The Future of Media

Wait a minute! This doesn’t look like hockey!

I know, I know, I’m straying off topic again, but bear with me. Pretty please?

Well, fine, I’ll write anyway.

In the future, media will be virtually unrecognizable from what it is now, yet the progression, like footprints in the snow, will be clearly visible. As the man in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons said, we now measure progress in weeks. What used to take decades now takes a month or two, progress wise. Hey, media could be drastically different this time next year.

Since so much of media is driven, or financially backed, by advertising, media will go as ads do. Since ads are designed to cut through the clutter and address people as personally as possible (it’s the only way to get them to pay attention, with so much going on media-wise around them) they’re only going to get more omnipresent, and more targeted.

“Hey,” the commercial of the future might say to me, “are you a six-foot-tall, almost 200 pound, slightly muscular, hairy, bearded, white Canadian in his 20s with a scar on his right eye, a fondness for hockey, firearms and barbecued food, and a slightly unhealthy obsession with Jennifer Lawrence? Then do we have a product for you!”

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(Incidentally, if you do have a fondness for hockey, firearms and barbecued food, the product you’re looking for is the state of Minnesota. I’m afraid I can’t help you with the other thing.)

Advertising will also get more omnipresent. It must frustrate advertisers no end that they cannot physically come into our homes, but as Bill Watterson, venerable author of Calvin and Hobbes, once wrote, “I’m sure they’re working on this.”

Advertising can already practically follow us anywhere, but it’s getting better at disguising itself. Personally I think, in television at least, it’s headed down the Truman Show route: no commercials anymore, but very obvious product placements in the show itself, or sponsored content.

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Advertising is already making that shift in some mediums, namely print and online articles, but it seems to me it’s headed that way for TV and likely radio as well. (“Good morning, and welcome to the early show! I’m just sitting here in my La-Z Boy chair drinking my Tim Hortons coffee in my mug from Pottery Barn…”)

But What About Journalism? PR?

While journalism may not be quite as directly tied to advertising as media in general (it’s still pretty closely linked) it will mirror advertising in one thing: it is going to get more personal.

Of course that’s only at one end of the spectrum. Twitter already means I can get my hockey updates right at the moment they happen, just without much of a personal feel. I don’t know how long it takes TSN to prepare an entire segment on trade deadline day, but I do know it doesn’t take Bob McKenzie very long to fire out 140 characters or less on Dustin Byfuglien’s new contract. I know, I’m back to hockey again.

At the other end of the spectrum, what separates journalists from every goofball with a smartphone (i.e. everyone) is their ability to go further into a story. To come at a story from a more personal angle and tell it to a wide audience as it seemed to the people who lived it. Journalism’s future is not just in going shallower and shorter (i.e. soundbites, Tweets). Journalism of the future will require even more skill as both a writer and a photographer, and will need to go deeper.

PR will likely end up the same way. As the online worlds means it’s easier than ever to know all about your clients and their publics, PR will have to connect with them on an even more personal level.

That, I think, is the future of successful media. With all these short, impersonal images assaulting our eyes on any given day, eventually people are going to crave something a little less like a short, loud scream into their ear. To cut through the haze of information overload, the makers of media (I imagine them being like the Justice League, but with trendier outfits) are going to have to make people feel like the media was designed with them in mind.

So, in short, we’re going to see more media in more places, and it’s going to be subtler and more personally targeted. Journalism and PR will follow the model of new advertising, which will both financially back and set the stage for all media.

Of course it’s all a moot point because aliens are going to wipe out all of our technology in 2043 in a great intergalactic war, and then, after our ultimate victory, our media will go back to town criers and smoke signals. Book it.

 

 

 

 

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Summer Hockey is Soon!

Spring is coming, which means so, at some point in this winter-riddled city, is summer. With it, for some people, comes golf. While I’m sure I’ll do my share of missing greens and getting terrible advice from my fellow golfers (“Try widening your stance” then two holes later “Try shortening your stance” then two holes later “Try another drink”) what I’m most looking forward to is playing summer hockey.

You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the pleasure of skating in 30-degree-heat, or walking to a hockey rink in shorts. That, for the record, is one of life’s great pleasures. I play on two teams in the summer, such is my addiction for hockey in the months where most sane people put the hockey gear away, or at least let it sit long enough to dry off.

