How to Start a Hockey Blog

Every few days, a new hockey blog enters the fold, with plenty of ambition and a slick design.  And every few days, another one sputters and dies.  And still, people want to write about hockey.

I get asked, and maybe you do as well, about the best way to start a hockey blog, so I thought it was time to put up a post I can point to the next time someone asks.  These are just my beliefs and experience, and other people may have a different opinion than mine.  It’s a big internet out there, and lots of ways to do it.  If you have something you want to add, the comments are open.

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The first key to starting a hockey blog is…. don’t.

No, really, don’t do it.  It’s a lot of work, and if you are doing it to make it as a sports writer or get a lot of attention, there are better ways.  And there are already tons of hockey blogs out there.  It will just lead to disappointment and resentment, and your family leaving you on the side of the road with a Gary Bettman bobble head.  You will not like it.

Plus, it’s a lot more work than you think it will be (this part is true).

………

…….

Still here?  OK, then.  Let’s do this.

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First, go to WordPress.com and get a free blog.  WordPress is some of the best blogging software out there, and they make it very easy to take your content to other systems and sites when you want to move on.  Later, if things are going well, you can get your own domain and hosting, and run your own copy of WordPress, but for now, let’s stick with the free option.  (If you don’t know what hosting is, or any of the technical internet stuff, don’t worry about it for now, as it really doesn’t matter)

It’s good to know the difference between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress:

  • WordPress.com is a free blogging service that is hosted on the wordpress.com servers. They maintain the site.  It’s similar to Blogger in this respect, but I think it’s better and more robust.
  • WordPress.org and self-hosted WordPress is blogging software that is similar to WordPress.com, only you host it on your own site or server.  You have more control, but more responsibility as well.

Next, start writing.

But wait, don’t I have to set up a banner and build a blog roll and link my twitter account, and get a color scheme and put the roster and team record in the side bar and….

NO. That is the last thing you should do.  It’s easy to make something really pretty, spend all your time on web design, and then sit back and marvel at your creation when you should be writing.  Rather than get bogged down in all of that, just write something and put it out there.  In fact, skip the introduction and jump into it.  If you write with a unique and individual voice, who you are will come out in your posts.  Want a great example?  Read any two or three posts from Scotty Hockey.  Don’t look at his sidebar, just read a few posts.  You will immediately get a sense of who he is.

Repeat after me: It’s not the site, it’s the writing.

That is what they mean when they say “content is king.”  People won’t keep coming back to your blog, read your work, or care about what you have to say without writing something.  It’s astounding how many people this is lost on.

Now that you are writing, what should you write about?  Well, what do you believe in?  We live in a media savvy world, and your audience can tell if you are being honest with them or not.  Even if you have an unpopular opinion, or even worse, if you have a popular opinion, as long as it is genuinely yours, you should go with it.  There should be a reason you have a hockey blog, and that is what you should write about.  Otherwise, shut it down and become a really good commenter.  There is nothing wrong with that.

I can’t tell you what to write, any more than other people should be able to.  That is completely up to you.  I have my beliefs on what makes a good hockey blog, but that’s a post for another day.

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But as for starting, here are a few do’s and don’ts that might help:

DO turn off twitter.  Seriously, you don’t need the distraction.  If you are spending most of your energy on twitter, you are taking away from your material for your blog.  Twitter is great, and a wonderful place to have a conversation, but it isn’t the same thing.  Shut it down for a while.

DON’T spend a dime.  I’m not kidding.  There is no reason for you to have to spend anything on your blog to start with.  Did you get a blog from WordPress.com?  Great, that’s it.  You don’t need anything else, and you don’t have to spend money.  Save that for when your blog takes off and you want more control over it.

