Over the past two years, the Washington Capitals PR staff led by Nate Ewell has received the Dick Dillman Award, which is given yearly to the best media relations team in the Eastern Conference as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA). They were the first team that I know of to work with a well-established hockey blogger, Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion, and draft a blogger policy to help fairly decide which hockey bloggers qualified for a spot in the press box at games. This is just one example of their innovative thinking. The PHWA members vote based on numerous factors including the quality of the media guide, willingness to help facilitate interviews, and the cooperation, efficiency, fairness, accuracy and presentation of media notes. It’s safe to say that the Caps run a top-line PR department.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that the Caps’ PR staff hosted a media fantasy camp nearly two weeks ago at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. A variety of media participated including print and electronic media from different levels of coverage. What did it ential? First, they watched video on power play strategy. The media contingent then took the ice where they participated in tutorial sessions in skating, shooting, stickhandling, and even fighting with enforcer Donald Brashear. Afterwards, they played in a scrimmage providing plenty of fodder for trash talk among the media members. All in all, it appears that the media enjoyed their time and even helped Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck better appreciate the skill required by hockey players (he is known for his baseball writings).
Personally, I think it was an absolutely fantastic original idea that captures the core reason of why the Caps’ PR staff is so successful. They think outside the box and came away with another successful idea. The Caps are a team on the rise as we saw with their playoff appearance last season. They have a superstar on their hands who the media loves and they are seeing season ticket sales skyrocket. In July, team officials stated that the sales were on target to reach 12,000 season ticket holders, which would be a 40% increase from last year. Even with all of this great news for the team, print media coverage is still low in the D.C. market, which is why this was a great event to raise interest among a variety of reporters from ESPN radio and ESPN the Magazine to local print and television. Hopefully, the Caps will see an increase in coverage from both local and national outlets on a rising team in the NHL.