Covering the Red Wings

I’m handing the keys off on this week’s Social Saturday blog post to Richard Curbelo, a blogger and freelance journalist who has been covering Detroit sports for over two decades.

I have given him a few questions that should spark the interest of fans who wonder about the day-to-day life of a sports journalist. Here’s a sampling.

Name: Richard Curbelo

Job: Sports Director, Indbeat

Years covering Detroit sports teams: 21

Describe a typical game day for you.

The morning starts with the traditional skate, followed by going into the locker room to see how ready the team is for the game that night. I’m taken back by how loose they seem, yet so focused at the same time. After I file my story and whatever audio may accompany it, I try and get away from sports for a little while. I’ll watch current events on CNN, check out what’s on the Food Channel, all before coming back to the Joe for the game that evening.

What is your relationship like with the players and Mike Babcock?

It’s pretty much all business, though you do like the casual tidbits. I like to say my relationships with the players are genuine. I think they have a tough business to keep up with and a lot of people don’t know how mentally tough you have to be to play in the NHL.

As for Coach Babcock, I believe he is a great head coach and an even better person. He has a lot of interests, like hunting, outside of the sport that seem fascinating. I enjoy hearing his pearls of wisdom.

Who does a good job at covering the National Hockey League and why?

I’m a fan of Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News. I have seen his work for years and have enjoyed his progress in becoming one of the best writers in the Midwest and in the United States.

In your years of experience, who has been your favorite player to cover and why?

Henrik Zetterberg. I enjoy his business-like approach after games and practices. When you combine that with a willingness to win on the ice, it’s tough to beat.

Is there a moment that comes to mind in your career which would be a favorite?

The Wings winning back-to-back Stanley Cups during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.

How has the business of covering the Red Wings changed? How has social and digital media played a part in that?

Being in this business for over two decades, you have to adjust to what is there now that hasn’t been there before. It’s so quick and speed has become more and more important. It’s a 24/7 job where news can break at any point and anywhere. Like the players, you always have to be prepared.

What have you learned about social media and how it is applied to our organization?

It’s so easy for a Red Wings fan to access the team through social media platforms. All it takes is one click on your phone or computer to get the latest scores, features on players and their personalities. It’s also easier than ever for fans to connect with the team through things like Twitter, where Mike Commodore and Cory Emmerton answer fans queries on a daily basis.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to break into the sports, or sports media business?

You have to be knowledgeable on what social media is, because it is growing in influence by the day. Also, know all aspects of editing, always try to improve at interviewing and be sure to maintain a blog on a day-to-day to basis. Being the jack of all trades in many different areas can give you an advantage. And don’t forget that the hours are endless, so always be prepared.

The whole ping-pong thing

Not too long ago, a pair of ping-pong tables showed up outside the hallway between the locker rooms.

And it took, give or take, five minutes for them to become a source of competition among our players.

Almost every day after practice, you are bound to see players strutting their skills on the tables. Some players are admittedly, better than others. And one always walks in the line of fire trying to pass as points are going on.

If you don’t watch your head, you may get Kronwalled.

“We got a couple games with top-ranked players,” unofficial Red Wings Table Tennis league commissioner Jiri Hudler explained.

“Ty Conklin, Danny Cleary. High level ping pong right here. It doesn’t get any better.”

Hudler was “refereeing” the Conklin vs. Cleary match. The players were ranked third and fourth in the league, respectively, and their battle was for third place in the league.

“You can’t move up the ladder without beating the guy in front of you,” Patrick Eaves said.

Hudler proclaimed Eaves as the team’s most prolific ping pong player. He pointed out Eaves carrying his own paddle — and a case for it.

“Eveyone’s having fun out here. We’re not superstars or anything,” Eaves said, shying away from attention.

“Everyone’s about the same, so it’s fun.”

One guy was paying a little extra attention to Thursday’s ping-pong activity was Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, who seemed to get a kick out of watching some of his old players in a relaxed, but competitive setting.

Locker Room Comments – October 26th

Thought I lost this when my browser malfunctioned. It’s still worth posting.

Locker room comments following practice on October 26th. Thanks to Rich Curbelo, friend of the Hockeytown Blog for gathering the audio and winning the battle of the scrum.