DO own everything you do.  Embedding YouTube videos is fine, but don’t take photos you aren’t licensed for, or plagiarize (obviously) or use anything a person or company can come back and demand you take down or pay them for.  Blogs like Puck Daddy use Getty Images because they have licenses for those images.  You do not.  Yes, this is hard.  It’s harder to make your own post images than just take something from Getty Images, but as you build your reputation and skills as a blogger, it will pay off for you down the road.  I promise.

DO attribute quotes and link to posts and articles.  There are a lot of good writers and journalists out there that are doing hard work that deserves attention, and chances are you will be talking about and quoting their work.  They are in the locker rooms and on the buses, getting quotes and filing stories, so you should link and attribute to the people who you quote.  Links also get the attention of the people you are linking to, and that helps build your audience and reputation.

DON’T look at your site meter or site stats.  I know, you want to know who is reading your blog.  But if you get obsessed with the number of readers you have, you will start to lose readers.  Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.  You aren’t writing for a demographic.

DON’T worry about comments.  There are a ton of hockey blogs out there, and people don’t have time to comment on every post they read.  Your encouragement and enjoyment of your blogging should come from within, not from the comments of others.  It can be discouraging to write your butt off and not get a single comment, but don’t let that stop you.  Worry about the post more than the comments.

DON’T believe the hype.  You can have a great post that is practically ignored, and one that was a throwaway joke that gets thousands of hits.  Don’t pay any attention to that.  Don’t let other people determine what your content should be.  And if others say you are doing a good job, work even harder to impress them with your next post.  If they say you are crap, ignore them and post something that you like.  It’s the internet, after all.  Everything is crap. :)

DO rewrite.  I’m astounded by how many people forget to do this.  “The best writing comes from rewriting.” – some writer who was really smart.  Spellcheck goes in here as well. Use it.  It is your friend.

DO ask people’s opinion, and then listen to them.  The first part is easy, but the second part is not.  If you really aren’t interested in other people’s opinions on your work, don’t ask.  It wastes their time and yours.

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OK, enough of that.  You have some guidelines, but now you have to write, and you have to keep at it.  The world doesn’t need another ten post blog that fizzles out for no reason, so it’s time to kick this thing into gear, and make it into a challenge.

I challenge you, as a brand new blogger, to write a post every day for 30 days.  No days off, no slacking, post something you feel sets the tone and voice of your site, even if it’s just a youtube video.  Post for thirty day and make a habit out of it.  Sit down at the same time every day if you have to.  Throw something you wrote away and start over if you have to.  But just start writing and keep writing.

If that sounds too hard, well, do it anyways.  Blogging should be hard.  Twitter is easy, but taking the time to write good sentences, form them into paragraphs (did I forget to mention to write in paragraphs?), and do it day after day isn’t, but that’s what makes it fun and worthwhile.

If it’s any consolation, I’ve done it before, as have other people.  It can make you fall in love with hockey blogging.

So if you’re going to do it, that’s how.  The three Ws: WordPress, Write, wRepeat (see what I did there).

Happy blogging!

Blues vs Avs: Another Reason the Goal Should Have Counted

In the Avalanche’s 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues, the game winning goal was one surrounded by controversy.  Maybe surrounded isn’t the right word.  Briefly huddled around?  Anyways, here it is, in case you missed it:

The NHL Situation Room blog explained the decision this way:

At 14:07 of the second period in the Blues / Avalanche game , video review was inconclusive in determining if the net was completely dislodged before the puck crossed the goal line. There for,  the referee’s call on the ice stands. Good goal Colorado.

78.5 (x)  When the net becomes displaced accidentally. The goal frame is considered to be displaced if either or both goal pegs are no longer in their respective holes in the ice, or the net has come completely off one or both pegs, prior to or as the puck enters the goal.

The question of whether the net was off it’s pegs was inconclusive, so the “call on the ice” stands.  Two things about this:

First, there was no call on the ice.  If there was, it was done in secret.  The ref neither signaled goal or no goal (wash out).  That is academic, but interesting to note.

