Mar 26, 2011

Yes, we did play that "Friday" song at the Sens game last night

Mar 21, 2011

Which NHL team has the loudest fans in Canada?

Here's an article from Allen Panzeri in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen, measuring how loud fans are at the six NHL arenas in Canada.  In a nutshell, Montreal is the loudest, the rest are all about the same. A good read -- even though to get accurate numbers you'd have to correct for a lot of factors, such as:
  • arena acoustics
  • placement of speakers vis-a-vis press box
  • day of the week
  • opponent
  • performance of team on ice (winning the game?  good or bad season?)
Nice to see the old myth about Ottawa being a quiet arena being debunked.  Like I say in the article: when our team's playing well and the fans are excited, our building is as loud as any in the league.  (Case in point: Saturday night vs. Tampa Bay during the 3rd period and overtime.)

Here's the article:
The complaint is often heard about Scotiabank Place: It is as quiet as a morgue, filled with lifeless, unexcitable fans. Rather than serving to lift the spirits of their team, they sit on hands as if they were not watching a hockey game but browsing in a library.

That may be stretching it just a bit, but anyone who has attended a game against, say, the New Jersey Devils, knows there is some truth in it. Scotiabank Place can be deathly quiet.

But is it as quiet as it is made out to be? And how does it fare against its five Canadian rivals?
The Citizen decided to find out. We bought a hand-held decibel meter and, over the course of a long road trip, measured the sound levels in each of the six Canadian buildings: Rogers Arena in Vancouver, the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Rexall Place in Edmonton, the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Bell Centre in Montreal, and Scotiabank Place.

At stake was bragging rights as the loudest and proudest Canadian arena.

And who won? No surprise, really: the Bell Centre. It has the reputation of not only being the loudest arena in Canada, but as the loudest in the National Hockey League.

It was followed by the other rinks, all roughly the same. No rink was notably louder or quieter than the other, not even the much-maligned Scotiabank Place.

To the person who is responsible for game entertainment at Ottawa games, Glen Gower, that wasn't exactly a surprise.

"I've heard it often that Ottawa is the quietest," he said. "But my response is that when the team's playing well and the fans are excited, this building is as loud as any in the league.
The players agree. Defenceman Chris Phillips loves playing in Montreal. It's so loud for the players, he says, it gives them goose bumps.

"They're cheering for Montreal when things are going well, they're booing when things aren't going well, and it doesn't seem to matter: they're just loud for the entire game," he says.

"It's always a great atmosphere."

But Ottawa has had its moments, too.

Phillips doesn't even have think to pick his loudest memory. It came on May 2, 1998, when Igor Kravchuk scored the insurance goal to clinch a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils and win Ottawa's first playoff series.

"That was, I think, by far the loudest I've ever heard it," Phillips says.

Nick Foligno's loudest memory came on April 14, 2008, in the third game of Ottawa's playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was Ottawa's first playoff game at home after the 2007 run that took them to the Stanley Cup final.

"I just remember the crowd going crazy," says Foligno.

"I was like, 'Wow, that's loud.' I had never experienced anything like that before."

While there are any number of entertainment tricks, including cheerleaders, Gower could use to pump up the crowd, that's not the team's style.

"Our focus has always been that hockey is No. 1," he says."We have a long tradition of hockey in this city, going back more than 100 years with the Senators, and with institutions like the 67's. So we always want to be respectful of the game."

In Calgary, the Flames have ice girls as part of the entertainment, but hockey also always comes first, says Geordie Macleod, who is in charge of engaging the crowd.

"Our fans wouldn't have it any other way," says Macleod.

But it is still a delicate dance to keep them happy.

"The loudness level is extremely subjective," he says.

"I know what I like, but I have to respect the fans who would like it to be quieter."

The sound volume of music and other entertainment is also adjusted for the day of the week and the intensity of the game, he says. A game in the middle of the week, which is when the Senators played the Flames, would be dialed down more than, say, a Saturday night game against conference-rival Vancouver.

To do this study, starting roughly one hour before each game, we began taking measurements, including what turned out to be a set of common measurements we could use as comparisons from rink-to-rink.

They included the sound level at the home team's arrival for the pregame skate, of the music used for the pre-game skate, of the national anthem, of the music between whistles, of the cheering for a goal by the home team, and so on.

