitable for being granted credentials. In reality, the business of sports writing is merging the opinion side of things into the beat writing / straight reporting side. Look at the changes that have happened to newspapers, and the jobs their beat reporters have added to their workload. Do you know of many beat reporters that don’t contribute to a blog of some sort? And how much of that blogging is straight reporting? Opinion has been added to the job of beat reporter, and they still have the journalism aspect to satisfy (and usually do). As for straight opinion, newspaper columnists have had access to teams for years. I don’t know anyone who would say that Woody Paige is a reporter, but he can access teams as needed. He is a columnist, and he makes his bread and butter on his opinions about sports. But access isn’t a problem for him.
If I have a single issue with hockey blogs (and I do have a few, but I’m trying to keep it in context here), it’s a lack of editorial review. I mean this from a spelling and grammar standpoint, as well as for content. There is a lot of content out there that doesn’t get a second look before the publish button is pushed. Editorial keeps writing on target and quality high, and it helps address the issue of accountability. Editorial does not mean the mainstreaming of a blog, it doesn’t mean censorship, and it doesn’t mean stifling someone’s voice. For some reason, editing has gone away (hell, even rewriting has gone away), and it’s a bigger issue than most blogger recognize.
Cutting off all access to all blogs doesn’t solve the problem, though. When teams keep blogs at arms length, blogs start to get louder and more critical of the treatment. Blogs continue to cover the coverage, and produce speculation that may or may not be close to reality. When blogs are cut off, they aren’t able to report on the facts. They aren’t able to base their opinions on anything but the coverage they get (or lack of coverage). And as you could imagine, teams don’t appreciate that, and look at blogs with disdain again. The cycle continues. This part of the equation sits in the hands of the teams. They would also be charged with policing the credentials that are handed out, but the benefits should be obvious to them.
Here in Colorado, we have to contend with the closed media network of the Avalanche. The Avs are broadcast on their own cable station, Altitude. They control every aspect of how the team is covered there. Outside of that, Denver suffers from having only one newspaper, and one prominent hockey voice at that newspaper. Regardless of my feelings toward that coverage, not having a second newspaper in a city the size of Denver is an issue. Not having enough voices to challenge each other makes the lack of coverage even more complacent.
So should bloggers be allowed access to the teams? And really, should ‘new media outlets’ be allowed access (since podcasters are in on this as well). I think they should, but much like player contracts, clear guidelines should be set by each club, and maybe even reviewed by an outside party to make sure they are somewhat in the spirit of a free press, and not trying to control the media. Eric McErlain’s guidelines are a great place to start. From there, something can be built.
There’s a lot of discussion on this today. If you aren’t tired of it by now, you can see the various points of view from around the web from Justin at the Goalie Guild, Justin Bourne, Kevin DeLury, and more from Puck Daddy. I’m sure there is more out there, and I’m curious about what you think. This is just my opinion. What’s yours?

Update: Something I’ve thought about in the past, and was just talking about on Twitter, was that so many bloggers want into the NHL press box, but have no experience in a press box. If you were coming up in the ranks of broadcasting (or even an NHL team in just about any position, from player to coach, and refs as well), you would be cutting your teeth in the minors. Minor league teams need every bit of exposure they can garner. They have an appreciation for their fans that doesn’t scale to the NHL level. I realize that not every blogger can do this, but if I were in charge of handing out media credentials to bloggers, I would suggest spending a long weekend with a minor league affiliate, and see what that blogger produced. It isn’t cheap, it isn’t easy, but that’s how it goes. A guitar doesn’t come with a business plan, and neither does a blog. Sometimes, you have to work hard and make sacrifices along the way. Ask some of the professional hockey writers who are nice enough to give us some time. They can tell you.

Gary Bettman’s Mixed Bag

It isn’t often that I sympathize with Gary Bettman. Much of the jeers and boos he receives are well earned, and his tendency to spin news and issues to the point of insanity wear thin on those who are subjected to his interviews and press conferences. I’m not his biggest fan, but he’s the guy with the job, and I respect the job.

