The NHL is a business. The NHL, despite their tone deaf stance with the players, are starting to realize that their stance is hurting the bottom line – the customers are unhappy with the lack of product.
Does this mean that Bettman cares what the average individual fan thinks? Probably not. Shane Horcoff, in an interview with ESPN’s Craig Custance, had this to say regarding Bettman’s approach to the fans:
"I sit there and read Gary and Bill's comments about, 'We feel sorry for the fans.' Well, I find that really hard to believe," Horcoff said. "I think it's a blatant lie, personally. I don't feel they feel sorry for the fans at all. Gary feels like no matter what, [the fans are] going to come back and couldn't care less if they're frustrated with this. He's going to do what it takes to get the best deal and couldn't care less what they feel."
Horcroff has a point. Most individuals feel this way. The NHL knows it, too, so they’d like to remedy this problem. The fastest way would probably to issue a press release announcing the firing of Gary Bettman and Bill Daly, but that’s not happening at all. What they can do is market, market, market. Of course, their only outlets now are NHL.com and whatever Bill Daly says to the press. But why *is* it Daly that’s speaking? Why not Bettman?
Well, perhaps it’s because Daly’s more “blue collar.”
At the very least, that’s how participants viewed Daly during a focus group for the NHL which was ran by pollster Frank Luntz. You might’ve seen Luntz on Fox News, and previously a few years ago on MSNBC. He’s one of the best in the business and the NHL hired him to figure out how exactly to best spin the current situation.
Deadspin had an expose on the whole situation, and honestly, people are getting worked up about the wrong stuff. The scandal here isn’t that the league held a focus group to figure out how to turn the tide of public opinion, which was dragging Gary Bettman somewhere out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The scandal is the ham handed way that the focus group was done. In one question, the focus group is asked "Which of the following images make you miss hockey the most?" One of the images is a fight featuring Derek Boogaard in his Minnesota Wild uniform. Is it emotional manipulation to appeal to some members of the focus group? Possibly.
The last exercise was basically a list that was copied, word for word, from the Puck Daddy post "What We Lost When The NHL Lost Opening Night.” That, not the fact that the NHL hired a GOP pollster to help them with media spin, is the issue.
Luntz’s group should have acquired written permission before using Greg Wyshynski’s words. People need to get past the whole “it’s on a blog, so it’s ok to copy it!” thing. It’s not. At the very least, they owe Wysh an apology and an assurance that the particular exercise will be removed or credited to him in the future.
Frankly, back to the original point, who cares if a business hires someone who is known for working with large businesses (who tend to skew Republican, just like NHL owners) to run a focus group? Should the NHL’ve hired someone less experience who had no party affiliation, or who was affiliated with the Democrats? How does that help the League’s position?
I’m not defending the League, as I think that they’re about 80% at fault for this damn lockout. But from a business perspective, they’ve done nothing wrong. The knee-jerk reaction of “business is BAAAAD and ZOMFG this guy is associated with the GOP so CONSPIRACY” is getting absurd. Without the NHL, we wouldn’t have the sport and league we love so much. Nothing is proving that more than this lockout.
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I work in PR. Focus groups can be a great way to find a problem and fix it. However, there's the other end of the stick where they're used to manipulate target audiences into thinking your way. And in this case, the latter is occurring. The owners want you, the fan that's pissed off at them for the 3rd lockout in 2 decades, to stop thinking they're greedy bastards. They want to figure out what words will "resonate" with fans, to dupe them into thinking that the owners are just merely pawns in the big NHL league struggle. That the players are the ones holding things up. That's where "shared sacrifice" comes into play. And I'm here to tell you, it's utter crap.Think about this, fans: the owners are willing to probably plunk down MILLIONS to hire this guy's firm to plan and execute a smear campaign against the players. That's right. They're spending money... over money they claim is so dire. To put it into perspective, BP's initial PR and Ad campaign over how they were fixing things: $50 million. They too hired the firm of a big political adviser. That's right, this stuff doesn't come cheap when big firms are involved. Not to mention all the lawyers that will be charging hourly rates to handle all the legal mumbo jumbo involved... and the financial analysts they're paying to come up with these numbers.
The $1.6 billion they're standing to "save" over the next 6 years, by doing this, makes spending a few million to do it seem completely reasonable to them. But the question I pose to you, fans, is this: are you going to "buy" into their "shared sacrifice" messaging? Or are you too aware of all the problems that need fixing (leadership, marketing strategy, placement of teams, etc.), to listen to this junk?
