Seven more years of Kronwalling!

NEWS ITEM: The Detroit Red Wings have agreed to terms with defenseman Niklas Kronwall on a seven-year contract extension, which means we’ll see more Kronwalling throughout the Metro Detroit area.

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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

Rich interviews Niklas Kronwall after a recent practice at Joe Louis Arena

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.

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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.

More from WXYZ.

“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.

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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.”

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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.

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The skinny on DRW Social Media

Where the magic happens. The DRW Social Media Headquarters

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 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

Posted in Around the Rink, Social Saturday | 1 Comment

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

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