Today, though, I do have to say, he did get something right that the pundits immediately decried. Via Kukla’s Korner (with regards to the hundreds of tweets I saw the statement from as well):

Gary Bettman made a statement today at the World Hockey Summit in regards to how hockey fans feel about NHL participation in the Olympics.

via Scott Burnside tweet,

Bettman says fans’ response to NHL participation in Olympics is a “mixed bag”. Not sure we buy that.

(double blockquote across the sky!)

I would like to be one of the few that says, yes, for me, the Olympics are a mixed bag. And frankly, I would be happy not having the NHL in the Games.

We like to bask in the afterglow of something as fun, successful, and glorious as these last Olympic Games turned out to be for fans in North America. And since the North American fan is the one with the loudest voice, as well as the money and support that keeps the NHL going, they are going to get the most attention. Had the gold medal game not been between Canada and the USA, there may be a different tune being sung by some.

And while the Olympics are a great stage for some of the best players – eventually, after a few games, when they start playing like a team – there is the other alternative, the World Cup.

At the moment, the World Cup is dead, but just like killing off a popular comic book character, the dead tend to rise again. There is nothing to stop the NHL from resurrecting it, aside from a lot of hard work to make it happen. But considering the revenues that could be had – and everything these days are about the revenue – the NHL should give it some serious thought.

The only disadvantage that the World Cup has is that it isn’t the Olympics. It isn’t as sexy as the Olympics. It has a cheesy trophy, and is virtually meaningless. Meaning, though, is built. It’s built though the games, though the fans, and the players themselves.

Some of the advantages of the World Cup:

  • You can play it in the off season. No compressed NHL schedule.
  • Real training camp. Players can learn to play with one another, instead of just jamming their skill set together.
  • No break. If you aren’t playing in the Olympic break, you are either healing, or restarting your season, and maybe loosing momentum.
  • You can play on the world stage. Games can be held anywhere.
  • Revenue goes to the NHL.
  • No jumping through the IOC hoops and abiding by their stupid rules that make no sense to professional athletes.
  • You don’t have to wait for curling to finish to watch some hockey (imagine that, there are other sports)

There are disadvantages to not playing in the Olympics, certainly, but do they outweigh holding the World Cup? I’m not really sure. My feeling is no, not if you have a viable alternative.
The problem with Gary Bettman in all of this is that he has a tendency to speak too often for the fans. The knee-jerk reaction is that he is wrong as soon as he opens his mouth. I don’t feel he represents me as a fan, nor should he. His job is to represent the NHL, and the owners. But overall, the NHL probably has more data on the fans and their needs and wants than the rest of us. They don’t always apply it in a smart way, and they tend to spin that data in ways that fit their needs and wants, but the data is there. We, the bloggers and the tweeters, feel we have a handle on the metrics of the hockey fan, but we only have a certain demographic, those that are online, and just like the Commissioner, we promote the ones that tend to support our individual point of view.
Gary Bettman doesn’t represent me, but neither do the thousands of online pundits that feel like they have inside knowledge of what the fans want. For once, I have to side with Bettman on this one. It is a mixed bag, and there are many points of view. Just ask the 2005-06 Ottawa Senators. I won’t try to speak for them, though You’ll just have to ask.

Colorado Avalanche Vitaly Kolesnik Game Worn jersey

The season of 2005-06 was a strange on for anyone watching the NHL. Coming out of the lockout, fans saw their favorite players walk away to other teams for more money, new rules were in place, a new national broadcaster was getting their feet wet and their faces flattened, and everything else was fraught with uncertainty.

The Avalanche were feeling the sting of losing a few long time key players, including Peter Forsberg, Dan Hinote, and Adam Foote. But for me, the season was marked with a goalie-go-round that seemed unnecessary. David Aebischer was faultering (but ended the season with a winning record for the Avs), Peter Budaj had some solid play but faltered at times, and Jose Theodore eventually showed his face in a trade from Montreal. But Vitaly Kolesnik was the guy who was thrown in at a moment of desperation.

