Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Not What You Know...


by Lisa Ovens

Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Game One of the Stanley Cup Final round is in the books, with a sweet overtime victory for the LA Kings. I’m sure the women and crew from Whilethemenwatch are also feeling some relief after getting their first Hockey Night in Canada show under their belts.

Like many, I was surprised that a show that openly discussed topics often banned on hockey message boards was getting this kind of exposure. However, I wasn’t one of the people to boycott the show last night. As concerned as I was about how this show wound up on HNIC, I still planned on giving it some time before I got into the game.

Over the last ten years I have studied women related sports ventures and the careers of various hockey media women. In my second book, For the Love of Empty Net Goals, I created a special section listing milestone achievements, firsts, failures, female hockey jersey debacles, and issue riddled marketing campaigns to name a few. Whilethemenwatch is another entry to throw onto the research pile.

Now, onto my experience watching the first period of Jules and Lena’s Whilethemenwatch…

For readers in the United States, here is a photo of the set up as it looked on my computer screen. Ladies on the left, game on the right. I also had the game on my TV as well, which was running ahead of the online stream.

A B&W skit opened the show, with Lena and Jules channeling Lucy and Ethel having a telephone chat, gossiping about "these two women who were going to be hosting a new show on HNIC". Eventually they hang up because the game was going to start so they had to go take care of the men.Obviously this opening  was their way of responding to several days of backlash. Then the real show began.

Show hosts, Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso had some help from producer/camera operator Sonny, as well as Jamie Ordolis, Senior Producer of CBC Live, who sitting off to the side. As you can see the set was pink with white, but instead of the girls sipping from martini glasses, they were holding big, manly coffee mugs. There was plenty of chatting, with Sonny either fielding hockey questions from the hosts, or he was reining them in towards something that was going on during the game. They all seemed to have a nice rapport going, and the host themselves seem to be very friendly women.

At times I was distracted by the twitter feed scrolling down the right side of my screen, but it did serve a purpose. Everyone loves prizes, so the show became interactive, getting viewers involved by tweeting photos of them watching the game and who they were watching the game with to be used as an entry to win some swag. I did see some tweets from people getting involved amongst all tweets, good and bad for #whilethemenwatch.

The one bit I liked was when they spoke about a cheer that had something to do with the movie, Scarface. I thought the cheer sounded kind of cool, and I even tweeted asking for the spelling of the word they cheered, but never got a response. Wish I could share that with you.

Once the Boyfriend of The Game portion of their shtick began I really wanted to stop watching, but it seemed to go on and on. For me, it was bizarre and somewhat unpleasant to see two grown women get into such an elaborate procedure in order to choose the best looking players on the ice. I realize the premise of the show has been set up as if we are eavesdropping on them “while the men watch” and they obviously had to add some props into the Boyfriend mix because this is taking place on camera. But this kind of content, along with the "Hall Pass" game really belongs on a Cougar Dating website.I did find myself getting more into the game itself at this point. Couldn't help it: I love hockey, and it was hard to stay with their talking .
The finer points of Boyfriend of the Game
After the game, I spent some time reading the twitter comments directed at Jules and Lena’s show. I didn’t spend any time with the horrible insulting tweets, because no one deserves that kind of treatment, but instead focused on the more constructive ones written by women.

It is clear to me that a female run hockey show, with the right content, could be accepted by both female and male hockey fans. It was clear to me ten years ago when I started my Hockey and High Heels project. I wouldn’t have started writing my first hockey book if I didn’t discover there was a community for it.

Watching the WTMW debut last night did inspire me. I'm inspired to share the knowledge I've gathered from ten years of “Watching Women Watch Sports”, and go beyond consulting with hockey teams. It inspired me to develop my own ideas for shows that I’ve written down over the years, and I encourage other female hockey content writers to do the same. If we are not pleased with a show like Whilethemenwatch, and know we can do better, we should make it happen. 

When I looked at what Jules and Lena have accomplished in a year, I was both impressed and baffled at the same time. Myself, along with other women hockey content creators know how hard it is to get a foot in the door. In my column yesterday I asked out loud in the CBC's direction, just how did this Whilethemenwatch concept make it onto Hockey Night in Canada’s platform? Finally I found the answer in an article posted on earlier today. It was in an interview conducted by John Semley (link is here). Here's the telling excerpt...

