Breaking the ice
Islanders making bloggers part of media corps
Posted: Monday October 8, 2007 12:30PM; Updated: Monday October 15, 2007 1:45PM
There was a moment late on Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum when blogging, journalism and public relations collided with the force of a Dion Phaneuf open-ice check. In a cramped interview room after New York's 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, Islanders defenseman Chris Campoli was asked if the referees had treated his team unfairly. Before Campoli could answer the question, Chris Botta, the team's public relations director, interjected a warning.
"Let me remind you, Chris," Botta said, grinning, "we can get fined even [when answering a question] by a question from a blogger."
Welcome to the new NHL. Because of the league's increasing niche status in the United States -- newspapers have significantly reduced their coverage of the league (last year the Los Angeles Times stopped sending reporters on the road with the Kings and the Anaheim Ducks) -- bloggers have filled in the gaps for hockey-hungry fans. On Saturday night the Islanders became the first professional sports franchise to credential a permanent group of bloggers as part of its press corps -- with a press-like area set aside soley for them.
The "NYI Blog Box" has a physical home in the arena as well as cyberspace. The team set up three tables for bloggers at the top of the Coliseum's lower bowl. The tables featured wireless access, media guides and the same game notes used by the traditional press. Then there is the "Blog Box" on the team's website that houses the actual blogs.
The first night of Botta's grand experiment consisted of 11 bloggers, two reporters covering the bloggers, and a pair of professors from East Stroudsburg University who are observing and interviewing the bloggers as part of a year-long study. "What the Islanders have done is officialize what a blogger is," said B.D. Gallof, the author of The Bouncing Puck: Ravings of an Islander's Blogger. "They put a name to it. The other teams have not. They have been wishy-washy. Sometimes bloggers get access. Sometimes they don't. That's where we are really pioneers. The officialization of what's going on between the Internet and fans."
The bloggers varied in age and occupation, from a CPA for Lincoln Center (Jim McGlynn) to a teachers' assistant at an elementary school (Liodice). All but Dee Karl are men. Her 7th Women blog has existed since January 2006 and she has been known to email NHL commissioner Gary Bettman if something displeases her. Kenneth Dick's Okposo Net blog focuses on the comings and goings of the team's 2006 first-round pick, Kyle Okposo.
Most of the bloggers average 40 to 100 hits per day, but you can bet those numbers will go up during the season. The Islanders received more than 200 applications for a spot in the blog box -- including 120 in the first three days -- after they posted the announcement on their website. The team asked for writing samples and had applicants answer a series of questions. Botta said they were looking for quality writers with a passion for the team.
"This was my way to express my enthusiasm for a team that I felt has not been getting enough coverage," Dick said. "What fans in the NHL can say we got to cover our home team? I'm not going to say we are media. But we are almost media." Gallof, a graphic designer, is one of the better-known hockey bloggers. He has written extensively on Hockeybuzz.com. and was impressive in taking the lead during the inquisition of Campoli.