Category Archives: Sports

Gazette starts up Alouettes website

After seeing the success of its Habs Inside/Out website, The Gazette (my employer) has gone the next logical step and setup a similar one for the Alouettes, Montreal’s Canadian Football League team.

It’s called Als Inside/Out, and the name and logo make it clear that these are sister sites, even though the older one will probably get all the attention. It officially soft-launched on Saturday (to coincide with the team’s home preseason game in the revamped Molson Stadium). A brief welcome from Alouettes reporter Herb Zurkowsky greets the fans, who are invited to take a peek (and subscribe via Facebook, Twitter or RSS), but the Gazette will put off really advertising its new baby until it’s gone through some more testing, and don’t be surprised if stuff stops working while its creators play with it.

There are some noteworthy differences between the two websites. First is on the back end: Habs Inside/Out is based on Drupal, while Als Inside/Out is running on WordPress (the same engine that’s behind this blog).

The second is on the editorial side and reflects the difference in scale between the two teams: The Canadiens have a beat reporter (Pat Hickey), columnists (Red Fisher, Dave Stubbs, Jack Todd), and bloggers (Mike Boone, Kevin Mio, Hickey and Stubbs). The Alouettes so far have just Zurkowsky, whose coverage of the Alouettes is second to none (even getting him recognized by the Canadian Football Hall of Fame), though he’ll no doubt be getting help from his colleagues.

Then again, a look at Zurkowsky’s blog The Snap (one of The Gazette’s most popular) and his seemingly endless string of feature stories between games during the season makes it clear he could provide plenty of content to keep the site running. (The Als Inside/Out site effectively replaces The Snap.) The fact that the Als play only 13 18 games a season (plus two preseason games and up to three playoff games) compared to the Canadiens’ 82 regular season games (and a handful of preseason games and up to 28 playoff games) will also mean a bit less traffic for the younger sister, though Zurkowsky’s ability to pull good stories out of nowhere in that dead space between games should not be discounted.

Emry, Richardson are invited bloggers

In addition to Zurkowsky and other Gazette staff, Alouettes players Shea Emry and Jamel Richardson are also expected to pitch in and blog before and after games. (The Impact’s Nevio Pizzolitto has been doing something similar for the soccer blog – expect a similar level of not-so-professional writing.)

They’re also planning a “cheerleader of the week” feature (I’m assuming those will include photos), and like Habs Inside/Out there will be photo galleries and breaking news.

NHL can make history by opening up

This video is one of many, many parodies of the National Hockey League’s History Will Be Made ad campaign for the 2010 playoffs.

Some are hilarious. Some are awesome to watch. Some are head-scratchers. Some talk about the history that wasn’t made. Some are bitter (with reason). Some look like they’ll be killer until a monumental letdown at the punchline.

Some make fun of officiating. Some make fun of journalists. Some just make fun of Ryan O’Byrne.

As the playoffs come to an end, the NHL is tooting its own horn about the campaign, and specifically about the fan-produced videos, which are made possible mainly by the simplicity of the ads’ creation – just a piece of video with cheap old-movie-style effects, played backwards in slow-motion with a piece of instrumental music.

It’s a case study for the power of viral marketing, and how giving people the power to make their own media can be better than making it yourself.

But while these videos are all over the place, the NHL didn’t make it easy for people to use the source material, and the thing executives are heralding now could soon become illegal.

Digital locks

The Canadian government recently introduced a bill, Bill C-32, which would update the Copyright Act to reflect changes in the digital age. I won’t go too much into the details (feel free to read Michael Geist if you want to learn way too much about it), but there are two provisions that are pertinent here. One makes it legal to do mashups under certain circumstances (one being that it’s not done for profit), which is certainly welcome.

The other is a much-criticized provision that, put simply, says that you can’t circumvent a digital protection measure or “digital lock” on copyrighted content. That program you use to download DVDs to your hard drive? Illegal. That program or website that allows you to download YouTube videos? Illegal. It doesn’t matter how easy it is to circumvent the lock, as long as the copyright holder tries to lock something down, you’re not allowed to have access to it. And you can’t have access to the tool that circumvents that measure either.

