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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

(Opinions expressed here are not those of my employer. Heck, they might not even be mine.)
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

more good news for Predators fans

First, just wanted to point out this article from the Tennessean about the Predators gearing up for off-season moves and signings. I'll talk much more about this in my upcoming post about player/personnel, and we've already talked about it some on previous post (check the comments)

Important thing to note in this article is the following quote from team Chairman David Freeman:

“I will be shocked if the Nashville Predators don’t have the biggest increase in payroll — both percentage-wise and in sheer dollars — of any team in the NHL,’’ said David Freeman, who heads the team’s ownership group.

“There’s always been that chicken-and-egg question about who should go first: Should the team increase its payroll and then hope fans and sponsors follow suit? Or should the fans and sponsors put up the money, and then the team will spend the money? We are very clearly saying we’re taking the lead. We’re spending the money first.’’
Second, good news that the Preds aren't planning on raising ticket prices very much this year at all. 1% - 8% max (depending on the seat), which is nothing compared to the 7.25% - 41.7% increases we saw last year. Yay!

Last, but not least, I wanted to post the email that was sent out from Ed Lang ( Predators President of Business Operations) to all season ticketholders. In addition to the text messages and other thank you's that we've received, this not in particular was really nice to get. Not overly dramatic or "rah-rah team", but what (to me anyway) comes across as a sincere thanks to the fans for supporting the team - and asking them to do what is needed most - spread the word. He doesn't ask for us to buy a bigger ticket package, sponsor the team, buy merchandise, or spend more money - just get the word out to your friends.

I think the team and management was genuinely surprised at just how the fans reacted at the end of the season. When i heard Trotz interviewed on the radio a few days ago (after the end of the season), he said that he and the coaches and players really felt like next year would be exciting and that "Now we feel like we really have something to play for. We aren't just playing for ourselves, but for all the fans and the city of Nashville". Let's just hope that small group of insanely passionate fans can continue to grow (again...that's another post to come soon).

Here's the letter:
Dear Season Ticketholder,

The 2007-08 Predators season was filled with many memories. You likely have the Sommet Center memories of last-minute game saving stops by Dan Ellis and Chris Mason or overtime goals by Martin Erat, Alexander Radulov or Shea Weber as well as the thrilling playoff wins over Detroit.

But the memories for those of us within the Predators' organization, from ownership and staff to players and coaches were those unbelievably loud and lengthy ovations of support and encouragement to the team that began in the regular season finale and continued in the playoffs.

Those are memories we treasure and illustrate exactly why local ownership stepped up to purchase the franchise, why the players and coaches have pledged their commitment to Nashville and why we have the best fans in professional sports. We offer a heartfelt thank you for your continued support and overwhelming passion. None of what has transpired over the last 10 months would have been possible without your commitment!

As we begin building towards the 2008-09 season, we hope you will share some of your memories with family, friends and business colleagues with the hope that even more of middle Tennessee residents will join Nashville's Team!

Thank you for a great season of support and memories!

Ed Lang
President, Business Operations
Nashville Predators

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I love technology (and the Spurs)

We don't have cable, but that hasn't prevented me from watching any of the Stanley Cup and NBA playoffs. Thanks to MyP2P, which provides live feeds from China (makes you realize how useless the commentators are when they speak another language and you don't miss anything), and ESPN360.com, i've been able to watch all i want, live over our broadband connection.

ESPN360.com is particularly great. I can watch anything on any ESPN/ABC sports property around the world (including rugby, soccer, etc if i wanted to), many of which are available on "replay" (on-demand). Best of all, the quality is outstanding. The feed of last night's Spurs/Suns game (which the Spurs won handily) was a feed of the HD broadcast (which means widescreen) and i think darn close to HD resolution itself. Certainly looked great.

Here's a screen cap (click on it to see it full resolution) so you can see the awesomeness.
Best part: it is free, at least for anyone whose ISP supports it, which AT&T (Bellsouth DSL) does. Not sure about those on Comcast or TDS or other ISP's around Nashville.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Predators Seasons Wrap-up: Owners and Management

This will be a series of posts about elements of the Predators organization as it stands at the end of another year. Stay tuned for more posts about the coaches, players, fans, etc.



As i explained to a co-worker today, this is series of blog post i was hoping to put off writing for a while longer. He was talking in very positive terms about the "great fight that the Preds gave the Wings". While that is true, and it is awesome that this team even made it to the playoffs, it is still disappointing to have the year come to an end. I think many of us (the fans and players) really believed this team had more in it.