I was sent a survey in my email to participate in this focus group. (I had participated in one or two Luntz focus groups before.) They asked which way I was leaning in the lockout and I expressed that I was, for the first time, on the players side this time. They asked how I felt about Bettman and I checked the "very dissatisfied" box. Guess I know now why I wasn't selected to participate. That's why you can't pay much attention to focus groups in any setting and on any subject - it's far too easy to influence the study to get the results you want. I know - I was in telecommunications marketing and had many focus groups conducted for me in the past.
As for the lockout - as I said, I usually tend to side more with owners in these labor disputes - but they got all they wanted last time and are looking for even more now. The 50/50 split that's on the table now should have been presented in July (I know, that's how negotiations work, but still). The league revenues increased by 50% since the last CBA. So take some of that extra $1B and help out struggling teams if you want - but don't ask only the players to do it. If the owners don't like 15 year deals for $120M, then stop offering them. They only started doing it to get around a system that they wanted in the first place in the last labor agreement. Asking players to wait 10 years before gaining free agency is almost like abolishing it - you're making a player get his first free agency in his late 20's - early 30's? That's means he basically gets one payday in his career - and he better be lucky and have it be a good year before his walk year. That's really not fair.
BTW, I can't believe I'm agreeing with Donald Fehr - I get sick just looking at him after all the bad things he did when we was head of the MLBPA.
Look, I don't like how ticket and concession prices have escalated to go to a game. I had Ranger season tickets for 25 years and now I go to a couple a year because I've been priced out. I never, ever in a million years thought I would ever give up my season tickets, but I had to make a decision. If more people do that maybe things would come back to order a little bit. But if people can afford the prices and keep their tickets then fine, good for them. The prices will continue to soar (despite Bettman saying the last deal would bring them down), but it's free enterprise. I understand that, so I go to 3 or 4 games a year and watch the rest on TV.
Now lets' just get this done and get back on the ice on November 2nd - ok guys?????
@glenNYR Oh don't tell Gary that you stopped buying tickets to make a statement... he'll tell you sarcastically what a great strategy that is, then he'll move your team where he pleases, instead of actively searching for an ownership that gives a damn and will keep your team in place. Ticket prices in Atlanta kept going up, despite on ice product declining. We were told by the league and our own owners to "deal with it."
@glenNYR Thanks for sharing that experience, Glen. Definitely not a surprise you weren't picked. As you said, it's pretty easy to skew numbers when you control the people involved.
No you wouldn't. In fact you may not WANT to cite it because it could have an effect on how people reacted to it. They could recognize the name and react negatively because they dont like PD or what have you. (You must forgive me. I teach a little social science research design, so I actually find this stuff interesting.)
Ahh, ok. I agree there, but if you were producing research with copyrighted material, wouldn't you have to Cite it? It doesn't look like Luntz cited Puck Daddy for any of it.
No. I used "not directly" in the sense that I could produce research using copyrighted material - for example an experiment where I determined how violent people become after hearing "I Am Woman" (sample research note: "Subect X murdered my lab assistant during the second chorus...interesting..."). The research itself would not be limited by the fact I used copyrighted material in its production. Now, in writing up my resulkts I would have to follow fair use if I was quoting the lyurics or what have you. So, in this case it doesn't matter if the NHL will try to use the results to futher its commercial interests... the research itself is kosher.
Hm... I suppose that works, though I don't know if it's totally "not directly." Did you mean as in the site itself wasn't shown?
But its being used in a research setting, and not directly in a for profit venture. Fair use doesn't even enter into it. They could present one of your posts from one of your many online venues word for word and ask people "On a scale of 1 to 5 how well do the opinions in this writing match your own?" and it would be a perfectly ethical thing to do.
My thing is that using lyrics would be considered "fair use" and would probably be credited. I don't know if copying and pasting someone else's work for the entire exercise is considered fair use or not.
@FrozenNotes @hildymac In more ways than one. Laura covered the plagiarism angle well - I just followed up on what was said in the comments.
What interested me wasn't who was doing the research, or where some of the material was sourced from, but the fact that, as I went through the questions and potential answers, I found that a lot of it wasn't capable of describing my thought (or others I've talked to who feel similarly) on the matter accurately. Let's go through it by point:
1) On a scale of 0-10 (0 being totally pro-player, 5 being neutral, 10 being totally pro-owner), rate yourself: 7, maybe 8. The better question, and the one not asked here, and supposedly to be determined by the follow-up questions is "Why?" That, of course, is the bigger question, and while it may not produce useful focus data, knowing why individual fans feel the way they do is likely more important in the long run. The simple fact of the matter is, while I can sympathize with the players desire not to take another hit at the negotiating table, if the small markets particularly don't win this, both in terms of percentage AND revenue sharing, I expect my boys (and teams like them) to wind up folding at some point in the future. It's a pro-owner position, but really, it's a position of enlightened fan self-interest. Good luck picking that out of the subsequent questions.