Niklas Kronwall on his game day rituals
“I always eat a good breakfast in the morning with oatmeal and some eggs. Then I come down here to the rink, skate, stretch, go for lunch, take a little bit of a nap, just relax at home and then eat some more oatmeal before I head back down here about 2.5 hours before the game. Then I make sure the sticks are ready and start warming up with some two-touch and the bike. I just get ready to go from there.”

Do you get fired up at all? Are there things you like to watch or listen to beforehand?
“It’s not like I watch any typical shows or anything like that. I think you just try to, in the morning, you go through their lineup and see who you are playing against, what their tendencies are and go through the game in your head little bit before you come down to the rink.”

Jimmy Howard on being a dad
“It was sort of a whirlwind and he arrived at 2:52 on Sunday afternoon, it’s been a great couple of days for my family.”

“James Russell Howard the IV. I’m the third, so a little bit of a legacy there.”

“Everything’s good. I brought my wife and child home last night around 5:30 and had our first night as a family at home. So it’s good. Her mom comes in today. My mom has been in the last couple of days, so it’s nice to have family around.”

“I’m sure there’s going to be an adjustment period, like I said, my mom’s in town right now, my wife’s mom is coming in today, and they’re going to be around to help us out, allowing me to get sleep the night before games.”

Tweeting at 30,000 feet

Last season, we didn’t have any players that used Twitter.

This season, we’ve got a pair, three when Brendan Smith is up with the big club.

And after Saturday’s win over Minnesota, someone put the three players on our club that use Twitter next to each other on a team plane with Wi-Fi. Hilarity ensued.

KEY – @CEmmer 48 – Cory Emmerton; @Commie22 – Mike Commodore; @BSSmith7 – Brendan Smith. (All photos were included in the Tweets themselves)

CEmmer48 @commie22 this is what you call efficient flying #veteran #beauty

Commie22 @cemmer48 is pissed off everyone on the plane has been served dinner but him … #justsoup #gonnalose it

Commie22 haha …suck on that @cemmer48 RT @TheRealADT: Must be the free bowl of soup he got with that shirt. Wow! Rookies.

Commie22: I skipped dinner. #KeepitTight @cemmer48 calls shirt salmon. RT @distaff @commie22 u going to share your din with your pink shirted friend?

Commie22: Check out @bssmith7 hair … burning through the hair gel #keepitSlick

BSSmith7: @Commie22 just jealous of my flow cause he can’t grow the fro back anymore.

Commie22: RT@bssmith7 @Commie22 just jealous of my flow cause he can’t grow the fro back anymore.

Commie22: I think it’s a coloring book. RT @AngryFan @Commie22 What’s @Cemmer48 reading? Game notes?

CEmmer48: @Commie22 I wish it was a colouring book. I would colour the s*** out of it. Yes, I am Canadian, I use a u in colour.

Twitter is a bird right? In this case, Tweeting was more or less ‘chirping’, a skill hockey players, by birth, are good at.

It doesn’t end there, because Commodore was the only player at the Joe on Sunday for a solo workout.

Commie22: Wings day off…solo at the joe..gym, boot, nfl redzone … #liveatthejoe

Commie22: Who needs some hockey gear? Everything in this stall is available. #discountprices

Commie22: I can’t find them … he must take them home. RT @YeezyTaughtYou @Commie22 no coloring books for @CEmmer48

Commie22: Hahahaha…I like it RT @Waffleboard: @Commie22 dunno if Emmerton has a nickname yet, but if not, it has to be Crayola

CEmmer48: Look on twitter today to find out that @Commie22 has my equipment up for sale, here’s hoping I still have some left tomorrow or do I?

Commie22: @CEmmer48 All that’s left is a jock strap and 1 shin pad … #Imade50buckstoday

Commie22: Don’t use it as a #GasMask Now you just have 1 shin pad. RT @katedagreat @Commie22 @CEmmer48 I’ll take the jock strap for $4.63.

CEmmer48: @Commie22 Glad ya had a good day at the office at my expense. Gonna be tough to explain to Pauly (Boyer) tomorrow #thisguy I tell ya #badnews

You’ve got to love social networking. Now our fans are privy to this inside joke, which broke out at 30,000 feet on the team plane.

 

The skinny on DRW Social Media

What do I do and what am I doing here?