AV Club: How did this deal with the CBC come about?
Lena S: It was through a friend of my husband. There were some emails back and forth, and the CBC asked us how we could work together for the Stanley Cup Finals.

There you go, people...It’s a classic case of  “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” 


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hockey and High Heels on WhileTheMenWatch and CBC

by Lisa Ovens

I have to admit, I just didn’t know where to begin with this latest hockey fan crisis involving Whilethemenwatch and CBC’s Hockey Night inCanada. This whole thing just seems like an April Fool’s joke. The CBC is offering up a choice platform for two women to provide "gossip show" style commentary during the Stanley Cup Final? Two women reaching out to non hockey fans that view the game more as an inconvenience that requires coping skills? Two women who went on TV, and when asked for a sample of their work after being shown a photo of the Sedin Twins, said “Do the Sedins’ curtains match the carpet?"  Yep, this does feel like a prank and I so wish I was being fooled for real.

Whether online or face to face, there are always guys and gals in the crowd that are going to seriously question a woman's knowledge and commitment to the game. Where's the card we can flash that instantly proves our hockey cred*? "Logic clearly dictates that the needs of many outweigh the needs of the few." Yes, I'm playing the Spock quote card. However, I have low expectations from Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso to use their new found power with WTMW on CBC to help us out with the credibility issue after they inadvertently catapulted us back to the Fifties. What are you gonna do?
Like WTMW, I came out of left field with my first book Hockey &High Heels, so I truly knows what it is like to stick your neck out into the world of hockey entertainment, as Lena and Jules are doing with their partnership with CBC Sports. So It’s hard for me not to mention a few of my own experiences as they relate to this story. In my case, along with a lot of good, I also saw some hand wringing, eye rolling and insults because of the title (mostly from women online) and I even had a cyber stalker for a little while. But none of that compares to what I have read about Lena, Jules and the CBC over the last few days. Here's what I am thinking about the CBC.

Come on publicly Funded CBC...

There are plenty of women available who have the talent to deliver quality hockey content suitable for the masses. Hockey minded women deserve to be working in hockey and they deserve to be a part of North American hockey’s biggest event, the Stanley Cup Final. How Jules and Lena wound up being the chosen ones riding the coat tails of the longest running show in the history of sports is beyond me.

I am well aware that the CBC/NHL contract expires in 2015. We saw the CBC lose the HNIC theme song, what else could be on the block in the near future? Obviously strengthening the HNIC brand is vital between now and then. Although I think it is great to see HNIC tinker with their presentation and content, they clearly are out of touch with, well, everything!

The other day I was speaking with Pens hockey writer, Jan Snyder, and she reminded me of the sparkle/studded NHL jersey crisis of 2010. When pressed, the NHL’s merchandise department admitted they didn’t really know what women hockey fans wanted. How do two big companies like the NHL and the CBC completely miss the mark in this day and age?

Often, women are referred to as the elusive female market or the lucrative female market. That’s what we are. Women have this massive purchasing power that is known and lusted after in corporate boardrooms, the world over. Yet, for some reason, as the CBC has demonstrated, the other power we possess is completely ignored. And by other kind of power I mean being in a position to show them what the key looks like and how to use that key to unlock the door to this highly desirable market.

So, I have to ask CBC... are we in this situation because of an old boys' club judgement?  Or, and I highly doubt this, are the Whilethemenwatch women working for free? Don't you think it might be more beneficial to target the casual male and female hockey fans first and then tackle the ones that are forced to cope with hockey in their house?

Coming later today...Part Two  The Aubrey O'Days of Hockey, Lena and Jules!

* My Hockey Cred...