The second thing is another rule that could have been applied, from section 25 of the NHL rulebook, Awarded Goals, and rule 25.2, which states:

25.2 Infractions – When Goalkeeper is On the Ice – A goal will be awarded when an attacking player, in the act of shooting the puck into the goal (between the normal position of the posts and completely across the goal line), is prevented from scoring as a result of a defending player or goalkeeper displacing the goal post, either deliberately or accidentally.

I think we can safely say that this is what happened.  Not only did the Blues players take the net off it’s moorings, they carried the puck in with them as well.  You could say that the puck wasn’t shot by an Avalanche player, but you could say that a shot was what put the puck into the defenseman (OK, it was a pass) in the first place.  And if you check out rule 78.4, Scoring a Goal, the second paragraph states:

A goal shall be scored if the puck is put into the goal in any way by a player of the defending side. The player of the attacking side who last touched the puck shall be credited with the goal but no assist shall be awarded.

If the net had stayed on it’s moorings, the goal would have counted.  The Blues knocked it off, and therefor the right call would have been to award the goal anyways.

The unfortunate part is that this was the game winning goal.  Had the Avs tried to score in the third period, rather than sit back and defend a one goal lead, they might have scored another goal or two, and St. Louis fans might feel a little less screwed over by the call (which they weren’t, really).

The Avs have won seven in a row at home, which is a stark contrast to the beginning of the season.  Maybe they can keep it up against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were shellacked by the Sharks tonight.

Research, for the win.

Research!

(I don’t photograph well)

Tebow Time: The Clock is Ticking

View From Chez Tapeleg

Sports Authority Field, as seen from my apartment. Note how skillfully blocked the Pepsi Center is

Last night, as I left the Pepsi Center after the Colorado Avalanche beat the Washington Capitals, the chant went up.  It wasn’t “Let’s go, Avalanche,” which follows just about every victory.  It’s wasn’t “Capitals suck!” No, it’s something that we tend to hear every weekend in Colorado these days.

“Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!”

They were dressed in Broncos orange and blue, and they were having fun.  But it wasn’t the fight and the goal from Cody McLeod, or the goaltending of J.S. Giguere, or even the better than usual play of the defense that got them going.  It was Tim Tebow.  It was an invasion.

And this wasn’t the first time I hear the chant at the home of the Avalanche.  At the LA Kings game on October 30th, a drunk man behind me, who seemed to know a  bit about hockey, started chanting “Tebow! Tebow!” during the game.  I couldn’t figure out why.

Outside the Pepsi Center, mere steps from the exit, there were men selling “It’s Tebow Time” shirts, surely unlicensed merchandise with his number 15 on the back.  They were making a killing.  The guy across the street selling his Grateful Dead inspired Avalanche shirts must have been drooling with envy.

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The Canadian hockey fan tends to laugh at this kind of thing, and at the fans in a market like Denver, but often don’t understand the culture of the local sports fan in America.  Even in a market like Toronto, where there are four major sports represented (and I am counting the CFL as a major sport, because it is in Canada), and a few minor ones, hockey is still king.  This year, when the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League won their championship, no one noticed.  Sorry boys, the NHL playoffs are on.

Head west to cities like Vancouver or even Calgary and Edmonton, and you have two major sports and one or two smaller ones, as well as plenty of junior hockey.  Fans of the CFL are fairly passionate about their teams, but when the Calgary Stampede practice in a field (and I mean field as in expanse of grass, not football field) just outside their stadium, you know where the sports dollars are going.

In places like Colorado, where there is an over-saturated sports market, you have to pick your poison.  All four major sports are represented, along with indoor and outdoor lacrosse and soccer.  There was arena football, but thankfully that no longer exists here.  Minor league hockey exists to the north (the popular Colorado Eagles of the ECHL), and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies)  are to the south.

The sports culture in Denver is a constant rotation from one team to the next, one season to the next.  It creates the local sports fan, the fan who doesn’t care what the sport is, who the team is, so long as they play in Colorado. They can survive a heartbreak from one team because right around the corner, there is another team ready to spark more hope.

