It is a season for beginnings, and I don’t just mean the rookie class of 2017-18 (that’s a yet-to-truly-know brood; it’ll clarify in the weeks to come) but the franchise class of 2017-18.
The birth of the Vegas Golden Knights is also the birth of professional sports in Las Vegas, Nevada (being the first major-league team in Sin City, USA) and so far the population has been quite receptive of what is yet to come. Ticket sales revenue is ahead of other franchises — 20 of’em – and you can find all sorts of excitement and interest on the start of Golden Knight hockey.
Ken Boehlke of SinBin.Vegas has been covering the forthcoming franchise it was a sought-after commodity for Las Vegas (his start will be exactly 2 years ago on August 26th). Below you’ll find his odds and ends and opinions regarding writing, the league, and more.
What led you to hockey blogging?
It had much more to do with Vegas getting a professional sports team than it did hockey. I’ve always been infatuated with the city and have been since I was a kid. Once I moved here I truly fell in love. It’s the coolest, most unique, and best city in the world and we were finally getting our own sports identity. I saw it as a great opportunity, and since, I’ve fallen in love with the game as much as I am the city.
You’re in a unique situation with the birth of a franchise as well as being part of coverage. Has there been any particular moment you’ve been directly involved in covering that seems surreal to experience?
There have been a ton of them really. The first was when I had the chance to eat lunch with the owner. He hung out with us at this little bar about 3 miles off the strip and was as open as honest as any person could ever be. Then, to hear the commissioner make the announcement and to see the outpouring of support at our celebration party was out of this world. Seeing the name, the jerseys, being at the Expansion Draft, even the opening of the team store, they are all moments I’ll never forget.
As far as covering the team, there is one moment that I’ll absolutely never forget and it’s the dream of anyone perusing a career in journalism. On a random Tuesday I got an alert on my phone that I had a new email. I opened it, and it was from Bill Foley. He had listened to a podcast of ours and took the time to send me an email to clear up a few questions we asked during the show. The man I dubbed The Creator, who just so happens to be one of the most successful people in the United States, listened to our podcast and found it important enough to reach out via email (and it wasn’t anything negative). Crazy, I’ll never forget it.
Anything made you proud of what you’re doing?
I don’t even know how to answer this. There’s just too much. The first time we got linked by TSN, SportsNet, BarDown, Deadspin, you name it, every single time seeing a site with so much success recognize that we even exist is amazing. I’ve had people recognize my voice, have overheard conversations about the site that I’m not even involved in, and I introduced myself to a few hockey media elites and they knew who I was. All in all, I’m just proud of the fan base we’ve built, the relationships we have with people in the organization, and the overwhelming support we’ve gotten from the hockey community. I’m proud of it all, maybe too proud sometimes.
Do you have a favorite article that you’ve written? What’s the aspect / detail that makes you proudest of it?
There have been a lot that I really like, but two in particular stand out. One is “the owl pellet” article, where I compared Golden Knights marketing mistakes to dissecting an owl pellet. It’s ridiculous, but exactly how I strive to write. I’m obsessed with metaphors, and the power they have to help people relate to concepts. That one was probably a bit overboard, but I love it nonetheless.
The other was my Expansion Draft Experts vs. Fans post. We organized an Expansion Draft contest and were able to gather up all the responses on there and compare them to a bunch of experts mock Expansion Drafts. It took a ridiculous amount of work to prepare it, but there wasn’t a better tool on the web to follow the Expansion Draft picks and it will forever stand as a really cool thing to look at as the team progresses and we get a chance to go back and see the picks that were made.
There’s a lot out there in the hockey blog universe that people tend to follow routinely. Is there another blog site that’s a routine part of your reading? Is there a particular hockey blog author that stands out for you?
We really look up to Russian Machine Never Breaks. They have a slogan on their Twitter that says “Our goal is to make hockey as fun to read about as it is to watch.” That’s about as good a goal is you can possibly have, and we definitely subscribe to that.
Do you have tips that you can give to up-and-coming bloggers/writers? Something that they should keep in mind with sports coverage or habits?
Be patient. Nothing happens over night. We opened the site in August 2015 and have written at least one article every single day (except Sundays) since. For about 6 months we basically wrote for ourselves, no one was reading anything. But we never stopped, we never wavered, and as more and more people discovered who were were. we started to see people start actually following us. When it comes to writing about sports, you have to have fun. We didn’t need readers to still enjoy what we were/are doing. You’ve got to love doing it, and that love will bleed through into your writing.
Are you content with the leadership of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman? Why or why not?
I mean, dude gave Vegas an NHL team, so it’s hard for me to hate him. I get why hockey fans are frustrated with his style and just the person himself, but I’ll take the contrarian point of view and say, any commissioner willing to give Vegas an expansion team is a good commissioner for me.
Do you, as a fan, take issue with the NHL not allowing player participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics?
It doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother the players. I’d prefer they go because that’s what the players want, and they deserve to have the opportunity to represent their country. But I’m not losing sleep over missing out on an Olympic games which will be aired live at like 4AM here.
Vegas is franchise #31 and the NHL has to go to 32. Name a market where the league should take interest with expansion other than the commonly cited Quebec City, Quebec or Seattle, Washington.
I went to school in Columbia, Missouri, so I’m certainly a bit biased here, but my answer is Kansas City. I understand the circumstances in both places, but I’m usually not in favor of giving a team to a city that’s already lost one. Kansas City is a fantastic place, has a great arena, and a par of fan bases in the Royals and Chiefs that are spectacular. If they could support the Royals in the 90s and 2000s , they can support anybody.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in year one of Vegas Golden Knights hockey? And what do you think will be your biggest challenge in your first season of direct team coverage?
The biggest challenge for the team will be maintaining their home building. 15,000 or so Vegas residents bought tickets, but how many will actually show up on a Wednesday night against Vancouver when both teams stink. Canuck fans will come to Vegas and take over the building. Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Boston, New York, you name it, they’ll all be looking at Vegas as the best place to see their team on the road. If that building is 30% VGK fans every night, it’s gonna be rough to get people to keep coming back until they are really good.
As for my coverage, it’s going to be a challenge to keep people engaged with a team that’s not very good. We are going to have to keep finding ways to keep in interesting, even when the immediate future looks bleak. Normally I have a plan for what the future is going to bring for the site, right now, I have no idea what I’m going to be writing about in February. But hey, that’s what’s gonna be fun.
At the before-it-begins point where we stand now, who do you believe will be a top contender in the season ahead?
I’m on the Stars bandwagon. Getting Ben Bishop is huge for that team. I fully expect them to be right in the mix for the President’s Trophy and then once the playoffs come around, if Bishop can be his normal self in the playoffs, they’ll be a nightmare match up for anybody. That being said, the McDavid era is here so not mentioning Edmonton seems foolish.
My thanks to Ken for taking the time to participate. Make sure you’re following SinBin.Vegas on Twitter.