Incidentally, dry isn’t something your gear will be much in the summer. Hotter outdoor temperatures mean hotter inside temperatures, which mean fogging visors and sweat-covered… everything else. It’s a small price to pay for coming to the rink dressed like you’re headed to the beach.

Plus, sweating more just means you’re burning more fat (I think, I’m not a dietician). I tend to lose about five pounds over the course of a summer, and most of it is the kind of winter weight I’m not sorry to say farewell to.

I’m looking forward to golf too, don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of sitting in a cart on a sunny day and occasionally swinging a club in between beers (my idea of golf mirrors the PGA’s idea of golf even less than my idea of hockey mirror’s the NHL’s, if that were possible). I’m looking forward to getting more sunlight, and not sitting up in a cold sweat in the dead of night wondering if I had any homework do the next day, or at least reassuring myself comfortably that I don’t because it’s May.

Most of all, however, I’m looking forward to summer hockey. Nothing like going to the rink in shorts. I’ll find it hard to leave that behind this fall, just as I do every year.

 

 

 

 

 

The Playoff Push… For Some

So the NHL playoffs are approaching like a speeding train, and the locomotive bearing down on us is going to take one lucky team to Stanley Cup glory. Of course a few teams have already backed away from the tracks and will soon be officially cancelling their tickets, my beloved Winnipeg Jets among them.

The Jets are out of the playoff picture by a country mile at present, 13 points back of Colorado and Minnesota, who are fighting it out for the lowest seed, or the worst seat on the train if you prefer. Whoever wins that seat is likely to find themselves up against the Chicago Blackhawks, so in this analogy that’s basically like buying a ticket at the last minute and ending up on the roof. You’re on there by the skin of your teeth, and not likely to stay on there for very long.

And I don’t care if that’s how my Avs get in (or on, or whatever). I don’t care, because my Jets are so far out of the playoff picture it makes more sense to focus on the draft lottery, and good luck to them in that. Fingers crossed for the number one overall pick and a shot at Auston Matthews.

The Avs, however, gave up quite a bit to be on that train. They let a couple of prospects and a longtime fan favourite go to beef up for the push at the trade deadline, and Mikkel Boedker already looks like a keeper but I’d be very upset to see them come this far only to fall off.

It stinks having no one to root for come playoff time, and I’d like to have a dog in the fight this year. Too many times in recent years I’ve had to find a new team to cheer for once the first round begins, and let me tell you it’s just not the same as cheering for the team you’ve been pulling for since game 1 of 82 and beyond. When the Jets made the playoffs last year, I was ecstatic. When the Avs made it the year before, I was thrilled. Both bowed out early, and man did that hurt, but it didn’t hurt as bad as having nobody to care about come May.

Come on Avs, win these next few and get in. You owe your fans that. Heck, you owe yourselves that. How badly does this team need the confidence boost that comes with a playoff appearance?

And once you’re in the playoffs, the beauty of it is that anything can happen.

Voyageur, Va Faire Tes Bagages

On Thursday, February 18, I had the pleasure of attending Festival du Voyageur at Voyageur Park in Winnipeg. I attended the Le Petit Canada event put on by the Couseil Jeunesse Provincial. The event was a showcase of musical artists from all around Winnipeg, designed to showcase the best of Winnipeg’s up and coming young musicians.

But what if live music isn’t your thing (or your journalism professors told you not to shoot concerts)? Well, the CJP and Festival have you covered. The attendance for the event was high and some of the other performers around Voyageur Park got to show their stuff in front of an entirely new audience. Here, on the night of the Le Petit Canada showcase, are some images of what the Voyageur regulars did on this night to keep people coming to see them with all these concerts going on.

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People file into Voyageur Park through the masterfully crafted snow tunnel on the night of the CJP’s Le Petit Canada event. (Photo by Rob Mahon).

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This being Canada, the lines were naturally longest at the poutine booth. Somewhere an American comedian’s entire routine is being validated. (Photo by Rob Mahon).

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Rene Hince, 29, of Incessant Poi, demonstrates his pyrotechnical talents to a crowd of onlookers by Fort Gibralter. (Photo: Rob Mahon)

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A demonstration in the blacksmith’s hut of how to create a nail. The metal is superheated then treated (i.e. hit with a hammer) until it is shaped into something useful. (Photo, Rob Mahon).

