Friday, September 26, 2008

Life in the Islanders Lane

If you've been inside a New York City taxi lately, you may have seen a short preview of the NBC police drama Life playing on your in-flight personal entertainment screen. If you watched closely, you might have caught a very brief glimpse of the Islanders logo in the background of one of the scenes.

A few months ago, Isles VP of Communications Josh Bernstein told us in this space that such a product placement had been engineered by the organization as part of a campaign to increase the visibility of the Islanders brand.

Having been reminded of the Life deal by a recent taxi trip, I paid a visit to the show's web site to see if there was any additional video evidence available. Sure enough, has video clips from the upcoming season available. And as you can see from the following screen cap, the Islanders presence is unmistakable.

You can find this specific clip here. The second season of Life premieres this Monday night, September 29, at 10 PM Eastern before settling into its regular Friday night time slot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Training Camp Quotes: Buying In from the Beginning?

I'm really enjoying some of the quotes that have come out of training camp so far. Players can either say nothing, say something but mean nothing, or say something and really mean something. The line between the latter two can be hard to distinguish, but I think some of the quotes that have been gathered by Greg Logan from the veterans about Scott Gordon are exactly what you want to be hearing at this point.

Brendan Witt:

"I think hockey is pretty basic, but everyone has a different way of looking at it. I see his perspective, and I’m trying to learn some things here about the way he wants it done."

Doug Weight:
"You can still learn at our age, and you can still practice things to get better throughout the season."

Bill Guerin:
"I think everybody is impressed and happy. There's no doubt who's in charge and how we're going to play. I think that's something we desperately needed. We needed more structure in our game, and we're getting it."

That certainly sounds like a group of veteran players that is open to change and buying into what the new coach is demanding. I would question whether overspeed requires too much physical and mental commitment over an 82-game season, but that didn't seem to be the case with Gordon's Providence teams.

I thought Islander Frontier had a good response to the outcry for an enforcer to be in the lineup at all times after the Bruins banged up Chris Campoli and Kurtis MacLean last night (and I'm also glad the quotes I zoned in on above weren't the exact same ones Dominik used in his previous post!). Dominik wrote:
Amusingly, this ignited calls on the Newsday comment forum (already!) that the Islanders must have a full-time enforcer. Because without one, the thinking goes, other teams will run roughshod over the Isles. Nice theory and all ... except that one of the candidates for Isles enforcer, Mitchel Fritz, was in the lineup!

While there is a deterrent value to dressing enforcers -- which is why GM Garth Snow has implied they will use them on a game-by-game basis this season -- the equation that Enforcer Present = No One Runs Your Players is a gross exaggeration, a falsehood. Some intimidation and policing built up over a season can be a deterrent, sure (even in today's NHL), but come on: Fritz's presence in the lineup obviously kept no one from taking their licks to earn a spot on the Bruins.

Just to expand on this idea a little bit, there are plenty of fearless players in the NHL that go out in search of the big hit regardless of who is on the other bench. And if doing so means that they are inviting reprisal, well, most of them are more than happy to take that on as well.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Islanders Film Festival

Coverage of NHL training camps has never been better. Still, with two and half weeks remaining until the season actually starts, you may find yourself with some free time and a hankering for some hockey entertainment. Why not head down to your local NHL Powered by RBK Cineplex and check out the latest from the big screen?

Cinema 1—Speed 3: Overspeed
A sadistic former hockey coach and his henchmen kidnap an NHL team and force the players to drill endlessly with explosives attached to their skates. If they don't keep moving their feet at least 20 MPH, their skates will explode. Starring Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter, the unlucky beat reporter who gets caught up in the dastardly plot—and shackled to the team's captain—and Dwayne Johnson as a former Navy Seal who just happens to be skating with the team that day. PG-13

Cinema 2—Richard XXXIX
A headstrong, young prince ascends to England's throne at the age of 18 and refuses to get off it for 82 straight days. Starring Shia LaBeouf as the newly crowned king and Hilary Duff as Lady Comrie, the young noblewoman who will one day be his queen. PG-13