I'm not going to get to rear-view focused here. This last season was a crazy one, not to mention the off-season that proceeded it. I'm going to try to keep this about 'where we go from here'. The exception is the first section, which by its nature will necessitate looking back at all the changes that have taken place, in order to appreciate the changes left to make.


Ownership/Management
Christopher Cigarran, Thomas Cigarran, Joel and Holly Dobberpuhl, William “Boots” Del Biaggio, David Freeman, Herbert Fritch, DeWitt Thompson V, John Thompson and Warren Woo

This group has been awesome. Not just the fact that they stepped up to buy the team and keep it in town (and buy us free drinks). But the other efforts as well. Marketing has improved dramatically. Advertising still leaves a little to be desired (the billboard and TV ads look like were pasted onto a PowerPoint template) but the frequency and visibility of ads has been much better. And the over-all way the team is presented around town has been outstanding.

Most of all though, they have once again made the Predators a ticket to have in town. In the final weeks of the season, we saw Governor Phil Bredesen, Jeff Fisher, Vince Young, Rob Bironas, Eddie George, Jimmy Fallon, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Dierks Bentley, Jodee Messina, and many other celebrities have been seen at the game - on the megatron. Some of these may have been just naturally attending the game, but i can pretty much guarantee you that 'their people' were asked if it was ok to show them on screen. What's better, every single one of them (with the exception of Fisher) was wearing Predators gear. This isn't by accident. It's marketing and promotion at its finest. Vince Young and Rob Bironas even participated in on-ice intermission entertainment. Tie-ins with the Titans is brilliant. I just hope they can continue with some quid-pro-quo next year and get some Predators featured at a Titans game or two!

It hasn't stopped there. The Predators website has been great of late. Predators fans complaining about a lack of media coverage just haven't found the Predators TV section yet. The local TV stations may not be covering the team well, but they team is! Toward the end of the year the team filmed a pre-game 'show' of around five minutes each featuring highlights and back story about the teams, what has been going on, etc (see the show from game 6 here). They also usually posted the full press conference videos and player interviews done both pre- and post-game. Oh, and of course more highlights than you could shake a stick at. The only failure here has been in not getting the word out about just how awesome this section of the site has become.

Check out the 30 minute post-season press conference with GM David Poile and head Coach Barry Trotz here--


The team even started (finally) using their SMS text message service that everyone had signed up for (when they sent "PREDS" to 66937 during intermission to win tickets). I've gotten several messages in the last few weeks notifying me when game 6 tickets went on sale, and about the viewing party held for game 5, Predators Pride day, etc. I hope they continue to use this to good effect (though not enough to cross the line into spam). Best message of all was the one that thanked me for my support. This new ownership group has taken nothing for granted, thanking people and companies all over the place for their support - and it is making a difference.

Other positive call-outs: The return of major sponsors (Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Dodge, Toyota, etc, etc) bringing in extra revenue. Nice looking tickets for season ticketholders during the playoffs. Instead of a nice booklet of tickets for the regular season this year, Craig Leipold send out ticketmaster tickets for everyone. For the playoffs they returned to the nice tickets with photos of players, etc (even if they were old pictures of past players).

What i still want to see:

More HD. I know this group doesn't have total control over games appearing in HD on Fox Sports, but the fact that none of the playoff games were available in HD in Nashville is an absolute travesty. HD has a bigger impact on hockey than any other sport - actually making it watchable for casual fans (who can now actually see the puck and more of the ice).

More Any games on local TV. They also need to get every game on TV, and more available on broadcast TV. There is no reason the occasional weekend afternoon game in Feb/March/April shouldn't be on MyTV 30 or better yet Channel 2, 4, or 5. I know the ratings aren't great for Predators games (yet), but they have to be better than re-runs or infomercials. I don't care how cheap the team has to sell the rights for, they MUST get on TV more, and in a higher profile (more widely available) location.

Better ads. Both billboards and TV ad series that were run at the end of the season were well placed, and not horrible, but they didn't look big-league. They looked very amateur. Maybe it was on purpose, but i think the team would do well to appear more professional. Hopefully having the summer to put together a new plan will help.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Preds season comes to a close

Many many words will be written about this team and this series. I'll chime in with a few of my own shortly, but first, i think this video says a ton all by itself.

This is the final 4.8 seconds of the Predators season on the ice, followed by the fans thanking the team for the crazy ride this season turned out to be. Then the team returning the favor, saying 'thank you' to a city that rallied behind the them.

This team never gave up, just like their fans who refused to give them up to outsiders who called us 'unworthy'. Many said this team wasn't capable of finishing above 10th in the conference, and many of the same people said this city couldn't and wouldn't support a hockey team. We proved them all wrong.