Ten years ago this summer, I began work on a hockey book titled Hockey and High Heels- A Different Kind of Hockey Book. To make a long story short, H&HH website launched 2004,  H&HH book launched 2005, added hockey blog to website in Fall 2006, did my first hockey event for women 2006 (Everett Silvertips) Went on to do events with the Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, plus consulted with other teams, 2010 Winter Olympic Blogger, launched a second book, For the Love of Empty Net Goals- My Adventures Living Hockey, and most recently spoke at the Buffalo Sabres Hockey n Heels event March, 2012. Currently I'm learning how to walk again after seriously breaking my ankle thanks to an outdoor skating accident in Florida.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NHL Hockey: Is It All Bunged Up?

The once mighty puck cries out for help as it tries to find its way to the net

 by Lisa Ovens

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Rory. The subject of shot blocking came up. Rory's solution: "Penalize the players that go down to block a shot. They can block all they want standing up, but as soon as they go down, blow the whistle." Well, that's one way to look at it. Blocking shots is the latest poster child for what's ailing the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it certainly has many people worried and upset. Most of the upset people are standing on the sidelines now that their teams have been knocked out of contention for Lord Stanley's Cup. But there is more to this than just the blocked shots.

Legendary coach, Scotty Bowman put his CSI skills to work and pinpoints defensive strategies utilized by the late Roger Neilson ( during his coaching days with the Toronto Maple Leafs) as the blue print for what we are seeing right now. (click here for the Globe and Mail article). World's greatest female player, Hayley Wickeneiser has also weighed in on the Playoffs, and she's bored. I have to laugh at this because usually it's the guys calling the girls game boring and unwatchable. (Click here for Hayley's story)

Scotty's final words on the matter... "There's nothing anybody can do about it." I guess that's what a guy with a team like those win hogging Montreal Canadiens of the 1970's would say. Which is probably why Roger Neilson cooked up and deployed his defensive strategy in the first place: he was trying to beat a virtually unbeatable team! So my next question is, who's going to be the Roger Neilson today? Who's going to try and UN-bung this trend, so we don't see a bunch of  General Managers on an off-season prowl for free agent shot blockers and worse, a bunch of coaches mimicking this style next season (should it win the Cup).

I feel sorry for the guys on the point when it is "shot block time"...all they do is pass it back and forth to each other trying to see a shot that just isn't there. The Point men are desperate and have lost their mojo. The pain delivered from a hard shot is not enough of a deterrent. Maybe the puck also needs be ablaze with fire, or equipped with those exploding dye packets used to foil bank robberies.

When I think back to those days watching the highly skilled trio of Marcus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. When they had to play Jacques Lemaire's defense first Minnesota Wild, they often had to dump and chase, because of the Wild's Neutral Zone Trap. Sometimes they would lob the puck high over the Neutral Zone because that was where the glut of Wild sweaters were, waiting to stop the Canucks from skating the puck into the zone.

Well, what if, instead of firing hard shots from the point that will most likely be blocked, the point guys gently flip the puck up, nice and high, in the general direction of the net, over everyone's heads in the "Offensive Zone Clog", and let the puck fall where ever it may; at the very least, getting it bouncing around for someone to do something skillful and/or wacky in the name of a scoring chance. Or we could always hope two of the defenders both lunge for the puck at the same time, only to fall like Keystone Cops. I think it would be more exciting to watch these lobs inside the offensive zone, than to watch the two guys at the point repeatedly pass the puck back and forth, searching for an unavailable shooting lane. I don't know, but maybe these offensive zone lobs  would somehow shame the shot-blockers (and the Coaches who clog them) enough so they'd think..."this isn't the way this game is supposed to be - what are we thinking?" Yep, there's nothing like a good shaming to set some people straight.

So there. Scotty Bowman, this "anybody" has come up with a new strategy!

But, maybe this idea is not good one. The thought of all the potential high sticks batting at a lobbed puck is a dangerous one, though it would draw some penalties. But it could be worth a try, and its the kind of solution that doesn't involve a new rule or a messy red dye.

Gosh...I ended with a rhyme ;o)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Memories: Hockey & High Heels Event with the LA Kings

by Lisa Ovens

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Los Angeles Kings. Don't get me wrong;  I would prefer my hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks to be playing in the Western Conference Finals right now. Even though the Kings handily bounced the Nucks out in round one, I won't hold any grudges or cheer against them. Because one of my coolest days was spent with the Los Angeles Kings and some of their most dedicated fans.