Cinema 3—Band of Mothers
A group of underappreciated hockey moms goes on strike and an entire youth hockey league grinds to a halt. Hilarity ensues as the hockey moms successfully run for city council and the council's former members are forced to pick up the slack at the local arena. Starring Joan Cusack, Neve Campbell, Amy Poehler, Julianna Margulies, and Jack Black, as the former councilman who finally gets it. PG-13

Cinema 4—Black Rubber
Two overweight, twentysomething slackers fail out of a Sumo wrestling academy and attempt to market themselves to an NHL team as goalies. When they encounter resistance, the dreamers take their scheme a step further by posing as Siamese Sumo twins who can revolutionize the goaltender position. Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill star in the latest tour de farce from Judd Apatow. Special appearances by the Hanson Brothers and Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. R

Cinema 5—The Mighty Ducks: E-4
When the fabled Disney-sponsored junior hockey team is accidentally wiped out by a massive, errant stick during a clinic with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger, a Long Island-based independent minor league baseball team also bearing the Ducks name is called on to repopulate the roster. What follows is a comedy of errors as the ballplayers whiff on slapshots, watch pucks slide through their legs, and generally fall all over themselves. Starring Charlie Sheen as Charlie Bombay, the brother of deceased Mighty Ducks coach Gordon Bombay, who whips the new Ducks into shape by delivering stirring speeches about old Scandinavian skate sharpeners and bringing in a ringer with a calming presence named Ernie Banks. Co-starring Bud Harrelson as Uncle Frans. PG

Friday, September 19, 2008

Islanders Illustrated, Episode IV (A New Hope?)

On the day the Islanders arrive in Moncton for training camp, we bring you the latest sampling of goings-on in Isles World...

Islanders Illustrated, Episode IV (A New Hope?)

I suppose we could play the "Who is Eric Cartman's Father?" game. Based on Episode IV of Islanders Illustrated, who is the Islanders' new hope? Is it Doug Weight? (Dramatic music.) Is it Josh Bailey? (More dramatic music.) Is it Corey Trivino? (Oh, the suspense!)

Well, truth be told, the episode didn't really make issue of that. It is, however, an easy way to segue into the topic of last night's show on MSG+. All three did in fact appear. Here are some highlights, meant to inform out-of-market readers and entice yet-to-view local ones.

Chris King had a sit-down with Doug Weight (#93 on your scoresheet, #39 in your DiPietropedoed hearts). The more I see of Weight, the more I want to see of Weight. This guy needs a big number to fit his personality. His comments about Bill Guerin's eyes and learning the ropes of the Islander-Ranger rivalry way back when were scene-stealers. What's 1940? What did Potvin do?

Next up was a look back at the prospect paintball tournament held earlier this summer. Two observations: 1) The slow-motion depiction of players diving for cover, while probably intended to comically invoke dramatic war movie scenes, struck me as a little loose in a time of actual war. 2) All of the prospects that were interviewed came across as impressively comfortable with themselves, their surroundings, and speaking on camera.

This episode's FYIslanders segment took place near the shoreline at Jones Beach (in fact, the whole episode was hosted from there by Shawna Ryan) with Steve Mears moderating discussion for Chris King and Billy Jaffe under a hot, summer sun (though with a strong, summer wind).

Mears is very good in this role; his speaking style and cadence are well suited for it. My ear is still adjusting to Steve's play-by-play, but I like the idea of a young announcer getting his start and having his voice become part of the team's history. I hope Steve turns out to be one of those guys. Of course, I'll be hearing him far less often now.

Speaking of announcers and history, it was only a little jarring when the prospects video montage that concluded Islanders Illustrated featured a clip of Joey MacDonald that was called by Jiggs McDonald. What an odd, coincidental juxtaposition of the old and the new. It did remind me that I hope we get a few more appearances by Jiggs this season.

It's also worth mentioning that Brendan Witt took the Professor baton from Kyle Okposo and gave a slightly sadistic, but informative, lesson on checking like only Brendan Witt could. He likes body checking.

