, 12.02.2023 11:53 AM

My latest: stupidity night in Canada

According to Forbes, the Chicago Blackhawks are worth at least $1.5 billion (U.S.).

They’ve won Stanley Cups. Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita played for them. They were Barack Obama’s favourite hockey team.

They’ve got a longtime owner, the Wirtz family. They’ve got a president of business operations. They’ve got a general manager. They’ve got four associate or assistant general managers, seven head and assistant coaches, seven training staff, seven equipment staff, four “performance” coaches, three “mental performance” coaches, three hockey operations staff, two player personnel, eleven “hockey strategy and analytics” people, thirteen amateur scouts, ten pro scouts, and seven player development people.

Interestingly, there’s a “Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations” department, but it’s pretty hard to figure out who works there. They’re ghosts.

Lucky for them. Based on this week’s three-ring ice circus, it’s possible no one works there. So, as a humanitarian gesture, I’m offering my yellow lab, Joey, to fill in there. Because Joey sure couldn’t do any worse than the Blackhawks PR elf lords did with Corey Perry-gate.

Everything that the Blackhawks did about the Corey Perry story, they did wrong. A few days ago, they yanked the veteran right winger from the ice and terminated his contract. They then proceeded to say precisely nothing about why, for days. Swear to God: they made the Star Wars bar scene look like a smoothly-run operation.

Here’s five things that the Blackhawks could have, and should have, done. Courtesy of me and Joey, gratis.

One, tell the truth. The truth, as I tell the clients, is like water: it always finds a way out.

The Blackhawks didn’t. They prevaricated and dissembled and played dipsy-doodle with the truth. My advice, always: don’t. It’s the Internet age, boy and girls. Everyone has a printing press in their back pocket. Just tell the truth, right away, because the truth is always going to come out anyway.

Two, take responsibility. Have one of the many, many (too) many bosses in the Blackhawks organization come out, in person and in real life, and say: we screwed up. We should’ve done better, and we regret that and apologize that and take responsibility for that. Here’s the true facts, etc.

And then, have him/her do step three.

Three, say what you are going to do to avoid a repeat. In the Perry case, we don’t know if he consumed an entire distillery and had intimate relations with a school of goldfish. We don’t know, which is what prompted guys – guys with profile pictures of Gump Worsley and fake names and lots of numbers after them – to speculate wildly about what had really happened. It was nasty, particularly for goldfish-lovers.

There was some pretty wild stuff out there, none of it allowed in a family-friendly newspaper like the one you now grasp in your sweaty maulers. So, along with telling the truth and taking responsibility, say what you’re going to do to avoid it happening again.

Thanks to Prime Minister Sock Boy, we all hear apologies all the time. They matter diddley-squat. People want action, not words. Give them ACTION.

Four, communicate internally, too – not just externally. From the sounds of it, Perry’s misdeeds had to do with someone else on the Blackhawks gigantic staff roster (see above). That person, and everyone who works with her/him, wants to hear from you. Popping off a press release that sounds like it was disgorged by a focus group somewhere won’t cut it.

Talk to your people. Meet with them. Listen. Do it sooner than later, and address their every concern.

Five and finally: don’t treat your audience, internally and externally, like idiots. Just don’t.

Politicians do this all the time. Hell, I once went to a golf tournament with a bunch of other political hacks in Florida, and we all wore silly ball caps that said: WE FOOL ‘EM, YOU RULE ‘EM.

Very funny, ho ho ho. Except: none of us believed it. Every one of us knew and know that Joe and Jane Frontporch are smart, intuitive and have built-in bullshit meters. They know when they’re being spun.

So, don’t, Blackhawks. Treat the fans with a modicum of respect. They are the bosses, after all. If you lose them, you’re going to be joining Corey Perry mopping floors at Corporate Death Burger, PDQ.

There you go, Chicago Blackhawks, free of charge. Tell the truth, take responsibility, say what you’re going to to fix the problem, communicate with your own folks, and treat people with respect. You didn’t do any of that.

