Always Be Communicating – NHL Edition

Back in October of 2011 when the NBA lockout was taking place, I wrote a post titled “Always Be Communicating” which outlined how important it is to communicate with fans at all times. “Even when an organization has to deal with something as stressful and problematic as a work stoppage, teams must continue to communicate to their fans, keeping them abreast of the situation and offering up as much damage control as possible.” At the time, I included some example emails from the Los Angeles Lakers that I thought did an excellent job of this.

Now that the NHL is in the midst of their own lockout, it seemed like the right time to revisit this concept. Below, you will find two different team examples that I thought were particularly good. The first is a series of emails from the Toronto Maple Leafs. I like how they seem to be reaching out to their fans on a weekly basis, being honest yet optimistic with them. Sometimes simple and direct is the best approach (although their most recent email might be a little too short). The second comes from the New Jersey Devils. This one-off email does a good job trying to keep their fans connected to last season’s success and shows appreciation of their support and patience.

Toronto Maple Leafs – September 21

Dear Russell,

On behalf of the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club, we sincerely appreciate your patience as the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey Leagues Players’ Association (NHLPA) negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

On Wednesday, The National Hockey League announced the cancellation of the 2012 preseason schedule through Sept. 30. The cancellation of the schedule was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL. The NHL remains committed to negotiating 24/7 to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides — one that provides for a full season of games for our fans.

While the Maple Leafs efforts in creating a world-class experience for our fans are on hold, our commitment to our community remains as strong as ever. The Maple Leafs organization will continue our charitable outreach efforts and community initiatives as the NHL and NHLPA work through the process of securing a new collective agreement.

As a valued fan and member of Leafs Nation, your loyalty and support is very important to our organization. Your passion for the game is what motivates us. Thank you again for your understanding. We greatly appreciate your support. In the meantime, we will keep you informed and provide information as it becomes available.

Sincerely,

Tom Anselmi
President and C.O.O.
Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment

Toronto Maple Leafs – September 28

Dear Russell,

On Thursday, The National Hockey League announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2012 preseason schedule. This includes games up to and including October 6th, 2012. The cancellation of the preseason schedule was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL.

During this time, our commitment to the community remains as strong as ever. We will continue our charitable outreach efforts and community initiatives as the NHL and NHLPA work through the process of securing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As a valued fan and member of Leafs Nation, your loyalty is very important to our organization. Your passion for the game is what motivates us and we greatly appreciate your support.

We will continue to keep you informed as information becomes available and also encourage you to visit mapleleafs.com for updates.

The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club

Toronto Maple Leafs – October 4

Dear Russell,

Today, the National Hockey League announced the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through October 24. The cancellation was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL.

We will continue to keep you informed as information becomes available and also encourage you to visit mapleleafs.com for updates.

Sincerely,

The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club

New Jersey Devils – October 5

A MESSAGE TO OUR LOYAL FANS

As we are sure you are aware, the current collective bargaining negotiations between the NHL and the players have delayed the start of the regular season, with games up through October 24, 2012 having been recently cancelled.

Building off of an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final, and seeing how the Devils Army has grown from your passionate and unwavering loyalty, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to ensure that you know how important you as a fan base are to this organization. Together, we are confident that we will be able to pick up where we left off, once the play on ice resumes, and continue to build that home ice advantage that was so apparent throughout the playoffs. We are extremely appreciative of the support you continue to show through your emails and calls, and we can’t wait to host you at The Rock once NHL play resumes. Camaraderie amongst Devils fans is unmatched throughout the NHL.

Until then, there is nothing more important to our organization than communicating with each of you and keeping you up-to-date on any and all current events surrounding the upcoming season. It is our promise to you that once a new CBA is agreed upon, as a member of PowerPlay, we will ensure that you are part of an exclusive group that will be able to pick up seats prior to the general public, for games that interest you the most.

Once again, we can’t thank you enough for all of your support and we are open to any and all feedback you may have, as we go through this together. You may call us at 1-800-NJ-DEVIL with any and all questions, concerns, or ideas you would like to share.

Thank You!

UPDATE: Neil Horowitz did a great job aggregating the communications from 15 different NHL teams. Click here to read his Google+ post.

One thought on “Always Be Communicating – NHL Edition

  • October 18, 2012 at 6:46 am
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    The League That Cries Wolf

    The NHL is big business, well it is big business to the fan. In the grand scheme of sports, the NHL provides a niche sport an opportunity to showcase on a national stage. But this national stage is losing room for the NHL and after the cancellation of the preseason and first two weeks of the regular season, the NHL may not see the growth and excitement it did after these same exploits in 2004.

    After the 2004 lockout, fans came back hungry and rejuvinated for hockey. The addition of a salary cap meant that teams throughout the league now were on a level playing field. New rules ensured fan excitement and the promotion of skill and scoring rather than rough and tumble, clutch and grab hockey. The NHL came out of the lockout with increased attendence, scoring and increased sponsorship for all 30 teams.

    Now, fast foward to 2012, the NHL seeing no rush in ending a lockout between the rich (players) and the richer (owners) is relying on the fans once again to make it, A.O.K. after this is all said and done. Let’s face it, owners won’t let this go on much longer because rich owners tend to get a little irritated when they start to lose money. Players the same, so the onus is now squarely on the fans. Will the fans react with open arms like welcoming back a loved one from an extended vacation or will the crowd simply move on.

    You can only promote a sport and it’s sponsors when the league is actually playing games. Fans can only buy the 8 dollar beers when they’re at games. Clients can only be entertained when there are skates on the ice. All of this works against the NHL and this time around there won’t be the same warm hug waiting for them. After the courtesy emails have been sent apologizing for a lockout, what is left for a team to do. I’d hate to be in that PR department for two reasons, one all the angry fans need to be addressed and 2. you need to perform this job knowing full well your job isn’t just on the line, it’s also on the clock.

    The NHL needs to end this and stop playing this game with the fans, it’s unfair and when the money isn’t coming in like it used to, the fans can always stop buying as the ultimate, “I told you so”

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