I had successfully pitched the Kings about hosting an event for women, and their fan development department got busy and planned a full day of activity for female hockey fans. Cool thing number one...The Kings utilized my logo and name, Hockey and High Heels in their event marketing materials. Having a cult following/somewhat obscure hockey company nestled on the fringe of the multi- billion dollar Sports Entertainment Industry, well, that kind of plug was pretty special for me. Yay!

Once the press release arrived, another little of the activities listed was a " Social hour with Luc Robitaille and Lisa Ovens".  Yep, that was particularly thrilling for me, because how often does a person get their name included in the same sentence along with a Hockey Hall of Famer, a Stanley Cup winner, and the highest scoring left winger in NHL history?  It was October 2007, and at that point in time, the Kings were still in a rebuild mode, and Robitaille had just taken his front office position as President of Business Operations. There was definitely a buzz about this, and one could easily sense that Robitaille was going to be a great fit in this role. And me? Pretty fine with my role in that sentence and sharing a social hour with the dude :o)

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in late October as the guests began to arrive. Hilary, the event planner even let me register a few of the guests.That was when I met, face to face, a season ticket holder, Nadine, (pictured here on the right). Coincidentally, she had emailed me before the event was even confirmed to share how much she had enjoyed reading my book, and even extended an invite to catch a Kings game with her should I ever be in LA. That was pretty sweet of her (especially of her husband, who would have to be kicked out of his seat on my behalf. And their seats are good: I believe she said "we sit so close we can see THEIR EYES"). And then voila, two weeks later she was buying her event ticket, and we'd actually get to meet sooner, rather than later!

Aside from the game we watched at the end of the day, one of the bigger highlights was our 1.5 hour skating clinic led by former King, and current radio commentator, Darryl Evans. This part came after a tour of the Kings locker room (this was pre- castle facade entryway - dang!). The Kings had done this type of clinic for men, but this would be the first time it was ever offered to female Kings fans. It was during the clinic that a third cool thing happened: I did an on ice TV interview with Fox Sports, and half way through,  Bailey, the Kings mascot showed up! It was Bailey's first season and the very first mascot the Kings ever had; thoughtfully named after the Kings own Garnet "Ace"Bailey , their Director of Pro Scouting who had died in the September 11th terrorist attacks.Needless to say, but it was an honor to meet Bailey during his inaugural season. Hailing from Las Vegas, Bailey the Mascot was a pretty good skater, too. As were the Lady Kings, a local hockey team that participated in the event. Darryl worked us pretty hard, and even though Heidi Androl left the ice on a stretcher ( no, it wasn't due to exhaustion, it was part of a comedy bit for Kings Vision), all of us skaters were energized, with many women asking about possibly having a second because it was so darn fun.

After touring the many special  rooms, lounges and club sections at Staples Center (egad, there's plenty of them, all polished and perfect, ready to pamper the elite and the famous), we gathered for the social hour. I had the opportunity to speak, followed by Darryl and then Luc. During Darryl's talk it was very evident that the women in the room were serious Kings fans and incredibly knowledgeable ones at that as they grilled him about player personnel and other hockey operation concerns. Oops...a tiny rant is about to begin... So often, certain Canadian hockey fans (and even the Canadian hockey media) question the intensity of hockey fandom in the NHL's sunbelt markets and the Kings aren't immune to this. It's frustrating that they can't wrap their heads around the fact that fans exist south of our border that are just as dedicated and committed to the game as many Canadians are. End tiny rant. Anyway, back to the event... Luc was a lively speaker with a delightful sense of humor, and was genuinely excited about his new position and the changes in store for the Kings organization. I did get a photo with him, which I won't post here, mainly because I was wearing my cheesy " hey, look I'm posing with a hockey celebrity" smile ( so goofy, it shall remain in a hidden folder along with a similar pic of me and Mattias Ohlund during a Canucks event taken the previous season).

I do have this photo with Heidi Androl after the social hour. We were getting ready to do an interview that I kind of wish had happened before the clinic, because my hair was so much better then. But look at Heidi's hair. Should have asked her how she managed to combat the post hockey helmet look.