Among the most protective copyright holders are sports leagues. Before live broadcasts, many of them include a reminder that videos, photos or even descriptions of the game (by this they usually mean radio play-by-play) cannot be retransmitted or republished without the express written permission of the league. Though the NHL isn’t as bad as Major League Baseball of the National Football League, those same conditions apply.

Except for recording off a TV, there is no easy, legal way of downloading video of these iconic (or just funny) NHL moments of history in order to create these mashups. Even buying a DVD wouldn’t make it legal under this new law because those DVDs have digital locks. Creators have to first get access to the videos through some grey or black market – or find a way to circumvent or break the digital lock – before they can create their mashup. Some methods are really low-tech (like pointing a video camera at a TV screen), while others are the result of what might be considered hacking.

Let the people create

Here’s a radical idea: The NHL should post short video clips of the greatest moments in hockey history in open formats and without any copy or access controls (UPDATE: They’ve already done this with the music used). Let them import the video directly into iMovie or Final Cut or Windows Movie Maker and have fun with them. Don’t force your fans to jump through hoops to participate in your marketing campaign.

Rather than cut into their profits, this could instead drive interest in the NHL. Seeing a 30-second clip of Bobby Orr scoring a Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal and flying through the air could lead to people wanting to watch the whole game, or at least wanting to buy tickets to the next Bruins match. Seeing a three-minute montage of great Orr moments would have a similar effect.

The same could be done for recent highlights. Thanks to Yahoo Sports, bloggers and others can post highlights of the previous night’s game and discuss them. But while those videos are embeddable – and that’s a pretty big step already -they’re not downloadable.

Where the NHL will make money is in ticket sales, merchandising, and exclusive broadcast deals for live games. It’s not in 30-second highlights of history that everyone can see on YouTube already anyway. It’s not like you’re getting compensation when those highlights appear on the nightly news.

Put it out there. Let your fans play with your golden moments. Like with the History Will Be Made campaign, you might be surprised how creative they can get with them.

Je déteste les Flyers

Welcome to the party, Les Justiciers. (They brought us this last year.)

You know, I was rooting for a Bruins win in the last round. Partly because coming back from 3-0 would mean stealing the Canadiens’ Cinderella status. Partly because the Canadiens and Bruins have such a rich history. Partly because it was time to take revenge for last year. Partly because I thought our chances were better against them.

But I’m learning to appreciate the value of a Canadiens-Flyers series. We can take revenge for 2008. The matchup has already been billed as Cinderella vs. Cinderella, and made history as the first 7th vs. 8th matchup since the conference system was setup.

And, because the Flyers fans can be just as much assholes as Canadiens fans, it feels good to hate them.

By the end of this series, the streets of Philadelphia will be orange … with blood

Blood mixed with urine, I guess.

We need a bigger bandwagon

You can tell your team is going somewhere when other people try to take credit for it.

The Toronto Star is grasping at whatever straws they can find to attach their city to our team. And both Toronto and the United States are taking credit for Michael Cammalleri.

But that’s the way it is when you’ve gone from being the underdog to the favourite. Even though technically Philadelphia has the (ever so slightly) better record and home ice advantage, the pundits are finally calling it for the Habs:

Canadiens in four

Canadiens in six

Canadiens in seven

Flyers in seven

Flyers in six

What a night

7pm: I get off the metro train at Lucien-L’Allier station. The platform is flooded with red Habs jerseys.

Crowd gathers in parking lot as Game 7 begins

7:07pm: I arrive at the parking lot outside the Bell Centre, which has been designated as a celebration area by the Montreal police. A giant screen is showing RDS, and the speakers have plenty of volume for people to hear. The lot is mostly empty, unlike the Bell Centre itself, but a crowd is slowly forming.

Continue reading