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Ashley Kowalchuk, a volunteer with Festival du Voyageur and some of the food eaten by Voyageurs on the trail. (Photo: Rob Mahon)

As a side note, I should thank Ashley for teaching me the most useful phrases “en Francais” that I learned all evening: “desolee, je ne parle pas Francais” and “parlez vous Anglais?”

For those of you who don’t speak French,  these mean, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.” and “Do you speak English?”

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On the way out, a few of Festival’s younger patrons take one last opportunity to appreciate the carved artwork on the snow tunnel. (Photo: Rob Mahon).

 

 

 

 

 

Pumped About Kyle Connor

Winnipeg Jets fans are looking for some positives to take out of this dismal season after the team has slipped so far below the playoff line it would take a team of archeologists to dig them out from under the surface. Blake Wheeler is one positive, as he has emerged as the go-to-guy in all situations in Winnipeg. For others, you could look at Dustin Byfuglien’s new contract, Nikolaj Ehlers’ improved play, and the promising young man between the pipes that is Connor Hellebuyck.

Like so many teams in the league’s basement, however, the Jets’ biggest reason to get excited lies in the future. The biggest reason to be excited about the future right now for the Jets: 19 year old prospect Kyle Connor.

Connor was drafted 17th overall last year and was widely regarded as a steal at that rank as several teams passed on him in true head-scratching fashion (thank you so much, Boston Bruins). While expectations for the youngster were high, they weren’t anywhere near as high as the heights he’s hit in his first season in the NCAA with the powerhouse Michigan Wolverines.

A stat line of 22 goals and 48 points would be excellent season-long numbers for a senior. That Connor is a freshman, and has accomplished this in just 27 games (he has at least seven more left, likely more if Michigan makes a deep playoff run) makes it all the more impressive.

The last two freshmen to win the Hobey Baker Award for college hockey’s most outstanding player were Paul Kariya (who went on to score 50 goals with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who were still the Mighty Ducks back then) and Jack Eichel. While most of Eichel’s story is yet to be written, early signs for the 2015 second overall pick are extremely promising.

To compare Connor to these two might be unfair, but if he wins the Hobey Baker, as he seems determined to do, it will be hard to shield him from those comparisons. His shot is pinpoint-accurate and his release is lightning-quick. Couple that with blazing speed and offensive instincts to shame all but the most gifted players, and Connor looks like he’s going to be a true stud for years to come at the NHL level.

I could write for pages about the qualities that make him so dangerous, but all you really need to know is this: using a Joe-Sakic-esque wrist shot, and with speed to rival or even best the Jets’ own Nikolaj Ehlers (I know this because I saw him catch Ehlers from behind at development camp and pick his pocket in the summer) Connor is on pace to do something that only a generational talent and a seven-time 30 goal scorer have done in the past 25 years.

If you’re a Jets fan looking for something to get excited about for the future, Kyle Connor is an excellent candidate.

Should the Winnipeg Jets tank?

Should the Winnipeg Jets tank for the first overall pick in an effort to ensure they get Auston Matthews? Yes! Or not!

That’s all for this week’s boardplay! Tune in next week to…

All right, all right, I’ve got more.

I don’t normally condone tanking. I know for certain the athletes themselves don’t. The idea of intentionally losing games is repulsive. It was repulsive when the Pittsburgh Penguins did it to get Mario Lemieux, it was repulsive when teams considered it for Connor McDavid, and it would be repulsive for the Jets to do it now.

And yet…

There was nothing repulsive about the result of that first and most famous tank job from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Mario Lemieux years were dominant. Out of that pick, a few other smart drafts and a couple of shrewd trades, the Penguins built a team full of enough superstars to occupy their own wing in the Hockey Hall of Fame. They won two Stanley Cups, and had Mario stayed healthy there could easily have been two more. Some would argue there should have been, and but for a couple of overtime goals (the one by the Islanders in game seven in 1993 comes to mind) and game seven losses there might well have been.

The point being, the Penguins were dominant. Now, Auston Matthews is not Mario Lemieux. Even Connor McDavid is not Mario Lemieux, nor was Sidney Crosby (though they were likely the two closest players since). Matthews is very good, but he’s unlikely to be that good.

