Currently, the National Hockey League offseason is in that dullest of doldrums where training camp and preseason are far enough away to not really be thought about and any free agency action is all but dried up. The only loose end for Ray Shero to tie up for the New Jersey Devils is a new contract with Miles Wood. My thoughts on that from the end of July are here. Anyway, I want to take things in a different direction. This is not so much about the Devils but about hockey blogging as a whole.
I’ve been doing this for about 12 years and later this year it’ll be 10 years on this network. I’ve witnessed and have been a part of the highs and lows that come with writing about what I like and what I think on the Internet. The highs obviously outweigh the lows; that’s why I’m still here. It is truly remarkable that people from all over the world reads this site about the Devils. I am still touched that there are other like-minded fans who are as passionate as I am about the team that not only read but comment and even have become a part of this blog. I marvel at how so many other teams fanbases have something similar going on. Traditional media may have caught up with the editorial aspect; but they cannot replicate how open ended or community minded blogs can be. While blogging as a way to have your say about, well, anything may have given way to social media in recent years; it is still a viable platform for those who want more structure, more discussions, and more content than what you would normally see on social media. Needless to say, I am very happy with how blogging - particularly in hockey - has developed over the last decade-plus. I would (and do!) encourage people to give it a chance.
And there are people who do want a chance. For example, I do get emails from people from time to time asking to be a part of this site. Some are students looking to get going in journalism and/or sportswriting; and some (all?) just want to be a part of something about The Team that Matters, the Devils. I have to turn them down - sorry, there are no openings - but the point is that there are people interested in doing it. Sure, there is at least one major blog about all 31 NHL teams and many reporters have blogs through their paper or media outlet. But for as large as blogging has become, there are still plenty of opportunities that if someone who is passionate about the topic and is willing to put in the work, then they will at least on a good track to having a blog that many will read, discuss, and share. There are topics and subjects that are, for lack of a better term, underserved in the larger hockey community online. Someone who is passionate about them and willing to write about those will get plenty of attention and expand said community. That is what I want to highlight today.
Note: If I am mistaken and there are (more) blogs for the following topics, then please let me know in the comments so we can all benefit.
Prospects, Prospects, and Prospects
People love reading about the NHL Draft and prospects of their team. The draft itself is a major event in the NHL offseason. Fans have and will discuss at length over who should be picked, who got picked, and who should have been picked instead. Fans put a lot of faith into these potential players of the future and want to know how they are doing. They want to know whether their development is actual progress or not. After all, HFBoards remains massively popular and that came out of Hockey’s Future, an online resource all about that. Prospect writing has become so big that there are people who have turned into a business where people can subscribe to their guides, profiles, and so forth. There are those that put their opinions out there for the sake of having it out there for everyone to read. Good as that all is, there are some real opportunities that someone can realize if they make a blog about specific topics within it.
In general, writing about prospects is something that will garner interest from a lot of different people - especially in the run up and including the draft. But there is not coming from a team or a league perspective. Brock Otten’s OHL Prospects is the gold standard. For any prospect in the OHL - Devils-drafted or otherwise - I make a point of it to check out OHL Prospects. Otten has experience scouting and has made connections over the years; but he goes into detail on everyone such that any reader can benefit. It is easy to see that he is just a fan of the process and the league. But you don’t need to start out as an expert. Even if all you have are observations about what you’ve seen in a player and can justify said observation, then that’s a good place to start as any. I certainly was no expert on the Devils and it can be argued that I am not. But since I keep it real and come correct about it, it is not an issue. It won’t be the for the seemingly-always-in-demand world of prospect writing.
So if this sounds interesting to you and you’re a fan of the following leagues, then consider making a blog with a prospect focus. I assure you, it will be read and appreciated.
- The Western Hockey League (WHL From Above, we miss you)
- The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
- The United States Hockey League - especially the United States National Developmental Team Program since that program produces prospects of all levels.
- Junior A leagues in Canada. Smaller, yes. But plenty of future collegiate go this route and there are players directly drafted from these leagues.