Thank you Predators!
See you back at prospect and training camps this summer :-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

really? this is news?

I stopped going near CNN's website a long time ago.
I tried subscribing to their Twitter feed thinking it would be headline breaking news...i un-follwed when they posted "When your spouse is a slob (link to story)".

A friend just pointed out this story on their front page. Wow.

I'm sorry for her and all, but why on earth would anyone want to read that story?

Just, wow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Predators Lease Changes Pass Council

Unless i'm wrong, this is finally "it".

The Preds lease changes finally passed Metro Council
.

The ownership has changed hands, lease changes negotiated & passed all governing bodies, and attendance marks met.

Now we can focus 100% on hockey!

(For the record, I'm not thrilled about the lease changes. I don't think they are really to the great benefit of the fans or the city, and only slightly to the team...but they are what the owners say they needed...and it keeps the team here. So that's that.)

Preds Win Game 3 (and more)

"Breaking News" - not only did the Preds win game 3 tonight, but the Metro Council finally has the new lease out of committee and looks ready to vote on it today (tomorrow...er...Tuesday the 15th). Good timing!

I'll leave it to those smarter than me to dissect the game fully (or you can just watch highlights below). Sufficed to say, Trotz made adjustments, something he hasn't done well in the past. The adjustments in lines and match-ups freed our players to do what they needed to do, and they got the job done.

You will also hear much regarding the crowd tonight. Once again, there were several long standing ovations, and the final 3-4 minutes was probably the loudest i've ever experienced at a sporting event of any kind (and i've been to San Antonio Spurs games in the NBA Finals, etc). I'm not going to say it was the loudest ever in history...but it was pretty nuts. To put it in perspective, i'm a drummer, and i was afraid of having some serious hearing damage.

Major kudos to the arena crew once again for knowing when to let the crowd go. There was more than one time that the crowd started a "Lets Go Predators" or other chant and the arena crew quickly muted the techno or whatever music they were playing in favor of letting the crowd feed off the natural hype. They also finally traded the commonly used red lights during pre-game for blue and yellow (gold) ones. You'd think this was a no-brainer, but it hasn't always been. These 'little things' did not go unappreciated!

I'm also uploading all the pictures that Christy took at tonights game. She's been grabbing better shots than me lately, so i'm letting her have the camera from here on out i think (besides, we win when she's shooting).

Of course, i took this shot during pre-game warm-ups:
They always show the pretty girls in the crowd ya know :-)


I also have to apologize to David Legwand. During warm-ups i took this picture of his skates (right), which to me showed he was clearly a decoy and not going to actually play. Thank you for proving me very wrong, Leggy.

And finally, this is now my new favorite Preds picture (that wasn't taken by me or Christy).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

hockey for the fans

Quick random post...

First, everyone wear your Predators gear tomorrow (Thurs 4/10/08). It's Predators Pride Day!

Also, our good friends Matt and Josef of Beyond The Edge and Batter'd n Fried were caught in the "official" video of the standing ovation "moment" from last weeks game. Here they are (Matt and Josef in that order are the two guys in the lower right):
Also wanted to share this picture sent to me by the guy that sits next to us at Preds games (Andy). Hee hee.
Lastly - we are very close to having enough sign-ups to finally get a Predators license plate. Less than 100 to go, so hit this page and order yours now! Just $35



The Onion also just posted a story about goalie Dan Ellis having literally moved into the net.


That is all

Monday, April 07, 2008

all things hockey

Well, for those living under a rock, the Nashville Predators secured their 4th consecutive playoff appearance last week. We drew the same opponent we had during our first shot in the 03-04 season, the Detroit Dead Things Red Wings.

The Preds will be the 8th seed against the first seeded Wings which, for the uninitiated, means we will start this series on the road. The NHL just released the schedule for the playoffs last night, and the Preds/Wings series is as follows:

2008 WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTER-FINAL
SERIES E TIME (Central) #1 Detroit vs. #8 Nashville Network
Thur, April 10 6:00 pm Nashville at Detroit VERSUS
Sat, April 12 1:00 pm Nashville at Detroit NBC
Mon, April 14 TBD (6pm?) Detroit at Nashville VERSUS
Wed, April 16 TBD (8pm?) Detroit at Nashville VERSUS
Fri, April 18 6:30 pm Nashville at Detroit VERSUS
Sun, April 20 2:00 pm Detroit at Nashville NBC
Tues, April 22 TBD Nashville at Detroit

(UPDATE: Confirmed- Game 3 starts at 6:30, game 4 starts at 8:00pm)
I already have my playoff tickets, and for anyone who'd like to try to grab the (very) few that are left for games 3 or 4, direct message me on Twitter (pwnicholson) or call my Grand Central number (615-823-1734) and i will gladly hook you up with a referral to my rep (Tiffany Vanek - 770-2338) and let you buy off my account (i get referral credit - thank you new ownership!)