As Joey would say: arf.

Meaning: smarten up, dummies.



  1. Douglas W says:

    And how will Perry’s distinguished hockey career be remembered?

    Most likely, by his shameful exit.
    Talk about blowing it.

  2. Steve T says:

    Good column, and good observations overall. However, I will question your generous attribution of intelligence to Joe and Jane Frontporch.
    Many people – sometimes a majority of people – do things for really really stupid reasons. They hear a sound byte on the news or in social media, and they take it as gospel. They think that tasks such as reading a physical newspaper, or a true journalistic magazine like The Economist or The Atlantic, is too time-consuming and tough.
    That’s how we get guys like Donald Trump elected in the U.S.. It’s how we accept nonsense like “unmarked graves” with zero proof. And the list goes on.
    Hence the reason groups like Blackhawks management don’t mind strategies like the one we saw last week for Corey Perry. There are enough stupid people with short attention spans that, on balance, the strategy works.

  3. Arron Banks says:

    Great advice. I think the issue is the NHL is finally being dragged (kicking and screaming) into the social media world of the 21st century. The reason they feel/felt they didn’t have to say anything is because they’re answerable to the weakest media in North American sports that too often acts as a PR arm on their behalf rather than asking demanding questions or holding them accountable.

    People will point to the Kyle Beach, and World Juniors (’18 and ’03) situations but I feel those were leadups to the real turning point: the Mike Babcock/”Spittin’ Chiclets” situation this past summer (when two ex-hockey players alleged that the newly hired ol’ Mikey was “back to his old tricks again” forcing players to hand over their phones so he could scroll through them).

    The Blue Jackets released a PR statement denying the allegations and a lot of established hockey media took them at their word and started firing accusations of irresponsibility and recklessness at the ex-players who broke the story. (To their credit) the ex-players doubled down and then it all came out in the wash that they were right.

    Because most Americans don’t care about hockey, the NHL has escaped much of the scrutiny that other sports leagues have (in just the past week, we know the details of serious allegations with players in both the NBA and NFL). Hopefully, the league is waking up to the fact that “no comment” and holding things in house (and hoping for your media buddies to do the hard yards for ya) isn’t going to cut it anymore. The trust of both them and the media is gone lol

  4. Arron,

    Great analysis. Thanks.

    • Arron Banks says:

      Cheers! There’s only one thing I’ll add; there is a silver lining to this unfortunate story for the NHL and it’s this (obviously notwithstanding the emotional impact on the person(s) involved in the spreading of the rumours) and that is the macro-view/fact that this made the NHL relevant culturally in a way it hasn’t been with American broadcasters and certain demographics who’ve never otherwise talked or thought about hockey a day in their lives drawn in by this story.

      Indeed, the off-court/field/ice drama/speculation is half the reason why casuals and non-fans follow leagues like the NFL and NBA and (if you look at the whole Angel Reese/LSU debacle) why people are saying women’s NCAA basketball is more intriguing than the men’s for maybe the first time ever.

      Hockey with it’s conservative culture demanding its players display no personality and give cliched answers and generally act like robots is part of what has hurt the sport’s growth in the US and among the younger generation (and pro sports is, first and foremost, the entertainment business). Look at Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce and what that’s done for fan engagement in drawing in new interest. Ditto coach Deion “Prime Time” Sanders at the University of Colorado and college football.

      Finally (these specific rumours aside), hockey has always been messy. It’s just that they myth perpertrated by Don Cherry’s “good Canadian kids” who wear suits and ties and would help little old grandma cross the road is not as close to the truth as NHLers acting more like other pro athletes (remember, the Maple Leafs were allegedly more upset that Auston Matthews didn’t tell them about drunkenly mooning a female officer in the off-season so they could bury the story than the fact he had actually committed the act. It’s reportedly the reason why he didn’t get the ‘C’ lol).

  5. Robert White says:

    I actually look like Gump Worsley when I smile.

    That’s the truth.

    Good PR suggestions, Warren.

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