There are two hockey cards that sit on the wall to the right of my desk. One is of Bobby Orr, the other of Niklas Lidstrom. Next to those two legends is Justin Bieber on the cover of BrandWeek, with a ticket to Opening Night attached to the same pushpin.

Orr and Lidstrom are the two greatest defenseman in the history of our sport, Bieber is the most legendary social/viral sensation the planet has known.

There is also an Erika Lawler 2010 U.S. Olympic Hockey jersey, a HerCampus.com Man of the Year Award, a picture of Bill Hancock, the man who runs the Bowl Championship Series, not to mention one of the nicest human beings you will ever meet, on the cover of Sports Business Journal, with the words ‘I HEART THE BCS’ in blue highlighter, and a Darren Helm autographed ‘No Limits’ poster that was smudged to the point where I couldn’t give it away.

Eclectic? Yes.

Do I get mocked for the Bieber magazine? Absolutely.

Must you be able to take some lighthearted ribbing to work in the sports industry? Yep.

The key to running the social media operation for the Detroit Red Wings is to mix fun with hockey, news with interaction, and internally, figure out the messaging most important to our fans and get it across accordingly.

We have 1.125 million followers on Facebook, the largest such audience in the National Hockey League. The math suggests that not all of those fans would be considered die-hard patrons, nor will they watch even half of our 82 games on TV. The demographics also show that even fewer will be able to attend games at Joe Louis Arena.

Balancing the right information, including hard news with highlights, contracted obligations with fun little vignettes, is just part of the job. It’s impossible to please everyone, but knowing your audience is important, if not critical on a day-to-day basis.

Our Twitter feed is an entirely different animal because the league, its media and society have set the bar. Once upon a time, ESPN used to have a ticker with the latest scores and news at :28 and :58, every hour. Then it simply became the bottom line, a rotating scroll of scores, updates and top stories.

Now that feed has been personalized, with anyone capable of playing the role of media member. Those in a traditional mindset are trying to adjust to the immediacy of the feed and the expectations that a story may be old news hours, if not minutes after it happens. We may know a few things here in the office, but the likes of Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie are experts for a reason. If you want to know what’s going on in the NHL, those three are must follows on Twitter. They’ll break the news first.

In some markets, and this was especially noticeable during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, reporters sat at their laptops with Twitter open, literally typing their press conference quotes, quips and antidotes to their feed as it happens. And if you have a few thousand followers, any news on lineup changes can go viral in an instant.

The role of our club on Twitter is to be your one-stop shop for Red Wings news. If the game time has changed, we’ll let you know. If there are player transactions, you’ll be informed. If you are on a business trip in Seattle and you need to know what’s going on in our game in Phoenix, we’ve got you covered.

It’s a 24/7 job. And nobody told me that the expectation was that you are always on call, even if the team is on the West Coast with a 10:00 P.M. puck drop and you are in Detroit. It’s the way our industry is headed in a social media sense.

Still, the best part of the job is that you can truly be a fan. It’s something that helps me relate to all of our followers on a daily basis. Being allowed to share in your excitement, revel in the glory of the team’s success and manage your frustrations when things aren’t going so well, are just three of the reasons why you come into the office every day. That and daily debates on fantasy hockey, third string goaltenders, prospects in Grand Rapids and the seven game Stanley Cup Final that just took place in a daily game of NHL 12.

That’s just a little bit about what we do here.

Follow Jake Duhaime on Twitter at @jakeduhaime

Off the Schneide

The Vancouver Canucks are in town tonight and if you needed a scouting report, the defending Western Conference champions not only have a pair of very-skilled twin forwards, but two quality goaltenders.

Roberto Luongo was the Vancouver starter in last night’s loss to Philadelphia, so the nod will go to Cory Schneider this evening.

Schneider has faced the Red Wings once before, in garbage time of a December 2008 match-up after the starting goaltender, Curtis Sanford gave up six goals in 33 shots. The Boston College product was instrumental in the Manitoba Moose’s 2009 Calder Cup playoff victory over a Grand Rapids team that sported both Jimmy Howard and Justin Abdelkader.

The AHL club in Manitoba may be history, giving way to the Winnipeg Jets over the summer, but what those in East Lansing will fondly remember that Schneider was also the goaltender in-net when Justin Abdelkader scored the game-winning goal of the 2007 Frozen Four championship game with less than 20 seconds to go.