2) Review the following statements about the owners and their position in the labo(u)r dispute. Which of them makes you feel most negative of their position (pick four): Frankly, none of the options really captures why I feel negative about the owners position. Even the entry regarding revenue sharing doesn't particularly capture my thoughts on the matter, though it's the closest. Something I would add a mark to? How about, "The owners don't seem to feel any pressure to get a deal done - they've consistently dragged their feet in the negotiating process." Of course, that's not really a position they've taken on the merits of any issue in the negotiations, so it's not what they're trying to get at, but it's one of the main things that I keep hearing from fans that I talk to.
3) I'll skip the image set. It's obviously incomplete at best. But what images make me miss hockey the most at the moment? If I had to say right this second, the Dynamo Moscow/Sibir Novosibirsk game I'm watching would make the list.
4) Statements about revenue sharing. Supposedly, we're going to agree with two of these. Option four states, "We're prepared to increase the revenue sharing we're doing. We're prepared to be more inclusive. We're prepared to have a bigger pool. But I think that the focus on revenue sharing is a distraction." With the exception of that last line, this could be accurate and agreeable to me. I still think the larger trick is going to be increasing revenue for the league as a whole from things like league TV deals (think NFL and their multiple channel deals) to make revenue sharing workable in the long term, however. Similarly, the fifth option might work, but for its final line, "When we find agreement on that issue, we can begin to find common ground in this negotiation." Good luck with that, guys. The players proposed revenue sharing is already the things stated in line four, generally. Improving revenue sharing isn't the major hold-up here.
5) Statements that describe the goals of the NHL labo(u)r negotiations. Realistically, the first option, "We're trying to make this sport as strong and as healthy as possible" should be the obvious pick. If that were actually true, though, the owners would be committed to sitting down and negotiating until a deal gets done. Losing fan interest and dollars by letting this drag out is the opposite of trying to make the league strong and healthy.
As to option two, "Collective bargaining ensures that everyone - players, teams, and fans - are represented fairly"... I'll stop for a second while you all stop laughing. We can argue that that's patently untrue on all counts, though probably most true in terms of the players being represented. Everyone's heard plenty about whether or not the teams are getting a fair shake in the Bettman regime as currently constituted. Meanwhile, the fans don't even have a seat at the table, much less fair representation (and nor should they, though that's a whole other argument).
The end of the second option is nearly as laughable. "We recognize that this agreement is taking longer than anyone wants, but we will find a long-term solution that will secure the future health of the game." Sure you will, for another six or seven seasons. Then we'll do this dance again.
Option three, "We want to create a system that leads to predictable boundaries," is probably the most true statement of the lot, as regards the owners position on the matter. It doesn't engender any strong feelings in me, however, nor is it a particularly persuasive argument for fans, who'd rather just see hockey. The next line is a lot more questionable, however: "We have created a great system that creates competitive bounds and makes all the clubs equal." Hm, no, not buying it. Not when half the league, give or take a couple of teams, is perpetually in the red, and the cap structure keeps driving skyward on the improved revenues of the handful of large market teams at the top. (This is where that improved revenue sharing should come in.)
Now, the fourth option might be persuasive to fans, since it's about them: "We talk a lot about what's fair for the league or what's fair for the players - but what really matters is what's fair for the fans." If I thought either side believed this, I expect I'd have con men beating my door down trying to sell me premium Florida swamp land, bridges to nowhere, and everything else under the sun.
Fifth and finally, "Fairness is everything. The league is committed to negotiating around the clock to (complete, presumably, or some like term) a new CBA that is fair to the players and to the 30 NHL teams." Show me. Prove it. Put your money where your mouth is. Shut up and negotiate. Pick your way to respond to this, or add your own, the short and sweet way to say it is that this line just isn't true.
What might be a realistic way to put an option for this? How about, "We're trying to craft a CBA that will create a level playing field on the ice, and allow all 30 teams to at least break even financially." Sure, that might not be the most appealing thing in the world to fans (unless, like me, they're worried about their team's long-term financial viability in the current CBA environment), but it would at least have the advantage of being reasonably accurate. (We can argue that simply reducing percentages won't accomplish this for small markets in the long term, but it's at least a goal that should be aimed for, as the current CBA doesn't accomplish this in any term.)
