Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bright Shiny Toys

The Peerless is in a really, really bad mood today. Maybe it's a product of watching 16 other teams having a good time. This little piece of it has been brewing for a couple of days now. The issue -- a "Caps-themed browser." Here is the story:

The Washington Capitals have partnered with Brand Thunder, a leader in computer browser branding, to create the first team-branded Internet browser in professional sports.

The customized Firefox theme allows fans to stay informed on the most up-to-date Capitals’ news no matter what website they are visiting. Once the browser theme is downloaded to a fan’s computer, the program transforms the average browser into a Capitals-themed experience. Additionally, there is an interactive toolbar that allows fans to purchase tickets, check out the Caps upcoming schedule and keep tabs on their favorite player by visiting the team roster. There is also a news scroll that keeps fans informed of recent Caps happenings.

“Brand Thunder’s customized theme helps our fans show their love of the Caps while keeping them informed with the latest Caps news,” said Sean Parker, the Capitals’ director of new media. “We are extremely pleased to be the first professional sports team to have a customized browser.”

“It extends the brand by using a fresh, innovative and effective channel,” said Patrick Murphy, CEO of Brand Thunder. “Themes offer passionate users another avenue to display their affinity while facilitating more frequent and focused communication to consumers.”

The display is simple and easy for fans to use and gives them the chance to stay on top of what is happening with the team, while working or relaxing on the Internet.
Well, gee...let's make sure we "transform the average browser into a Capitals-themed experience," because the experience at the rink sure hasn't been a lot to get excited about the last three seasons.

The Peerless is really, really tired of the gimmicky crap that surrounds this team. Anyone remember the Caps being the first club to offer a ticket for opening night on a CD a few years back? Yeah, that caught on. Here is a bulletin -- fundamentals matter, and winning sells. Need a glimpse of how?'s an example (thanks to TANK1 on The Official for pointing this out). And this is a club that teetered on the brink of bankruptcy just a few years ago -- they sold out their season this year. They have almost 15,000 STHs and a season ticket waiting list of 6,000.

Meanwhile, the Caps have bright shiny toys.


The Caps -- as an organization that caters to fans -- looks broken.

An indication...this morning, my account was updated for next year's season tickets (even though the invoice date says April 10th). I can't say I was "notified" -- either by post or electronic mail. I received news of this from a diligent poster on The Official who checks his account regularly. I checked mine, and sure enough, it was updated. But here is the kicker...I have until Wednesday -- this Wednesday, the 18th -- to renew.

What sort of nonsense is this?

An apologist for the club might argue that the date is only slightly later than last year's due date for renewals (that would be a fact), but I'm guessing most fans do not return home from their daily work or chores with the first thing on their mind being, "hmm, did the Caps update my account manager, yet?"

Not only that, but the new pricing schedule apparently results in some substantial increases for some seats at the top of the arena.

I have no idea what is going on behind the closed doors of the front office; all I can see is what's oozing from underneath. And from what I'm seeing, there seems to be almost an intentional effort to cheese off "core" fans. All the carny barker blather that "We also want our fans to feel as though they are appreciated year-round, because they are. We love the fans we have, and we cherish our relationship with them..." aside, is this how you treat returning fans?

Let me be clear...I've been a fan of this franchise since I moved here from Michigan in 1984. Just about the first thing I did when I moved in was to enroll in a partial season ticket plan. When my own bottom line improved, I was able to upgrade that to a full season plan that I hold now. As a product of my utter disgust over the lockout and the run up to it, I changed my seating from the lower level loge to the second row of the balcony for the 2005-2006 season. But, I've kept my full season plan.

I will renew this year, because I see a glimmer of hope for what is on the ice. But just as this is a crossroads summer for the club, next year is one for this fan. I very nearly cancelled my STH plan after the lockout. If this is the way the club is going to treat its existing fan base (and I hardly think I'm alone), then that might be a decision to revisit upon the conclusion of next year.

The Peerless' Peerless Awards...

And now, The Peerless is proud to present...the last award prognostications you'll ever need (or perhaps even want).

Tonight’s first award to be presented is the Lester Patrick Trophy presented for outstanding service to hockey in the United States…and the winner is…

Brett Hull (shown here with the surgically implanted microphone)

“Wait, he’s not eligible.”


“Only players, officials, coaches, executives, and referees are eligible.”

Well, The Brettster thinks he’s all five . . . besides, his goofy commentary makes one appreciate real players, officials, coaches, executives, and referees. Who could possibly be more outstanding?

Next is the presentation of the King Clancy Award given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. And the winner is…

Ed Belfour, Florida Panthers

When things were going poorly in Florida, and Alex Auld went down with a knee injury, The Eagle was there to go 14-7-5 and lead the Panthers to a 12th place finish. Then to celebrate, he led teammate Ville Peltonen on a night on the town when the pair were asked to leave a club by police, whereupon Belfour assumed a “fighting stance.” According to one report, “Belfour pulled away from the officer trying to arrest him and grabbed his shirt. The hockey player then fell forward on the ground, kicking and refusing to place his hands behind his back, the report said. Belfour had slurred speech, blood shot eyes and smelled of alcohol, police said. He was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence.”