- Junior and the main leagues in Europe - Russia is an especially good area area of opportunity seeing as how much happens but with not much context or awareness. A country-based focus on prospective players can be a boon for the community. Just look at FinnProspects. It’s a place where if someone Finnish is being drafted or considered, then it’s a place to go. Imagine a site like it for Swedish, Russian, Czech, Swiss, etc. prospects. The opportunity is there.
- College - While here at SBN, plenty of colleges with Division I teams have a hockey hub or subsection (e.g. BC Interruption for Boston College and House of Sparky for Arizona State.), not every college is represented on their own. Think Princeton or Harvard or Maine or even smaller schools like Quinnipac, Merrimack, and others.
If doing a full league is too much or you really are a fan of one particular team, then you could still do this. The fanbases for these teams tend to be passionate and a blog can further strengthen the community and even expand it. If you need some inspiration, A Very Barrie Colts Blog is a good one as any (and apparently, there’s a growing network for OHL teams).
We all know that players that are picked come through these leagues and many of them return to further their game. While from our end at the NHL level, we take a look at those players; having someone with first-hand information and observations can tell us more than what a boxscore or a second-hand report. If I had magical blogging powers, then I would have a site like OHL Prospects for all of these. I don’t have those powers; but you do have the power to make it happen if you’re already into this aspect of hockey. Given how popular of a topic prospects are, then having a blog about the above topics will get attention.
Go Smaller or More Local for Coverage
If you have ambitions of getting into scouting or writing professionally, then a blog is a good avenue to at least get your feet wet and start making connections. Many media outlets have blogs or blog-like platforms of their own. Beat reporters often have them. For some on this network, one of the reasons why the blog got going was to provide coverage of a team that was not there for one reason or another. Some bloggers went on to demonstrate that they can be professional and insightful enough to be treated as media in the press box while also not discarding their passion and fandom in the eyes of the fans. If this interests you; again, the opportunities are really present with the smaller and more local leagues.
The above list for prospects would apply just as much for anyone who wants to write about a specific team or a league. If the idea is to leverage that into reporting, then focusing on a team may be more advisable. But going local is a good opportunity as it may be easier to get involved. Whether it is a minor pro team in the AHL, ECHL, or others; a junior or smaller college team; or even a high school squad. The latter is somewhat common for media. A lot of current reporters and broadcasters got their feet wet working the local schools to hone their craft before moving up to bigger leagues and sports. You’ll need to put in some work before getting to that level; to show that you can do it fairly. But it is more attainable than, say, trying to get the same level of respect from a NHL team.
And even if you do not have that ambition, but you’re a fan that wants there to be more than just a local press report about a game or a team’s transaction, then a blog is a great way to make it happen. Sure, the report from the media may have the facts; but your blog can be more about the reaction to the report. It can be about what impacts it will have on the team. It can be about asking other fans what they think and giving them a space to sound off. All About the Jersey is all about the New Jersey Devils. Imagine if you could take the general approaches we have and how we write and do it for another team. Even if it is for the local high school squad or the junior team in a town of less than 50,000 people, you’d be very surprised what
Consider the Opposite: Go International
The best league in the world, the NHL, is in North America. But there is more hockey outside of it in Europe and elsewhere. Plenty of prospective players both for drafting or from free agency come from the Kontinental Hockey League, the Swedish Hockey League, the Finnish Elite League, the Czech Extraliga, the Swiss National League, and others. While the main draft sites do cover them, there are a lack of publicly available sites - and in English, no less. FinnProspects is a good step forward for the Finnish players. But there can be just as much interest, if not more, for what is happening in the KHL or SHL in addition to the other European league without a focus on prospects. There are those who provide their input on Twitter, but a blog can provide an easier format for reference and more room for content than just 280 characters and/or a video or picture.
If you do not care so much about the prospect side of things, but support the team or league, then that’s still something worth blogging about that not many are doing in the hockey scene. Players from the NHL transfer to Europe if they cannot get a deal in the NHL or prefer to go back. Potential free agents from the KHL and SHL regularly get scouted and given deals to come over. There are players that switch leagues. The KHL is particularly interesting if only because they have teams outside of Russia. The action itself is different from the NHL, but it’s still hockey and there are people who appreciate that. The main sites for the league do have an English option; but English language coverage - even if it is for just a team - will open the doors for more people to know what’s going on than whatever they get told from a scouting report or a stat line or a highlight video or hearsay. Especially if it’s for an even lesser known league like what is happening in France, Germany, Australia, Britain, and so forth.