@miendiem That's called purposely skewing the results/answers in your favor. Again, if the league REALLY cared about what fans thought enough to fix the problems, you'd see more subjective questions on there and a whole different scale of sentiment. They were plugging people with propaganda with those focus groups. It says it all.
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And the formatting on the second half got eaten. Let's try that again.
6) "Select paragraphs that are strongest and most persuasive at describing the importance of reaching a labor agreement." As usual, the option that isn't there is the one I want to pick. Something along the lines of, "We need to get this fixed before we lose a full season... AGAIN. At least, if we're interested in getting anywhere near that $3.3B revenue point we hit in the 2011-2012 season." Maybe that's not something they feel comfortable putting on paper in front of a bunch of fans, though.
7) "Which of the following statements about the NHL do you agree with most?" Finally, a question with options that I don't necessarily feel the need to craft my own. "The NHL should focus on the quality and integrity of the game." To me, this would include things such as calling penalties consistently, applying supplemental discipline consistently, as well as potential changes in other areas. I can agree with this.
"The NHL should focus on the health and safety of the players." Yes. This ties right in with the above option regarding fair and consistent penalties and discipline, as well as potentially implementing rules to further remove things like blind-side hits from the game.
"The NHL should focus on ensuring the long-term health and long-term stability of the league." As a fan of a team that reportedly lost $20M last season, while barely clearing the cap floor, this, a thousand times this.
8) "Which of the following do you like most about the live hockey experience?" This, I think, is getting away from what should be a more narrowly focused question set. While knowing these answers might be useful to the league going forward, I don't think any of these options can really help them in crafting the new CBA.
9) "Which of the following statements about the NHL lockout most disappoints you? Pick five." Some of these options are odd, some of them are amusing, but none of them is what I really want to pick. How about this: "What disappoints me the most? The fact that both sides don't seem to be taking negotiations seriously, nor have any particular desire to get a deal done and a season started." The final option is probably the most amusing, and it's nice to see that somebody involved with the owners side of the league, however tangentially, understands it: "We've lost the point in the NHL season that's farthest away from having to see the Commissioner hand out the Stanley Cup though cascading boos." Meanwhile, when did the season's inaugural puck drop become a "spiritual moment"?
That's all of them, or at least all that got uploaded as images. I guess the short version is, "I'm not buying it, even if I am nominally on the owners side. So what must the folks who identify as on the players side think?"
@miendiem Hey, that's fine. Actually, I'm a big fan of the Blues. When I met my wife she lived in St. Louis and we went to a bunch of Blues games at the old Kiel Arena. This was in the Hull and Oates, Cavallini brothers, and Cujo/Vincent Riendeau days. I really enjoyed games there - great atmosphere - and became an even bigger fan when JD went back there as President. Too bad he left a couple of months ago, but I'm still a big fan of theirs and wish you luck this season building on last year's success. (I REALLY didn't want to have to admit to agreeing with an Islander fan on anything anyway, so it's kind of a relief that you're not, lol)
@glenNYR Sorry to disappoint, Glen, but your search for an Islanders fan you can agree with must go on. Though, I'm sure there must be at least one of them out there! heheh My boys are the St. Louis Blues.
@miendiem Great, Great, Great analysis. I agree with pretty much all you're saying and wish I had seen the survey you saw before I replied - also wish I had more time to describe it all, as you did. I'm on my lunch time, so maybe tonight. But excellent job, miendiem.
Based on the couple of facts you mentioned about your team, are you an Islander fan? If so, I'm a Ranger fan that has found something to agree with an Islander fan about - wow, look what the lockout has done, brought Ranger and Islander fans together, lol! (I take it all back if you're a fan of another team - just guessing)
I disagree with you on the Wysh material. I'll put it to you this way: If I were a psychologist wanting to guage how people react to violent imagery in pop music I wouldn't be expected to pay royalties for showing people some fo the lyrics., even if I used that research to later publish a best selling book based on the subject. Now, if I wanted to include lyric examples in the book, THOSE I would need permissions for. Wysh's take is a fans take on the lockout and it is perfectly reasonable for the league to find out how prevalent those particular views are in this kind of research.
@hildymac I don't know what upsets people more: that the materials were ripped off/ using a dead player's photo or Luntz's GOP affiliation.
@PaperworkNinja I think the whole knee-jerk ZOMFG GOP! thing was absurd. Who the hell cares what party he's in -- care that he plagiarized.
U disagree, but I've read luntz books and been in his focus groups. This is how he does it, it's a science really. I @FrozenNotes @hildymac