Development Camp stream would be an easy win for the Sabres

The Sabres are hosting their annual Development Camp this week, perhaps you’ve heard. The week’s festivities will be capped by Friday’s Blue-Gold scrimmage and Sunday’s three-on-three tournament.Development Camp stream would be and easy win for the Sabres

So far there have been all sorts of #fun and #engaging parts of the week as we’ve seen grainy videos shot at terrible angles of prospects doing hockey things. Friday’s scrimmage will provide fans their first chance to see Jack Eichel (and all the other prospects) in game action. It’s a quasi-debut of the franchise-altering prospect and the team is all but guaranteed to out-draw last year’s scrimmage which had fans seated in the upper deck of the arena.

The only way you can see the game, however, is to make your way to First Niagara Center. Tickets are $10 and proceeds are going to charity. All-in-all this is a good way to capitalize on an event that will come with plenty of fan frenzy while giving back to the community. Unlike last season, the Sabres will not be providing a stream for Friday’s scrimmage which has disappointed a fair segment of the fanbase. Particularly those who don’t live in Buffalo.

The reasons for the Sabres failing to stream Friday’s game haven’t been made public. I imagine the reasoning is close to the justification Lewis Black once gave for the lack of a national energy policy.

Because it’s hard. It’s really hard. Makes me want to go poopie. – Lewis Black

Ex-pat fans have voiced concerns over the lack of engagement from the team for some time now. While things like Road Crew events are excellent examples of outreach, the prevailing opinion is that there still isn’t enough done for fans who don’t live in WNY or Southern Ontario. I’m lucky enough to be heading to the arena on Friday, not having a way for fans outside of Buffalo to watch the future of the organization is disappointing.

While we have entered the Eichel Era – which will likely see the Sabres test the limits of how much Jack Eichel the fanbase can handle – I fully expect the majority of the team’s marketing to continue to focus on #familyfriendly efforts. No need to work on building a strong, educated fan base, just keep tweeting what the seven year old next to you said at practice.

For those familiar with my Twitter feed – particularly those who are sick of my gripes – I want to see the Sabres become a true leader across the league, both on and off the ice. That involves becoming a thought leader with things like social media and marketing efforts. That means finding ways to provide fans thought-provoking content on a regular basis. Choosing to not stream the quasi-debut of your franchise altering prospect is not how to reach that goal.

What would be incredible would be if the Sabres not only chose to stream this scrimmage on a yearly basis, but if they did something new and creative with it. That means doing away with a simple game broadcast style stream and finding a way to provide meaningful insights on the prospects at camp while also giving fans – local and ex-pat – the chance to watch the future of the franchise. I have a few ideas on how the Sabres could build a more creative version of the prospect scrimmage webcast.

  • Move away from traditional play-by-play and utilize on-camera talent as in-game hosts. Brian Duff and Kris Baker would be perfect for this and adding a third member to the panel would be a strong move. Allow Duff and Baker to play off each other as they discuss the various prospects on the ice. Obviously some traditional play-by-play would be worked in, but in-depth discussions on any of these prospects would offer so much more to those watching. After all, many fans aren’t familiar with these kids, let Baker and Duff do a deep dive on Brendan Guhle or Anthony Florentino as the game goes on. Duff and Baker have a treasure trove of hockey knowledge, let them share that with the fans so we all can learn more about the prospects that will one day affect the big club.
  • Rotate in a guest or two with the hosts. Obviously the management and coaches will be evaluating players, but let Angelo Ricci stop by and talk about what he worked on. Grab Murray or Bylsma for some brief thoughts.
  • Use multiple iso cams to target specific players. Like with play-by-play, seeing and being told about each and every play isn’t necessarily as important as highlighting key prospects along the way. This year would be easy pickings: Eichel, Reinhart, Guhle, McCabe, Baptiste, Bailey and maybe one or two others. The broadcast could cut in and out of various iso cams or could set up a picture-in-picture with the general game shot so you could keep up with the game itself while Bailey is on the ice, for example.
  • Go. Pro. Toss a GoPro on one of the goalies, strap one to a prospect or two and rig up the officials. The Red Wings have been putting out incredible ice-level chase footage from their prospect camp that blows away any of the videos the Sabres Twitter feed has offered up (their own or retweeted from a fan). Cut in on those GoPros here or there (or wait til intermission) to give the on-ice view of Eichel dangling in for a goal or Jake McCabe laying an open-ice hit.
  • Do something similar for the three-on-three tournament. GoPros and ice-level footage of small area work like Sunday’s tourney would be gold for the web. Capitalize on it.
  • Brag about it. The Sabres love talking about all of the #engagement they get and they’d certainly be able to pat themselves on the back for the numbers they’d get on this scrimmage. I’m pretty sure they’d send out a photo of a dog turd if they thought they’d get hundreds of retweets and likes on Instagram. They could even add a sponsor if they wanted to. Think of the #synergy of having AdPro sponsor the stream and then unveiling Eichel’s number at the end. Simple stuff that would go a long way with the fans.

This comes back to two things for me. First, the Sabres need to understand that they have the ability to truly educate their fans with high-quality information and #content. They want to take easy street and retweet pictures of kids while ignoring the opportunity to help build a strong fanbase with a thirst for good information and knowledge on the game itself. They don’t do much of that at all and it’s a shame.

Second, there is a sea of ex-pat fans out there and the team needs to do more to #engage them. I know that a lot of Sabres fans didn’t come back around until 2007-08, but Carolina hates us for the amount of fans that poured into their arena in 05-06. Why balk at an opportunity to give you ex-pat fans a juicy nugget of Sabres goodness?

This is just another lay-up the Sabres marketing arm has made a habit of bricking as of late. There’s still a couple days, they have time to put something together.

2 thoughts on “Development Camp stream would be an easy win for the Sabres

  1. mojojojomo July 8, 2015 / 8:54 pm

    Good read, and I like your suggestions. I’ve been saying for a while that they really need to work on their social media presence, it’s…not the best, and feels super basic most of the time. Half the time I see Sabres tweets I feel the same way I do when I accidentally see my dad’s facebook.


    • Chris Ostrander July 8, 2015 / 9:48 pm

      It’s definitely lacking, that’s for sure. They have opportunities in so many areas of marketing (beyond social media) that they seem okay with just skating by on.


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