Going international is not just for looking abroad, but also for those who support the teams in North America from afar. For example, there’s a Brazilian fan account on Twitter for the Devils: @njdevilsbr. As expected, it’s all about what the Devils do and what they have done in games but in Portuguese. That may be a niche but this is the Internet. There is a following for all kinds of niches. And they could get more notice with a blog about the Devils in Portuguese. So can any fan from somewhere else who can communicate their thoughts, observations, and opinions about a team in another language. Just as English coverage of the KHL and SHL and other European leagues can have an audience; so can non-English coverage of the North American leagues. That’s a huge opportunity within the scene.
If You’re Writing About Something Established, Then Find Another Way to Stand Out
None of this is to say that if you want to do a blog about something already covered that you should not do it. What I would suggest is to find a way to make it a little bit different. Something to separate it. A way to make it clear to the reader that this is your way.
Let’s use this site for example. It’s a Devils blog. It’s by hardcore fans of the team. While there is no rule for it, it is big on stats, opinion, and analysis. It has a lot of rules for the community. I think it’s pretty good. But I know it’s not the only way a Devils blog can be run. It’s what I would want in it, plenty of people like that, but you and others may not - and that’s OK. Maybe you would prefer a Devils site that allows for bad language. Maybe you would prefer a Devils site that is more about narrative and the “story of the game” instead of what made the game work. Maybe you want more visuals - or maybe even less. Maybe you want more historical perspective. Maybe there’s a different perspective to offer. The point is that these are all tweaks off the top of my head about how someone can make a Devils blog and have it be a little bit different to have it stand out on its own.
Who benefits? Well, I would hope the blogger would for having their way happen. But so would the fans and the larger blogging scene. It is no slight to me or other Devils blogs. On the Internet, most interested people will not just read only one site about what they are interested in. People will (and do!) read multiple good sites provided they each provide something interesting and worthwhile. So if you feel so inclined on doing a Devils blog, then let me, the manager of one of the older ones tell you that you should go ahead - just make sure it’s done the way you would want it to help it stand out.
Most Importantly, Try
These are the main areas of opportunity out in the scene from my stand point. I’m not saying that the opportunity will totally lead you to a new career or all sorts of fame or any of that. It can, but more has to be done than starting a blog. But taking these will help you stand out more quickly in a scene full of hockey blogs online. Providing content for the larger hockey fanbase that is not really available at the moment is a great way to stand out while pursuing/tempering your passion. Is it a labor at times, yeah, it can be. But I speak from experience that it is a rewarding one - especially as you find out how many people do read it or when you get constructive comments about what you’ve written up.
The last and arguably the most important thing I’ll suggest is to try. Just try it. These opportunities are mostly ideas for blogs that are not really out there in the current scene. Maybe you have some others of your own, such as coaching concepts or going over the legal and business practices of t. Great. But try it out. There are free platforms like Blogger still available for you to play around with it and see if it you want to do it. That’s what I did way back in 2006 with In Lou We Trust. Eventually, I added the domain name, I kept on writing and communicating, I got picked up, and here we are. But it never would have happened if I did not take a chance and try it out. If you’re someone who enjoys commenting, writing on message boards, posting on social media, discussing the team, league, or game, then I really think you’ll get something out of it. And you’ll probably get more attention out of it sooner rather than later if your blog ends up filling the “gaps” out there. You may not have the same path that I have but if you try, you may be pleasantly surprised of what it can do for you.
OK, that concludes the meta post about blogging. I apologize for the lack of Devils-content in this post (don’t worry, we can have a WAR tomorrow), but this is something I have been thinking about and other writers have noted too. If you want more details, thoughts, opinions, and so forth about hockey blogging, then please reach out to me. I’d be happy to help those discover what I have learned and enjoyed through doing this. Thank you for reading.