The 2005-06 Colorado Avalanche Vitaly Kolesnik game worn jersey:

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Kolesnik was the third goalie, playing in the AHL for the Lowell Lock Monsters (not to be confused with the Lake Erie Monsters), who the Avs were sharing an affiliation with the Carolina Hurricanes (who won the Stanley Cup that year, largely on the work done in Lowell during the previous AHL season). Kolesnik was called up for a little while, and the Avs carried three goalies for a bit. Call ups and being sent back down was confusing at the time, with the new waiver rules in the CBA. No one knew what was going to happen when someone was called up. Would they be wearing the team colors in a few days, or playing for someone else.

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Kolesnik didn’t really shine in net, but the Avalanche weren’t taking the minor league system seriously enough then, and it would show in the next few seasons of play. And the three headed goalie monster took it’s toll.

For Kolesnik, the writing was on the wall. With the Avalanche trading for big name and big dollar Jose Theodore, and Peter Budaj the next goalie the Avs would be turning to, Kolesnik was going to be stuck in the minors barring the unforeseeable. Kolesnik packed his bags the next year and headed to Russia. Vitaly was a part of the 2006 Kazakhstan Olympic team, that won one game and lost four. I don’t know how many of those Kolesnik played in.

The two things that are a little unique about this jersey are the patches. First, the obvious one. The Avalanche ten year anniversary patch:

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A cool – but not overly photogenic – patch. I know there were mixed reviews on the patch, but there are mixed reviews on everything. I like it. Enough said.

The other interesting part is found inside the hem of the jersey. Jersey2010_1_092.jpg

Meigray, the people who deal with NHL, AHL, ECHL and other league’s game worn jerseys put a patch inside the jersey (sometimes outside the jersey) to authenticate and catalog it. Notice the dates on the Meigray patch, and the small patch they added on. You can’t have a game worn jersey during the lockout, can you? Also, check out the NHL logo. It’s the logo previous to the change after the lockout.

For some reason, I have a place in my heart for third goalies. They work hard in the system, and have less slots available to them. You could be a solid goalie, but things just don’t work for you with a team. To me, this is a classic example.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Ivan Tkachenko Game Worn Jesrey

I’ve got this guy, on ebay. He gets me the good stuff. He doesn’t know me. I’m just some guy with a paypal account, but I know him. I know his stuff, and his stuff is good. Just looking at his stuff, I’m getting that itch, the itch that says there will be a new Russian jersey added to my collection.

When people ask me about my Russian jerseys, they want to know what my connection with the Russian game is. And there really isn’t one. I have a respect for their hockey history, their game, their players. And I love their jerseys. The ads, the design, the logos. And the feel. A Russian hockey jersey feels different from a North American jersey.

This jersey has been around the block, and it shows. From Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, here is Ivan Tkachenko’s game worn jersey:

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There is an art to these jerseys. The logos remind me of the promise of the future, the flying cars and jet packs we think we were promised. That team crest alone is worth the jersey on it’s own.

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And check out the rip on the ‘B’ on the lower right of the logo. This jersey has been through some battles. (click any photo to make it bigger)

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The back of the jersey.

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A few more design elements and ads on the jersey.

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This is one of the few Russian jerseys I own that isn’t made by Lutch. It has a different, thicker feel to it, maybe a little more durable feeling.

Big time thanks to Dmitry Chesnokov for his help with Mr. Tkachenko. Find him on Puck Daddy here, or on Twitter. Or you can hear him on an old episode of The Rink here.

Dog Days of Summer

Alf

Last summer seemed like the longest off-season ever. For me, it dragged and dragged, and I couldn’t wait for October to come. This summer has a different feel to it, with the impending approach of training camp and the start of the season feeling like a bulldozer riding up my ankles.

I’m looking forward to the start of the next season, but it sure does feel like summer is going by fast. Perhaps it’s the entertainment that we have had all year. I haven’t been chiming in much lately, so I just wanted to throw some thoughts up here.