Truly, a leader of men, on and off the ice.

And now, the Lady Byng Trophy, given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. And the winner is…

Toby Petersen, Edmonton Oilers (here, in a "Byngish" pose)

Hey, it’s got to go to someone who plays a lot (64 games), gets almost no penalties (4 PIMs) for the year, and that you’ll forget ten minutes from now, like an episode of “House.” And besides, “Toby” is a “Lady Byng” kind of name.

We now present the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The Peerless has a theory about this…players who score a lot ar not eligible. First, their plus-minus look inflated, and besides, they already have enough awards for offensive guys. Second, it must go to a player whose first name is “Gritty” – as in Gritty Kris Draper or Gritty John Madden. Third, it must go to a player the casual fan pays no attention to, so as to reflect the judges “we know more about hockey than you do” attitude. And the winner is…

Gritty Mike Fisher, Ottawa Senators (here, applying the full Selke to an opponent)

The Peerless knew a Mike Fisher in college…he doesn’t think it’s the same one.

Next up is the Jack Adams Award presented to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success. Seeing as how the coach is prohibited from the rules from playing (at least while wearing a suit), his contributions are pretty much limited to snappy wardrobe, an evil stare that looks good on TV (one leg up on the bench always looks good – makes him look thoughtful…the Michel Therrien pose), a talent for a quick snappy quote for the media (although appearing to whine is a bad thing…Lindy Ruff, this means you), and a leather-lunged ability to abuse referees about their parentage. Oh, and playoffs…it would be good if your team was in the playoffs. And the winner is…

John “Guys and Dolls” Tortorella, Tampa Bay Lighting.

And now, we come to the James Norris Memorial Trophy presentation given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position. That’s a code phrase for “defenseman with the most points.” And the winner is…

Scott Niedermayer (69 points), Anaheim Ducks

The Peerless wonders why this isn’t renamed “The Paul Coffey Memorial Trophy”

Next on tonight’s cavalcade of hardware is the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. It goes to someone who was injured and came back. The Peerless notices that there are slim pickings among the top scorers for guys who are coming back from serious injury, so the winner is…

Eric Lindros, Blue Cross/Blue Shield

09-Mar-07: Groin, day-to-day.
27-Feb-07: Missed 6 games (lower body injury).
11-Feb-07: Lower body injury, day-to-day.
09-Jan-07: Missed 7 games (foot injury).
26-Dec-06: Foot injury, day-to-day.
12-Dec-06: Missed 4 games (bruised foot).
04-Dec-06: Bruised foot, day-to-day.

He gets hurt a lot. Still managed to score five goals in 49 games.

And now, we get to the portion of the show for awards that fans actually pay attention to. First is the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The Peerless being, well, “The Peerless," he’s noticed a certain pattern in the award of this trophy. There is actually a code here – G-F-D-G-F. No, it’s not some new DNA sequencing thing, and The Peerless isn’t channeling John Forbes Nash. The last five awards have gone: goalie-forward-defenseman-goalie-forward. You know what that means . . . and the winner is…

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, defenseman, San Jose Sharks

The Vezina Trophy is given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position. The Peerless has a singular affection for a trophy awarded to guys named Tiny (Thompson), Turk (Broda), Apple Cheeks (Lumley), Bunny (Larocque), and Gump (Worsley). These days, though, it seems to go to guys with foreign sounding names – Olaf, Mar-TAN, Jose (not, “ho-zay”), Dominik, Miikka (must be good…even his name has redundant consonants and vowels). So, the winner is…

That Mar-TAN guy…Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

The penultimate presentation is for the Lester B. Pearson Award presented annually to the "most outstanding player" in the NHL. “Most outstanding player” is a code phrase for “consolation prize to the loser of the Hart Trophy.” Trouble this year is that the Hart candidates are The Golden Child and two goalies…and goalies have their own award. So, The Peerless will go off the board on this one. And the winner is…

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (his uncanny ability to levitate pucks impressed the judges)

And now, the climax to our ceremonies, the presentation of the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. Please note…given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. No, really…given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The Peerless doesn’t read that as “best player in the league.” That’s what the Pearson is for. No, The Peerless gazes deep into his crystal ball (which looks remarkably like a beer mug) and asks, if this guy was plucked by Martians from the face of the earth, would his club still be a playoff team or be a contender for he Cup? Well, there is this one guy . . . since December 12th and a 5-2 in over Phoenix, this player finished the season with a 33-9-5, 2.14 GAA, .928 SV record, lifting his team from one game below .500 (14-15-1 before that December 12th game) to a 49-26-7 record, the Northwest Division title, and a three-seed in the playoffs. No one meant more – was more valuable to his team – than The Peerless’ winner of the Hart Trophy…

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks