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Blogger Summit 3, Pt. 1: The Basement Gets A Presser

06/12/12
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Socializing prior to the summit. Credit: @BuffaloSabres

For their third new media summit, jokingly nicknamed by Ted Black “Bloggers, Black, and Beers”, the Buffalo Sabres assembled their largest list of bloggers yet. Following pizza and beers on the 100 level of First Niagara Center were surprise announcements, a rapid-fire topical discussion, and a closing Q&A session.

Today’s post, the first of four, will focus on the trifecta of announcements that opened the summit.

For readers of Black & Blue & Gold, which has had a presence at all three, the format this time was a bit different. Instead of opening right up to a Q&A session, team president Black launched into a trio of announcements exclusive to the summit. First was the creation of a new, daily radio show (talked about later). Second, Black dropped a slew of broadcast changes on the gathered bloggers. Foster Hewitt honoree Rick Jeanneret is back on a multi-year deal and for more games, Rob Ray is the new color analyst, Brian Duff is the new studio host, and Kevin Sylvester is the radio host of a new Sabres radio show (Go in-depth with these changes on the Sabres’ website). Also on the TV side of things, Black announced that all NYC metro area away games would no longer use the local broadcast crews for pregame, intermission, and postgame. No more Al Trautwig or Chico Resch plaguing the ears and eyes of Sabres fans watching on MSG. Black also announced that the Sabres would be launching ICE (Interactive Community Experience) to gather all of their social media endeavors under one umbrella (Click here to go to the ICE page. One criticism already – that’s one helluva URL. Couldn’t the Sabres secure sabres.nhl.com/ice/ or something? UPDATE: Sabres PR staffer Ian Ott has informed me that sabres.com/ICE does indeed work). Black closed out this section of the summit by announcing that select blogs would receive player access in the upcoming season as well as press box and post-game press conference access. More on that in a later post.

Fans are elated to learn that Jeanneret will return and call more games than this past season, but what of the other changes? I like the idea of giving someone else a shot at color analyst and Rob Ray has proven to be insightful and witty. If he succeeds, great. If he’s no good, they can stick him back between the benches (Sidebar: They are toying with the idea of leaving Ray between the benches while he provides commentary – at home at least). I’m a big fan of Duff’s, so his move to full time with the Sabres is brilliant. Keeping Harry Neale around on the pregame show and intermission reports is an improvement if only because he’s no longer playing the role of RJ’s sidekick. I will miss Mike Robitaille’s chemistry with Kevin Sylvester, and I’m not sure how Robi and Duff will play off of each other on the post game show. We’ll see. Danny Gare will remain as an analyst as well and he’ll also pen a blog for the Sabres website. I have to admit, I didn’t read more than a half-dozen blog entries on Sabres.com last season and I don’t anticipate I’ll be reading Gare’s either. However, I am curious about the feature stories that the trio will provide for MSG broadcasts and the website.

One thing universally heralded by fans is the announcement of the Sabres producing their own broadcasts in the NYC metro area. Once Sabres broadcasts on MSG were all shot in HD, the din of the crowd focused on the piggybacking of broadcasts when the team visited the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils. No longer, said Black. The team will finally produce their own broadcasts at Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, and the Prudential Center.

The real question mark lies with the Sabres Hockey Hotline, set to premiere in 6 days on WGR. Nestled in the 10AM-12PM time slot (see ya, Cowherd!), SHH will air from a not-yet-built studio within the Sabres Store at First Niagara Center and will run year-round Monday through Friday. Hosted by Kevin Sylvester, the show will be two hours of uninterrupted Sabres and hockey talk. Some potential programming morsels tossed out by WGR general manager Greg Reed and Ted Black were line combinations and injury updates, guests from the Buffalo hockey market and around the league, and exclusive segments. From a nontraditional standpoint, I see a potential for guys like Kris Baker (of Sabres Prospects fame) and his prospect coverage or Derek Jedamski (from The Hosers) and his advanced statistical analysis to shine in guest segments. Get booking guys with unique insights to offer, Sabres.

It’s important to note that this will be a show run by the Sabres themselves. Before implications of rampant homerism flit through your brains (I may be too late), Black did note that there would be a balance struck between criticism and homerism. I for one am optimistically curious. On one hand, it means more locally-produced content on Western New York’s only sports talk radio network. It also services the year-round appetite for hockey that WNYers are noted for. On the other hand, there is the chance that it is filled with fluff content on a daily basis. While some is welcome to an extent, too much would be a detriment to the product. I have high hopes for what it can accomplish, but low expectations (to start) of what it actually will.

Pt. 2 of BBG’s coverage of Blogger Summit 3 will post tomorrow, focusing on the topical discussion at the summit (UPDATE: Read Pt. 2 here) and Pt. 3 (UPDATE 2: Read Pt. 3 here) will address the expanded blogger credentialing program.

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