The game that night was versus the Edmonton Oilers (also was the late game on Hockey Night in Canada).  I had packed my special 3.5 inch "Oiler Killer" shoes (at the time, the shoe stat was 5-1 when the Oilers and I were in the same room - ha cha :o) As a group, we had great seats, and I sat with three regal King fans; one with the best name ever, Lisa, and a couple of cool Kings bloggers, Connie and Kairu. The three of us had a blast. I even made them take turns playing my Sau Ya Goule drum ( a fan accessory that I don't leave home without).

 Staples Center is a fantastic arena, and I did my best to check out as much of the concourse as I could during the intermissions. Oh, another cool thing: during the second period, Hilary collected me and led me down close to ice level so she could introduce me to a season ticket holder and fan of H&HH so I could sign a copy of my book for her. A memorable moment for sure, and man, she had a pretty sweet view of the ice. I'm talking "Nadine territory" here!

I should take a moment to mention that fact that Hilary Hodding, is a dynamo Fan Developer and event planner - she roved around the arena throughout the game, checking in on her other clients, making sure they were enjoying their in-game experience. I have been fortunate to be behind the scenes at a several of these events, and for those who may not realize, let me tell you how hard the sales and marketing departments work, game in and game out.

As the shoes expected, the Los Angeles Kings won the game 3-2. Then I had to go. But the final cool thing would happen the following day, after I arrived back in Vancouver. The first thing I did was call my mom. And before I could say anything, she blurted out...

Mom: were on Hockey Night in Canada!
Lisa: Seriously?
Mom: Yes. It was the start of first intermission and I headed to the kitchen for a snack. All of a sudden I heard Scott Oake say 'Hockey and High Heels" and then Kelly Hrudey said "I love it!' I ran back to the TV and they showed several clips of you and the girls on the ice skating and puck handling!

The next day I tracked down someone at CBC in Toronto with the authority to send me a DVD of the HNIC clip. To this day I do not know why Hockey Night in Canada didn't interview me like Fox Sports did, but at least I can listen to Kelly Hrudey say he loves Hockey and High Heels over and over again!!!

My day with the LA Kings will always be remembered. After what seemed to be an eternity of re-building for this team, I am truly happy for the Kings and their resilient fans as they embark on the next round of the journey, the Conference Finals. I know all too well, what it is like to see your team finally make it there again after such a long absence. And I will stop right there and simply say it is to savor the thrill of being one of the Final Four.

Now, I do have a little bit of a problem as far as cheering goes. The other half of the Western Conference Final is the Phoenix Coyotes. Another team I have a place in my heart for. They were the first ever NHL franchise that I teamed up with for and H&HH event. Gotta write another "Memories" story!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Not So Super, Supermoon Photo

                                     The supermoon, as seen in Kerrisdale, a Vancouver neighbourhood

by Lisa Ovens

Growing impatient while waiting for Saturday Night Live to start, I went outside to shoot the moon. I wasted no time taking this photo. I am still learning how to walk again, and I feel vulnerable being outside at night walking with a crutch. So it was a quick shot with my Nokia N8 phone.

I did enjoy this brief moment, knowing that a few hours later, the moon would be over the yard, and I could gaze at it from the safety of the patio. After SNL of course. Eli Manning killed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Plight of Women Sports Fans Continued...

By Lisa Ovens

Silly Soccer man Says Stupid Sentences and gets himself Suspended...Quote from an MLS Soccer podcast earlier this week...

"It's fine if you're a female and you want to be a super-fan. Clearly go for it, that's your choice. But there is something to be said for how appealing that might be to the other sex. Having a woman that's such a fan, like painting your face, tuning in to every podcast. I don't know how many males would be into that.
It's great that in Kansas City there are a lot of women in the stands, it's great, but for the guy who wants maybe a serious relationship... If you are following just casually, but if you're such a die-hard, I don't know, it comes a point that it is a bit of a turn-off"Spoken by MLS's very own Simon Borg. I believe that is the guy in the photo...