Anyway...

First game is of course this Thurs night. Haven't decided yet where i'll be watching it, but rest assured i will.

Game 2 (in Detroit) is going to be on NBC! Which means, that Paul and Christy get to actually watch it at home!! (We don't have cable...season tickets instead)

If you'd like to join us in East Nashville (and watch the game in HD on a 100" projector screen), just drop me a line via email, phone (615-823-1734), or Twitter (pwnicholson) for directions. Party will start shortly before the game at 1:00pm of course.

For games 3 and 4 here in Nashville - they haven't set times yet, but for the game will be on Versus and the only other game on Versus that night is scheduled for 9:00pm central, which means i think we'll get an early start - probably a 6:30pm or maybe even 6:00pm start time. Game 4 on the 16th is the reverse situation. It is on Versus again and the only other game on Versus that night starts at 6:00pm central, so we may have a late one - guessing an 8:00-8:30 start time.

I'm seriously considering getting in my "i'll be in late" request to work for the 17th now :-)



In related news, the end of the regular season means the end of Fantasy Hockey. Final Standings ended thusly:
  1. Fab Forechecker (Dirk Hoag)
  2. Ice Holes (Paul McCann)
  3. Rebel Mandos (Kevin Peters)
  4. Preds (Paul Nicholson - me!)
  5. Novice -- Fresh Meat (Kevin Hicks)
  6. Disastros (David Calrson)
  7. PuckNtheMouth (Brandon Felder)
  8. Old School Blues (Gary Nicholson)
  9. Nashville Starcats (Christy Nicholson)
  10. Predheads (Ryan Cassell)
Not too bad all things considered. The championship bracket was everything i though it'd be, with Paul McCann (hockey blogger and PA announcer for the Predators) up against Forechecker (hockey blogger and statistician extraordinare). They actually tied 5-5-1 in the championship "game" and had to go to the tiebreaker (team goals) which Forechecker won handily (23-9). Also worth noting is Kevin's (Mandos) nice recovery from last year, where he finished 7th out of 8th in an admittedly much weaker field - this year he pounded me in the 3rd/4th place game in the final week.



Lastly, for all those truly obsessed with hockey, make sure to watch the NHL Draft Lottery tonight. This isn't the actual draft of course, just the lottery to determine where the picks lineup. Good news for the Preds is that thanks to the Tomas Vokoun trade from last summer, we own Florida's first and second round picks, and they finished with the 9th worst record in the league. This translates in draft to mean that the Predators will have somewhere between the 5th and 10th overall pick in the draft. Show is available on Versus and online at NHL.com. Starts at 7:00pm central.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Predators make the Playoffs!!!

I'll try to blog about it more tomorrow.

Right now i've got to try to come down off this adrenaline rush and get some sleep.

Preds won. Vancouver Lost. We're in the playoffs!

Lots of pictures here (courtesy of my lovely bride, who took all the shots at tonight's game), including pictures of Titan's quarterback Vince Young, who was at the game and threw out t-shirts to the crowd.

And a video she shot of the amazing spontaneous crowd response is here:

Nashville Thanks the Predators

(If the video isn't working, that's because it's still converting on Vimeo's server...check back a little while...)

The crowd rose to give the team a standing ovation during a TV timeout after a great effort in the 3rd period. And they wouldn't stop. For a solid 2:30, the crowd just stood and cheered and waived their t-shirts* (think about it...just sit in your chair and do nothing for 2:30. That's a long time). The arena crew was smart enough not to interrupt with any videos or music. Just let the crowd thank the team. It was amazing. The game wasn't even over at that point. Gave me the chills.

Detroit vs. Nashville will start sometime next week.
Let's go Preds!

* By the way, the t-shirts look great and are way cooler shirts than past giveaway shirts

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Foolishness

I've become a pretty big fan of all the April Fools stuff that hits the web annually. Just gonna post a few of my favorites as i spot them throughout the day:

Funny through fear:

Funny through weird:
Funny through "Don't tease me!"
Special mention goes to this article on DownloadSquad that mentions the idea that AOL will start distributing its software on USB flash drives through direct mail, like it used to with floppy disks and CDs. I'd love that personally. Back in the floppy disk days, it was always a pleasure to get the AOL junk mail - meant never having to buy a floppy disk again. Open, format, stick a new label on it.