And yet…

Matthews is likely to be a generational talent along the lines of Jack Eichel, and teams have been revived with worse players. This is the player who broke Patrick Kane’s seemingly insurmountable USNTDP scoring records. This is the player who sought out higher competition in Europe, found it, and still made everything look easy on the ice.

Tanking is a deplorable act, and nobody would hate it more than the Jets themselves. These are professional athletes, and these are players with pride. They have pride in the logo and themselves. Tanking may not be in them.

And yet…

The Jets have had no trouble losing with no tank job at all (that we know of) and if Andrew Ladd is traded, as seems increasingly likely, losing will become all the easier. Nobody would accuse the Jets of tanking for trading Andrew Ladd. That’s just good asset management at this point.

The Jets need a superstar, and these days a high draft pick is the only surefire way to get one. The first overall pick this season would inject some life and excitement into a fanbase rapidly getting overrun by cynicism and bitterness. Losing does that to you.

And yet…

…the doubts linger. I wouldn’t want to be in Kevin Cheveldayoff’s shoes right now.

I Wear it for Ryp

“Everyone gets depressed every now and then” might just be my least favourite sentence in existence, right up there with “I couldn’t control my irritable bowel syndrome” and “I crashed my pickup truck into the pet store but it was the dogs’ fault.” This is especially true when I think of Rick Rypien.

Bell Lets Talk Day has been and gone, and the conversation shouldn’t end there, so I won’t let it.

I knew Rick Rypien was depressed. It was never made official, of course. There was never a press release. Nobody ever stood on Portage and Main and shouted it (which is good, because they’d have been hit by a car). I knew the signs, and if you troubled to look, they were there to be seen.

I loved watching Rick Rypien play. He was a hero to me, though he will never know it. Watching him fight through his depression (literally, sometimes) was inspiring. Watching him stand toe-to-toe with 6’7 monsters like Hal Gill and Boris Vlabik, was wondrous. It wasn’t unusual for him to fight somebody five, six inches taller than he was, and outweighing him by goodness knew how much. He stood in there, and for the most part, when he fought he won. I admired Rick Rypien.

My admiration went beyond the face-punching aspect. He was active in the community. He was a good hockey player with his gloves on. He was one of the best members of what was once the only professional hockey ticket in Winnipeg, the Manitoba Moose. He did all that struggling with a pain that left him fighting just to make it out of bed in the morning some days.

When the Winnipeg Jets signed Rypien in summer of 2011, I was thrilled. From an objective standpoint, the team coming over from Atlanta was lacking tough veterans (though between Rypien and Tanner Glass they soon rectified that). They needed depth up front. From an un-objective standpoint, this was one of my favourite players, and in a way he was coming home. It was storybook. It had the makings of a happy ending.

And then it all came to a screeching halt one night in August when Rypien, finally unable to stand the internal pain any longer, claimed his own life.

Even for those of us who knew (or thought we did) what Rypien was going through, this was a shock. He must’ve been happy to come back to Winnipeg. I’ve heard it said many times since then that he was excited to be returning to Manitoba. He was coming home to play the game he loved in front of a rabid fanbase that already revered him. Had he lived, I’ve no doubt Rick Rypien would have retired a Winnipeg Jet.

Knowing all that, how unbearable must the pain have been, how alone must he have felt in that final moment, to have seen suicide as the only way out? Only he will ever truly know.

Rypien was tough. Physically, there’s ample evidence of that, but to struggle against an illness like depression as long as he did proves to me he was mentally tough too. If a man like that can succumb to depression, no sufferer should ever be ashamed, nor should they ever be afraid to talk.

Rick Rypien never wore his number 11 for the Jets. It was retired upon his death, and no Jet will ever wear it again. Nor should they.

But I am not, nor will I ever be, a Winnipeg Jet, and I have my own way of remembering the man who inspired so many, and who, even in death, still touches the lives of thousands with the work now done in his name.

I have played for a smattering of teams at a variety of (mostly terrible) levels since 2011. I have worn number 11 for every one of them. Every. Single. One. If I have my way, I will wear no other number again.

I wear it for Ryp.

I wear it because I remember a good player and a better man gone too soon. I remember the scrappy youngster I saw for the first time when I was too young to even know what depression was, but who wowed me every time I watched him. I wear it for a young man who scored in his first NHL game, battled a terrible illness until the bitter end, and died as a member of the Winnipeg Jets and so much more.

I wear it for Ryp.