 The came the official MLS Statement on Offensive Comments...

During the latest episode of the ExtraTime Radio podcast on, one of the hosts -- Simon Borg -- made inappropriate remarks regarding female fans of Major League Soccer.  These remarks were unacceptable and in no way reflect the values of MLS, its clubs, players, staff, or We apologize on behalf of our organization for those remarks.  Respect for diversity is a core principle of MLS and we are proud of the diversity of our League and its fans. Mr. Borg will be suspended from his position at for seven days, effective immediately.  All MLS employees undergo diversity and sensitivity training on an annual basis, and Mr. Borg and the entire MLS Digital group will receive additional sensitivity training promptly.

Is that a seven day suspension with or without pay? Some dudes seem to clue in a little faster when it hits them in their wallets. My heart sinks a little when I hear stories like this. Why is it that some guys just can't accept that many women are passionate about sports? And considering Simon Borg really went out of his way to insult specific customers of the company he works for, why didn't MLS just fire his ass, and replace it with someone who is more gifted with their gab? 

So many of us just want to lose ourselves in our favorite sports, forget our daily stresses and blow off some steam at a sporting event. We're just sports fans...that is all.

After last fall's Vancouver Whitecaps marketing campaign, and this latest MLS downer, I will continue to withhold my money and not buy a scarf or a ticket. However, if the MLS wants my guidance on future campaigns...I'll be happy to help out, and not piss off half of their customers in the process.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round Two TV Market Match Ups

By Lisa Ovens

You see, for diehard hockey fans recently bounced out of the playoffs because their team lost their first round series, wondering out loud about the size of TV Markets is a popular activity. I guess it helps mask the pain they are feeling after some of the epic oustings we witnessed during this year's Quarter Finals. So, they turn to the rankings of TV markets in order to decide which teams actually “deserve to still be playing” and in some cases; bolster their NHL Conspiracy theories arguments. However, many fans don’t actually look up the TV Market rankings.

When the Phoenix Coyotes eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Florida Panthers appeared to be in the driver's seats of their  first round series with the New Jersey Devils, many a fan jumped to a "Stanley Cup Final conclusion" featuring those two teams, and it wasn't pretty: plenty of these speculators felt the Coyotes and the Panthers don't deserve to be in the Finals. If they did check out the TV market rankings, they'd see the Coyotes are in the 12th largest market, and the Panthers reside in the 16th largest. That's not too bad! Yes, I did the research, and this is how the TV Markets are matching up in Round Two…

Let’s see, in the East we have Number One Seeded TV Market, the New York Rangers vs. Number  Nine TV Market, the Washington Capitals. In the other Eastern Conference Series, Number Four TV Market, Philadelphia Flyers up against New Jersey Devils, who appear to have one foot in Number One  (Ranger’s market) and the other foot in Number Four (Philadelphia’s market) Yep, Stanley Cup parking lot parades, no unique TV Market to call their own…nothing comes easy for those Devils.

Out West, the high flying Los Angeles Kings, tops in Left Coast TV numbers (the Number two US TV Market) vs. Number 21, the St. Louis Blues. Phoenix is looking steady at Number 12 , vs. the smallest Round Two TV Market (29th), the Nashville Predators.

The best part about the four Western Conference teams: none of them have won a Stanley Cup, therefore one of these virgin teams is guaranteed at shot at winning it all this year! Both the Kings and the Blues have played in the Stanley Cup Finals: the Blues lost three years in row (1968, 69 and 70) and the Kings were finalists in 1993, losing to the Montreal Canadiens (that was last time a Canadian based team won the Stanley Cup). The Predators and the Coyotes have yet to make it to the Finals, and considering they are playing each other right now, one of them isn't going to make it any further than Round Two :o(

Out East, the Capitals are the last remaining Cup-less team in this year's Playoffs, only tallying one appearance in the Finals (1998, and they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings). Who knows how this is going to play out, but  if the Capitals make it all the way to Round Four, then one of the final two teams will bring The Stanley Cup home for the very first time. Trust me...this is one story line that will keep many of the fans in Canada watching. What else are we gonna do?

Happy viewing :o)