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Denver also has a complex.  When you think of Denver, what do you think of?  Exactly, not much.  There isn’t a scene here of any sort, not something culturally to hang our hats on.  When you think of cities like Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, LA, and even Minneapolis, Salt Lake, Detroit, and other larger cities, you get an impression, or a clearer picture of what that city is about, good or bad.

Denver has none of that.  It’s the quiet city that sits on the edge of the mountains.  It’s big enough to warrant attention, but rarely gets it.  It’s the MLS soccer of the United States.  It’s great when attention is paid to it, but quickly fades from memory.

And keep in mind, I love it here.  I love my city, and think the world of it.  But exciting it is not.

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Tebow Painting

The nation’s attention is captured by Tim Tebow.  I still can’t figure out why, but it’s there.  And here in Colorado, he is the most divisive of people.  There are controversial political figures that don’t garner as much of a love / hate relationship as Tim Tebow.  He currently owns this city.  More people could rattle off his stats than tell you who the current mayor is.

And when the nation’s attention is turned towards Denver, the citizens take it as their own.  The hype has captured the attention of the fans, and when they see the highlights night after night on every sports show, from ESPN to whatever Versus is doing, they get excited.

ESPN dedicated most of a SportsCenter to Tebow recently.  It was laughed at for the most part, but John Buccigross made the point that would ultimately matter to ESPN:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Buccigross/status/146231985394823169″]

Denver Broncos fans have a similar complex to the one Avs fans have had the last few years.  It’s born of anticipated defeat.  Warranted or not, the loser complex exists, and watching players leave for greater success elsewhere has turned Broncos fans into shells of themselves.  The same thing happens with the Colorado Rockies.  That’s just the business of sports, of course.  But being a fan isn’t a business from the fan’s perspective.  It’s love.

So why does the love flow for Tim Tebow?  I wish I could put my finger on it.  I’m a hockey fan.  I do not care for the NFL, baseball can’t hold my attention, and I do not care at all for the NBA.  I love is firmly with the Avalanche.  And while they have a few great young players, it’s still very much a team sport that doesn’t hinge on one person as much as football hinges on a quarterback.  The man at the center is going to garner that attention.

But the attention of a nation?  How does this happen?  And why does it invade the rest of the sports here?

I’ve groused in the past of the hype that Sidney Crosby gets, and how overblown the coverage of him is.  But while Crosby is the face of the NHL, Tim Tebow is just another player.  The NFL doesn’t need a face like the NHL does.  They may have lost Payton Manning (and by extension the Indianapolis Colts), but the business of the NFL doesn’t depend on a single character the way the NHL currently does.

Colorado isn’t unfamiliar with it’s evangelical sports figures, either.  Bill McCartney, former head coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes, was also the founder of the Promise Keepers, a Christian organization for men that garnered a lot of attention in the state.  At the time, the Buffaloes were playing better than they are now, and as with the sport, so goes the state.

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If there’s one thing the Broncos have going for them, it’s who they put out in front of the fans.  When you look to the management side of the organization, the man who is front and center is former Broncos quarterback John Elway.  Even while some question what his job is with the organization, he is certainly out front and making fans happy.  Turn that around to the Avalanche, and in a similar role you have Joe Sakic.  But if you have seen him lately in connection to an Avs game, buy a lottery ticket, because it’s your lucky day.

The Avalanche have always been lauded for their marketing efforts, and the relative silence of the management team.  This week, some of that silence was broken when the Denver Post sat down with Josh Kroenke, owner or co-owner (depending on how you look at it) of the Avs.  It’s unusual to see this kind of communication from the organization, but perhaps a new era is starting to open up?  Wait and see, but don’t hold your breath.