Schneider would turn pro following that game. The following year, when he could have been a senior, Boston College won the National Championship. As for Abdelkader? The spoils continued with the chance to lift the Stanley Cup following the Red Wings six game victory over Pittsburgh.

Follow Jake Duhaime on Twitter at @jakeduhaime

Two wins down, 80 games to go.

On Friday, following the Red Wings morning skate at Joe Louis Arena, rookie forward Cory Emmerton tweeted out the following.

“#48 in your program and probably #48 in your hearts haha.”

If Emmerton scores more goals, as he did in Friday’s 5-3 win over Ottawa, all guesses are that he’ll be jumping up people’s lists.

“Hopefully, it will get me more followers,” Emmerton joked after the game, as he was reminded of his prophetic Tweet.

As for everything else Red Wings related over the first two games of the 2011-12 campaign, so far, so good. It’s hard to argue with two wins, four points and a balanced attack, even if Mike Babcock wasn’t impressed with the final 20 minutes of his team’s performance in the opener.

The defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks are in town on Thursday. It marks the first of six player bobble head nights at Joe Louis Arena this season.

Here are the news and notes from across the Winged Wide Web.

  • “We’re the underdog in America,” Ilitch Holdings President and CEO Chris Ilitch told the Wall Street Journal, in regards to Detroit sports having a positive effect on the city’s comeback. “We have so much upside potential.”
  • The Nightmare on Helm Street offers up a fine breakdown of Henrik Zetterberg’s goal against Colorado.
  • A Neuie Perspective is looking for your Red Wings photos.
  • Matt Saler at ‘On the Wings’ has the latest on the Brendan Smith suspension, which actually led to him being called up to the big club on Saturday.
  • Red Wings Brazil has a breakdown of Saturday’s 3-0 win over Colorado. The Google Translated headline is aptly titled, “The World is Still Beautiful.”
  • Winging it in Motown with their regular list of X reasons.
  • The Octopus Thrower has three not so bold predictions for the 2011-12 season.
  • NHL Hockey is back in Winnipeg.

Welcome to Social Saturday!

What is Social Saturday?

Today marks our first ‘Social Saturday’ of the 2011-12 season, a series of promotional dates, with our partner 98.7 AMP Radio Detroit.

These special days are for you, about you, by you, even if yours truly penned this blog post.

We’ve polled, surveyed and chatted with fans throughout the summer months. You want more opportunities to connect with us. You want more autographed giveaways. You want any opportunity to get into Joe Louis Arena and cheer on the likes of Lidstrom, Holmstrom and Zetterberg. And for those of you outside of Michigan, you want an opportunity to meet us face-to-face, on the road.

This is our first step in doing so.

What can you expect in 2011-12?

The U.S. Park Ticket Deal of the Week
- This special ticket deal will take place every week. It will be a limited number of tickets, at a special price for our followers on social media. We suggest setting up a Ticketmaster account beforehand, just to make the ordering process move quicker.

Blogger of the Week
- We know our fans have opinions, lots of them. We also know that you love having a platform and an audience to express your point of view. Thus, we’re asking you to submit your favorite blog (and it could be your own), to become our ‘Blogger of the Week..’ Each week, one Red Wings, or hockey related site will be linked to the Red Wings social networks on Facebook and Twitter. It’s an easy opportunity to attract an audience and new fans to your work.

You can submit your blog to redwingssocialmedia@gmail.com starting, well .. right now.

More Tweet Your Seat Giveaways
- We’ve already showcased why you should ‘Tweet Your Seat’ when you come to the Joe. It’s your opportunity to win tickets, autographed merchandise, video games and so much more.

Zamboni Rides
- Have you ever wanted to ride on the Zamboni? During Social Saturday home games, fans will have the opportunity to win a ride on the famed Joe Louis Arena machines.

NHL 2012
- The fine folks at EA Sports made me the most popular man in the office recently, with a shipment of NHL 2012 copies for giveaways during Social Saturdays. I’ve had to fend off the gamers here at the Joe to protect this valuable piece of inventory, but expect one of these to be given away to you, each home Social Saturday.