The Islander Mania Moment featured Isleschick (Lisa) discussing the board's discussion of Jeff Tambellini. Ah, see, I knew I forgot one. Cue the dramatic music! Is it Jeff Tambellini?! (More dramatic music!)

Now to a few other things...

Islanders Point Blank

If Chris Botta's new Islanders Point Blank blog (site not yet active) is as promised, 24/7 coverage (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), then the Islanders community is in for a treat. Botta can do for the Islanders what Matt Cerrone has done for the Mets, but with the credibility and contacts
in place from the very start.

The particulars of the arrangement—site sponsored by the team, full control to Chris, but is this a full-time paid job?—still seem a little fuzzy right now, but I'll leave the business arrangements up to them. It certainly sounds as if this blog will be Chris's main focus, though I imagine he will take on additional writing gigs. One thing's for certain—a plethora of high quality Islanders content is forthcoming. (I still maintain that ¡Three Amigos! ruined that word.)

Puck Daddy Preview

The Islanders got the Puck Daddy treatment today, with Sean Leahy of Going Five Hole doing the honors in Wyshynski's den. I like the high school yearbook format that Greg has implemented for these season previews, which are as comprehensive as any you'll find.

Sean's treatment of the Isles contains a lot of the same pessimism that you'll see in virtually every preview. He does recognize, though, that there are reasons for optimism and thinks they'll just take time to become potent. Of course, anyone who dares to do an overly optimistic preview of the Islanders risks ridicule or, worse, being completely ignored by the blogging community forever.

I'm not going to delve deeply into analyzing this preview—it is more thorough and informative than most and you can read it for yourself. However, I will say that I thought some of the report card grades were too harsh, particularly for defense, goaltending, and management.

Also, congrats to Islanders bloggers B.D. Gallof, Dee Karl, Michael Schuerlein, and Kevin Murphy for making it into the Puck Daddy preview!

Ned Harkness

Finally, I cannot conclude without mentioning the passing today of legendary college hockey coach Ned Harkness at the age of 89, on his birthday. Harkess coached RPI to the NCAA Championship in 1954 and led Cornell to titles in 1967 and 1970. I had the privilege of seeing Coach Harkness honored by 18,000 college hockey fans and the current Cornell and BU teams last fall during the Red Hot Hockey game held at Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are You Out There, Can You Hear Me?

I'm afraid that's what Steve Mears and Chris King may be asking this hockey season as the radio voices of the New York Islanders.

The Islanders today announced the formation of the New York Islanders Radio Network. The press release issued by the team describes the venture as a "Multi-Media Radio Network" whose purpose is to provide "Comprehensive Distribution" of Islanders radio broadcasts.

The cross-platform network includes terrestrial, satellite, and Internet radio delivery. It certainly sounds like comprehensive distribution. But consider that the satellite and Internet options are not new, and the terrestrial portion of the network is being carried by two stations from the Long Island Radio Group, the largest radio group on Long Island. Specifically, WMJC 94.3 FM will handle the night games and WHLI 1100 AM will take care of the afternoon affairs.

No offense to these stations—they know the strength of their signals—but this is a step back in the development of the organization's tri-state-area media presence. Below are maps of the approximate coverage areas for each of these stations, as charted by Radio-Locator. You can read more detailed definitions of the colored lines on their site, but here's a summary legend:

Red lines (Local Coverage) = good to very good reception on almost any radio
Purple lines (Distant Coverage) = weak reception without a good radio with a good antenna
Blue lines (Fringe Coverage) = very weak reception without a good radio, possibly no reception

WMJC 94.3 FM Coverage Map

WHLI 1100 AM Coverage Map

I tried to tune into both stations from Manhattan today. 94.3 FM was static and WMJC was nowhere to be found. The area around 1100 on the AM dial was dominated by the signal from 1130 AM Bloomberg Radio, the previous radio home of the Islanders. Below that, the most discernable signal was from 1050 ESPN Radio, another former home of Islanders radio broadcasts.