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What does all of this mean for the sports scene in Colorado, and more important to my own self-interests, what does it mean to the Colorado Avalanche and their business, as well as the culture of the fans?  It’s hard to tell.  If I knew, I would be a marketing super genius.  If Tim Tebow is a flash in the pan, then we could be back to the status quo soon.  But if the national hype machine continues to roll, there could be plenty more to come.

What I do know is that, as a fan of a sport competing for the attention of the local sports fans (and currently losing), I’m ready for it to no longer be Tebow time.  Perhaps when the Broncos start losing again, that time will have passed.

The New Conferences, Perhaps a New Lease on Life

How Many Teams?

After plenty of hand wringing and consternation, after so much fan speculation and more plots than the end of the movie Clue, more promises made than in the Godfather, and more… well, you get the point… the NHL has finally voted on a scheme for realigning the league.

I’m usually not one for the instant analysis these days, which is part of why the blog has been so slow (by the time I feel like I have a solid, well thought out opinion, the moment has passed), but this time, I’m excited enough to jump into the fray.  Here are the conferences (copied from Kukla’s Korner):

The Conference format:

Conference A

Anaheim
Calgary
Colorado
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver

Conference B

Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Detroit
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg

Conference C

Boston
Buffalo
Florida
Montreal
Ottawa
Tampa Bay
Toronto
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Conference D

Carolina
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Washington
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First off, the conference I am most concerned with, the one the Avalanche will play in.  This is looking like a truly competitive conference, with the Sharks (who have become a bit of a playoff rival) usually fielding a solid team, and LA always right on the doorstep.  The Ducks have their ups and downs, but the solid core  on their first line make them an interesting competitor.  The wild card here is Phoenix, with their ownership issues meaning that they could move within the next season or two.  If they were to move east, they could be integrated easily into either of the seven team conferences without any fuss.  That, of course, would help every team in this conference (more on that in a moment).

In Conference B, the Jets, Stars and Wild join the central division teams.  This helps the eastern time zone teams thanks to a new schedule format that sees each team play an away game outside of their conference only once per season, while playing conference rivals six times (three at home, three away).  This seems to keep things reasonable and more balanced as far as travel is concerned.

The Southeast division is split down the middle  Winnipeg moved to a more geographically obvious conference), with Washington and Carolina joining the Atlantic, and Florida and Tampa Bay joining the Northeast.  Both conferences are made up of seven teams, and this is going to be significant in playoff implications, as the top four teams from each conference make the playoffs.  This means that there is a better odds-on chance of making the playoffs in the two eastern conferences than the western two.  But the Southeast split sent a perennially weaker team and stronger team to separate conferences (even if the Capitals haven’t won a Cup while the Hurricanes have).

The initial reaction could be that this doesn’t seem like a fair distribution of teams from a competitive viewpoint, but the point of realignment shouldn’t be about making things more competitively even.  That is supposed to be the promise of the salary cap, designed to bring the almighty parity to the league.  And while that hasn’t necessarily been the case, to base realignment off current rosters would be foolish indeed.  Creating rivalries is as much about geography and chance as it is the players involved.  Rivalries in the NHL rarely follow the player as much as the logo these days (Todd Bertuzzi being the obvious exception).

My initial thoughts on this scheme are generally positive.  I like what I am seeing in the two extreme coastal conferences (A and D above), but see a few issues with the B and C.

If I were to pick a winner and loser for this realignment, I would say the Red Wings, Ducks and Kings are winners (easier travel, and a few weaker opponents to pad their points), while the main loser is the Blue Jackets.  What is adding a few boring teams like the Wild and Jets to the schedule going to do for ticket sales?  Nothing fast.  It would be better to just cancel the home games against Minnesota, and bring in a Celine Dion impersonator.  It would be more interesting.

I’m sure I will have more thoughts later.  I can’t wait to see how this looks when the final point totals from this season are inevitably compared with this season’s point totals (even if they are misguided thanks to schedule adjustments).  But overall, I give this a solid ‘not bad.’