Road Parties
- We’re hoping to have our first on October 29th in Minnesota, at a place right across the street from the Xcel Energy Center. More details will follow over the next few weeks.

DTE Energy ‘Light the Lamp’ games
- Each Social Saturday home game will also be designated as a ‘Light the Lamp’ event on social media. If the Red Wings score four or more goals in that game, as they did last night, fans will be able to tweet #lightthelamp at @DetroitRedWings and @DTE_Energy for a chance to win a pair of tickets to DTE Energy ‘Going Green Night’ in March.

This is just the short list. The theme of ‘Social Saturday’ is to reward you, the most loyal fan base in the National Hockey League, where you follow your team. We’re always here to serve you.

Jake

Follow Jake Duhaime on Twitter at @jakeduhaime

Almost Showtime

Long time, no blog.

Have you ever worked on a play before? There’s an old saying that 10 percent of the work happens in the first weeks of a production and that the other 90 percent are a last minute scramble.

The same is true here. Regardless of the amount of time spent at the office.

From promotions designed to bring fans closer than ever to the team, to that last bit of paint on the Joe Louis Arena ice surface, we’re getting ready for a spectacular Opening Night.

Is it Friday yet?

In the meantime, here are a few notes to end the preseason. You know, just in case Mother Nature tries to rain on Justin Verlander’s parade of dominance this evening at Comerica Park.

- If there were a ‘Most Impressive Player of the Preseason’ award, Gustav Nyquist would have taken home the honor. The former University of Maine star looked like a veteran out there, making plays and showing tremendous presence for such a young player. Mike Babcock couldn’t stop raving about what seems to be the latest in a long line of Swedish imports.

Nyquist is certainly a luxury for General Manager Ken Holland. He has a two-way contract, meaning he doesn’t have to clear waivers in being sent down to Grand Rapids. It also helps that he will see significant ice time in the AHL, something that he may not have seen on the third or fourth line in Detroit.

Still, if injuries happen and there is a need, much like there was for Tomas Tatar last New Year’s Eve, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at Joe Louis Arena at some point this season.

Speaking of Nyquist, you can follow him on Twitter at @GNyquist. Other Wings prospects to join the world of social media include the aforementioned Tatar (@Trto90), Cory Emmerton (@Cemmer48) and Landon Ferraro (@LandonFerraro).

- Fabian Brunnstrom made the most of his professional tryout (PTO), earning a roster spot, while showing his ability to make plays.

- The tickets may be $200 a piece, but the Toast of Hockeytown is a tremendous event! Great food, even better wine and seeing your Red Wings players dressed to the nines? How can you beat that? Act fast if you want to attend, because tickets surely will sell out.

- Let’s Go Tigers! Let’s Go Lions!

- The good folks over at Nightmare on Helm Street has more on the 2011-12 roster with the addition of Brunnstrom.

- You knew this was only a matter of time. The Shanabanned list.

- Is it time to rename Detroit Sports City, USA?

- Former Red Wing Boyd Devereaux is skating with Michigan native (and Red Wings fan) Tanith Belbin on CBC’s Battle of the Blades. Another former Detroit hockey tough guy, Brad May is paired with Anabelle Langlois.

So close you can feel it

Joe Louis Arena is the coldest it has been in months.

It has nothing to do with the weather outside, which until this afternoon, had been quite comfortable. It has everything to do with Al Sobotka and his crew building a new ice-surface inside of our fabled home.

The process started on Monday, ending with a christening of the rink this morning by a number of players, including Nick Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Jakub Kindl and Valtteri Filppula.

Over the last few days, players have been taking part in informal practices here in Detroit. We’ve seen the big guns like Lidstrom, guys from other clubs, minor league players, even minor league talent from other teams. The mood is light, mostly hands-off and very relaxed. Think about the day before the first day of classes in high school, when everyone is there to pick up books and class schedules. There’s a good mix between serious and social, focusing on the task ahead, while enjoying those last few precious moments of summer freedom.

Two other notes:

  • Tickets for all 2011-12 games at Joe Louis Arena go on sale tomorrow at noon EDT.
  • Hockeyfest takes place on September 10th, also at Joe Louis Arena and features interactive games, Q and A panels and autograph sessions with many of your favorite players. Visit www.detroitredwings.com for ticket and event information.
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