The View from Above
It’s not only the players on the ice defending the LA Kings’ championship season
Pluses, minuses, profits, losses, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities - these are just a few of the things that are analyzed and scrutinized at the end of a period, whether it be a sporting season, a fiscal year, or a school semester.
For 29 NHL teams, come mid-June, there is at least one glaringly gaping hole on a perhaps otherwise perfect report card, and these 29 teams have their sights set for the next season, along with a tangible goal to reach.
But one team – currently the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings – faces the challenge of not only winning another championship, but doing so in a way that improves upon the previous year. The epitome of this idea may not come from the team on the ice, but more so from the team behind the scenes.
If the LA Kings hockey team were able to replicate what they did last season during the playoffs, they would be making a remarkable statement – the first team in the 21st century to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. Not many could argue that there’d be a whole lot of room for improvement for an eight seed that stormed through the playoffs with a 16-4 record.
However, if the Kings’ Business Operations staff duplicated their production from the season before, they might be the laughing stock of…well… at the very least, social media.
Aside from the Stanley Cup, the Kings Organization collected numerous other awards for their work during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including Best Interactive or Social Media Campaign (How the @LAKings Won Twitter and the Stanley Cup) and Best Pre-Game Introduction, Opening or Halftime Video (The Black Parade) at the 2012 PromaxBDA Sports Marketing Awards, among others.
With the Stanley Cup in the rearview mirror, there are mixed sentiments from Kings executives about how last season’s triumphs affect the mindset going into this post-season.
“Having experienced it certainly helps. It is easier to visualize,” said Jeff Moeller, the Kings’ senior director of communications and content.
According to Moeller, during the regular season, there are hundreds of outside media members that need to be credentialed to cover games and practices, all of which is handled by Moeller’s department of four. During the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, more than 1,000 media credentials were given out.
“We saw things really start to magnify during the third round,” Moeller said. “As teams were getting eliminated, more and more media from around North America started to gravitate toward our club. Plus, we were such a good story as an eight seed and going up three-games-to-zero each time.”
Leading the team’s public relations crew necessarily means that Moeller’s job is to provide a liaison between the team and the media/public and ensure seamless transitions. A difficult task most of the time when playoff dynamics force late notices for everything from game times, to opponents and travel plans.
Already having been through this on a larger scale last year, this past weekend – the Kings playoff destination coming down to the final regular season buzzer on Saturday night – presented a familiar situation.
“On Saturday afternoon you run through a lot of scenarios, and then on Sunday afternoon you see the Gateway Arch,” said Moeller, who began his career with the Kings in 1994 as an intern.
Although Tuesday night’s Game 1 between the Kings and the St. Louis Blues was Moeller’s 55th consecutive Kings playoff game worked, both Moeller and Danny Zollars, the Kings’ senior director of game presentation and events, had never worked for a team in any sport that advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
“I think that was to our benefit because we could be creative and do it the way we wanted to do it and not the cookie cutter way that was done in the past,” said Zollars, referring to going into the 2012 post-season with very little playoff experience.
Zollars was largely the creative mind behind the award-winning ‘Black Parade’ video, which was used from the 2012 Conference Semi-Finals through opening night of this season.
“We’re going with a different direction this year because we know we’re not going to make a sentimental video as good as that one,” said Zollars, who is only in his second year with the Kings.
“We’re going to go a little bit more high-energy, we’re going to get the crowd fired up, and do more special effects with 3-D mapping, lasers, and pyro.”
In this regard, while Zollars agrees with Moeller that the experience from last year is invaluable, Zollars’ Game Entertainment staff of four knows that their work will be on display for the opinions of fans and critics who have all seen the how high the bar has been set.
“It’s harder from a creative perspective because last year we went all out, we had some great ideas in-arena, during games, outside the arena and around town,” Zollars said. “Topping those and always wanting to do better than what you did before, I think that’s a challenge, but I think we’re going to meet that challenge.”
The challenge that Zollars refers to is perhaps the difference between the hunter(s) and the hunted. It also may just be what sets champions apart from the rest of the pack.