I’m happy the NHL won the Kovalchuk case:

Yeah, I know. Evil Bettman. I’m not a Devils fan. Whatever. But I didn’t like this contract for a multitude of reasons. It did more than just circumvent the salary cap, it circumvented parity, created a false market for star players, and restored the have and have not spending of the pre-cap days. It also wasn’t bargaining in good faith, which should be expected across the entire leagues, all teams, all agents, and all players. I understand that some people didn’t want to see the NHL win this case. I’m certainly glad they did.

The Avalanche are doing nothing:

This is the offseason of our discontent. The Colorado Avalanche haven’t touched the free agent market, and that has some fans concerned. I don’t blame them, but for the moment, I’m going to take the approach that the Avs have confidence in their minor league system (which just fells strange to type), and are very happy with the team they have now. I would have liked to see the Avalanche plug a few holes in the lower end of the market (two 20 – 25 goal scoring wingers and a bottom three defenseman), but looking at the over-spending that went on in the first part of free agency, I’m glad they didn’t repeat the mistakes of a few years ago (how did that Ryan Smyth / Scott Hannan free agency ‘splash’ work out?). I wouldn’t be surprised if a few bargains are picked up along the way. I would rather see two half Kovalchuks on the team than the real deal.

Twitter is killing my blogging:

I’ve been on twitter a lot lately (@Tapeleg). It’s a great time waster, but also a great place for conversation (not every conversation is great, mind you). I got into hockey blogging to have a conversation about hockey, to talk to people about hockey in a way that I wasn’t getting in my day to day life. Twitter is decent for that, but it isn’t perfect. It does fulfill some of my needs as a hockey fan, but not all of them. Twitter is great for reactions and instant analysis, but that doesn’t mean it’s superb at either. And staying away from my blog make me a worse writer. Those stumbling blocks come up more often, and I get more frustrated when I haven’t been regularly writing. It’s time to get back to the blog.

Jerseys to come:

Remember when I hated the RBK EDGE jerseys? Yeah, about that. I still hate the EDGE 1.0 version, which are just garbage. And the retail versions are an insult to your wallet. More expensive for a cheaper product? If you buy an off the shelf jersey, you are being had. But the player’s RBK EDGE 2.0 jerseys? Pretty nice. I’m still not convinced of the cut, but it’s a huge improvement over the 1.0. I now own two 1.0 jerseys, and a 2.0, all player jerseys. The 2.0 is a much nicer jersey than I was expecting. I will have photos to post at some point.

I also have some more jerseys to post. Photos have been taken of some jerseys I have owned for a while. The new ones still have to be photographed, but their day will come. For now, I will go back into the archives. And check out the jersey posts from Jay at The Avs Hockey Podcast and from Greg at The Post Pessimist Association blog.

More to come, I promise.

And if you need your fix, there was a new episode of The Rink posted. You can find it here.

Sneak Peek: New Jersey

I finally picked up a few new jerseys from Meigray, and I’m really happy with them. I posted a few pictures on twitter, just little teasers. When I have a few minutes and a good place to do it, I’ll take some photos of the new ones, and put them on the blog. For now, here are a few phone cam pics:

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Plymouth Whalers Game Issued (maybe) Jersey, Plus a Photo Bonus.

Sometimes, you just want a jersey because you like the jersey. Sometimes, you just want something neat. And that’s how I felt about the Plymouth Whalers jersey. I liked the jersey, and I liked the fact that it hailed from a time gone by, while still being it’s own separate thing.

Plymouth plays in the OHL, one of the few US teams in the OHL. For those who don’t know, it’s on the outskirts of Detroit (but don’t hate it right away). Junior hockey is rife of turnover, at times more turnover than in college hockey. Players get drafted, sometimes high enough that they will move on quickly from their junior team, and that makes it hard for fans to latch on to a particular player. That doesn’t mean the fans are any less loyal to the team of the players. Here for now is the motto of the juniors.

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I had wanted a Whalers jersey from my first game there, but when I was ready to buy, the choice was either a $100 replica, or a $200 ‘authentic.’ I put authentic in quotes, because the authentic version was still air-knit material, which wasn’t what the players were wearing. I like the thicker, less prone to pulls material they had for their on ice jerseys.