I understand that the Bloomberg signal was not strong for some on Long Island, and the team's presence on the station apart from the games was minimal at best. And if Bloomberg was unable to sell what it thought was sufficient advertising for the games, then that relationship was not ideal for either side.

I never feared that the Islanders wouldn't be on the radio this year, but I hoped they would remain on a powerful station, both for the good of the perception of the team and for those fans who live and/or travel in other parts of the tri-state area. Apparently finding such a partner was just not possible.

As it appears now, fans without satellite radios likely won't able to hear the Islanders anywhere in New York City or in most of Westchester and Connecticut when they drive. And the Islanders are the only major league franchise in the area that doesn't have a presence on one of the major AM stations.

On the plus side, the Long Island Radio Group encompasses six stations and will enable the Islanders to reach deeper into the demographics of Long Island with promotions and advertising.

We've been through this before. Hopefully the team's performance over the next several years will make it more marketable. Pushing out the geographic borders of the fan base is in the Islanders' best interest. Having their radio broadcasts limited to satellite and the Internet outside of portions of Long Island is not.

And thanks to Dar Williams for another lyrical reference.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two-Minute Minors for 9/2/08

A few things kicking around the old bag of pucks...

Corey Witt revealed the uniform numbers for a number of Islanders prospects on his blog today. He also noted that Jeremy Colliton is switching back to 27 from 72. That low, but poignant, noise you hear is the collective rumble of John Tonelli fans spinning in their blogs. Sorry, Mike. Bailey did lose that number (now wearing 12), but you'll still have to see it out there on someone else's back.

Kyle Okposo got a nice mention last week, albeit packaged in a harsh assessment of the Maple Leafs' roster and system from a fantasy perspective. From Darryl Dobbs of Dobber Hockey, hat tip to Puck Daddy:

Now the negatives. Luke Schenn will be a great defenseman…but from a fantasy standpoint he’ll be lucky to ever hit 40 points. On the current roster, other than Grabovski (who is a bit of a long shot) and perhaps Jiri Tlusty, no player has 80-point ability. In the system, no player has 80-point potential. There are no Bryan Littles and no Kyle Okposos.

Also from Puck Daddy, Wyshynski tempts us to attach ourselves for rooting purposes to a KHL team. He points us to Jeff Z. Klein's KHL preview in Slap Shot and correctly predicts that many fans will align themselves with familiar North American names now toiling abroad. Indeed, I shall throw my support behind Wade Dubielewicz and Ak Bars Kazan. What I find odd is that Klein doesn't list Dubielewicz as one of the club's top players, while just above, Andy Chiodo makes the cut for Dinamo Minsk. Perhaps the shadow of Robert Esche, the other half of the Ak Bars Kazan tandem, simply looms too large for Dubie.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Barry Melrose had this to say about the NHL's attempts to curb fighting (hat tip to Kukla's Korner):
I think toughness is leaving our game, and I hope that people realize it’s wrong. I hate to mention this, but the fastest growing sport in the world is ultimate fighting. We’ve got that as part of our game. To act ashamed of that has been wrong of the NHL for a lot of years. You can say you don’t like fighting or you love fighting, but it creates conversation. It creates energy and excitement.

I don't know if Melrose is the first to make the ultimate fighting/MMA comparison, but from a pure marketing perspective, it actually makes a lot of sense. The quick rise of MMA as a legitimate form of entertainment and competition should make the possibility of marketing fighting in the NHL more palatable, and maybe even advantageous. I don't sense the current regime wants any part of that, but Melrose's comments certainly gave me a new perspective to think about. I wonder what current and future NHL TV rights holders would think because that's what ultimately matters.

Rick DiPietro is making an appearance at the NHL Store in Manhattan tomorrow. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to cover an off-season Islanders event without having to fight my way to Long Island in rush hour traffic. Unfortunately, the appearance is scheduled from 4:00-5:00 and I won't be able to follow the Islanders' suggestion to "call it a day a little early, or take a late lunch break." Maybe I can stop by after 5:00 and pick up some table scraps.