As luck would have it, the team was auctioning off their game worn jerseys from a previous season while I was there, and there were deals to be had. Most of the jerseys had the 2008 Memorial Cup patch (a Cup the Whalers did not win), but not this jersey. And the end result was, no one wanted it. With a lower starting bid than a store bought ‘authentic,’ and no one bidding against me, I got the deal of the season.

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So who is Beal? I believe this jersey was made for Chad Beal, although he didn’t stick with the team.

What this jersey did do for me was garner an introduction to the coach of the Plymouth Whalers, as well as the second overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft, Tyler Seguin.

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Don’t worry, kids, that’s soda in his hand. (I look tanked in that picture, but I swear I’m not. Really)

Huntington Blizzard MW Jersey: Not a Jersey Foul

Yes, obviously, I am a jersey collector. I love hockey jerseys, and I wear them all the time (I’m not crazy, I wear other things in the off season). I’m not as big a jersey collector as some people I know, but I have a fair share of jerseys, as many as my budget allows. But what I lack in sheer numbers, I make up for in variety and uniqueness (amazingly, uniqueness is a word, who knew?).

And some day, I expect that variety and uniqueness to land me on a coveted, infamous Puck Daddy jersey fouls post. And with all due luck, this jersey will get me there. But this, is not a jersey foul.

I present to you the Huntington Blizzard mascot worn jersey:

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This is a true winter jersey, one of the thickest I own. If it were worn by a player, it would have acted like body armor. Throw a fleece under this jersey and you could take on winters in Alaska.

But why would this be a jersey foul? Well, it isn’t, but seen from the back, it could be misconstrued as one.

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That’s right, 1 1/2. If you didn’t know this was a MASCOT WORN jersey, you assume this was a foul. But it is more unique than anything else.

As an added bonus, a short story. The Central Hockey League team that played a few years in Broomfield, CO, the Rocky Mountain Rage, had a head coach that played in Huntington. I wore this jersey to a game, knowing that the players and coaches had to walk by an area where the fans could see and chat with them. The coach saw my jersey and gave me the thumbs up. Then I turned so he could see the back, and the look on his face was one of confusion. It was a fun moment for me.

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ELITE Sheffield Steelers Jersey

If you have walked around a city for long enough wearing a hockey jersey, someone will probably ask you about it. In some parts of the US, wearing a hockey jersey is similar to wearing a clown outfit, or a burka. You tend to stand out. For hockey fans, hockey jerseys are a social object. The jersey is the reason we are talking in the first place. If I weren’t wearing the jersey, we wouldn’t be randomly having a conversation in a bar or on the street. (and if it weren’t for twitter, facebook, blogs, new media, podcasting and everything else, we wouldn’t be talking like this, inventing new language to describe how we interact).

I get asked about my jerseys all the time. Some of it is genuine curiosity and interest, and some of it is rubbernecking at the guy who isn’t dressed like everyone else. It was the curiosity aspect that brought me this jersey. For those who didn’t know, yes they play hockey in the UK. From the British ELITE league, may I introduce the Sheffield Steelers:

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Look at those colors.

The story goes that I was at a Hartford Wolfpack game, and was taking a stroll through their gift shop, when I spotted a couple who were wearing jerseys I had never seen before. I had to ask them where these had come from, and they told me a bit about the ELITE league, which I had only heard of online at that point. They were from England, and spending time seeing hockey games in the US.

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That is some serious orange.

As I said me goodbyes, and was about a block from the fan store, I heard someone calling out to me. It was the woman I had been talking to, and she handed me this jersey. I really didn’t know how to respond. I was wearing my first game worn jersey and one of my absolute favorites, my Cincinnati Cyclones jersey, and couldn’t give that up. She just said it was OK, and to look them up sometime if I made it to a Steelers game.

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It was an amazing gift, more than I could imagine someone giving a complete stranger.

Some day, I want to take her up on that offer, and see them at a Steelers game. Maybe even take a tour of the ELITE league (now up from eight teams to ten). The only question will be, what to wear?