In our measurements, the Bell Centre always seemed to be a little louder than the other rinks.
We took our measurements from the press box in each building to be consistent. That means they're not as loud as they would be if taken in the lower bowl, but Gower and Macleod said the figures are a fair representation of the sound levels in their buildings.

We also took a number of random measurements, such as the cheering of a fight, of a goal by the visitors, or a good scoring chance.

My favourite was the 83.2 reading hit at the Air Canada Centre when it was announced that Daniel Alfredsson, a hated figure among Toronto fans, wouldn't be in the Ottawa lineup.

That's just about the sound level you'd expect from a group of screaming kids, which, when you think of it, is a nice metaphor for an ACC crowd.

According to NHL guidelines, teams shouldn't exceed 95 decibels for typical game entertainment, with exceptions for big goals and plays. Occupational health and safety standards typically site 85 decibels as the safe limit of an eight-hour exposure, with a reduction by half for each three-point increase.

"You want to try to keep it at a level to create some energy and not hurt people's ears," Gower says.

That was put to a test in 2006 when William Hodgetts, a professor of speech pathology and audiology at the University of Alberta, and partner Dr. Richard Liu, an otolaryngologist, measured the sound levels during games three, four, and six of the Stanley Cup final series between the Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Liu wore a noise dosimeter near his ear for every second of each game. The average turned out to be the equivalent of sitting next to a chainsaw, with the occasional blast of a jet engine.
While Liu and his wife suffered a temporary hearing loss, they recovered the next day. But it's like any loud sound, says Hodgetts: if you're exposed to it for a long time, it's going to cause problems.

"What really matters is the cumulative exposure over time," he says.

"A level of 105 could be potentially dangerous if you're exposed to it for 10 or 15 minutes, but if it's only 10 to 15 seconds, probably not."

For example, when the Habs took the ice to start the game, the level peaked at 105.2. That compared to 103.3 in Calgary, 102.6 in Toronto, 99.5 in Ottawa, 99.1 in Vancouver and 92.1 in Edmonton.

This was also reflected in the cheering at the end of the national anthem, when the buildup to the game is at a peak: 99.6 in Montreal, 93.8 in Ottawa, 91.9 in Toronto, 91.7 in Vancouver, 91.3 in Edmonton, 88.1 in Calgary.

However, what, exactly, makes the Bell Centre the loudest arena in Canada is a question that can only be partially answered. For starters, the Habs attract a young audience, with the proximity of McGill and Concordia universities and Dawson College. That means stronger lungs.

Second, it's loud because Montreal is, well, Montreal.

"Part of it is the great hockey culture they have in Montreal," says Gower.

"Every team gets as loud as Montreal when their team is playing well or when they're in the playoffs. But in Montreal every game seems to have a playoff atmosphere."

Beyond that, though, the technical side of the production must remain a mystery because the Canadiens won't reveal their trade secrets.

While every team in the league uses microphones hung from the ceiling to amplify the sounds of the game, the Canadiens, through a spokesman, said they won't discuss the way they set up their microphones and speakers.

That invariably leads to speculation of a Milli Vanilli effect -that the crowd noise is being given an artificial boost.

Or that there's a special microphone in the general manager's office and Pierre Gauthier spends the game clapping and cheering into it.

Who knows?

But even if there is a Milli Vanilli effect, so what?, asks Phillips.

"That's allowed, isn't it?" he says. "If it gets their fans excited and creates a great atmosphere for the game, why not? It makes it a great place to play."

Full article, plus stats and comparison of decibel readings from the six teams...

Mar 13, 2011

Steve Perry & 43,000 fans sing Don't Stop Believing at a Giants Game

I know this is old news, but we're going to talk about this in our Sports Management class on Wednesday. Going way back to the 2010 World Series, Game 2, when San Francisco Giants fans sang along with Journey's Steve Perry to Don't Stop Believing.

Here's what music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz had to say about it:
This is why we do it. This is why we write and perform music. This is why a musician’s life is richer than that of any Wall Street banker, any politician, any sports figure. 
They say that money is king, that it changes everything. But you haven’t experienced true power until you hear 40,000 people singing your song, with no bouncing ball, no coaching, but by heart. That’s how much you mean to people... 
This clip is not as good as the one of "Don’t Stop Believin’", the audio is low and the camera person is far from the man himself, and yes, I know now that the Giants made sure Steve Perry was there, but about 1:20 in you hear the assembled multitude sing "Lights" and you’re overwhelmed, they know it, it’s in their DNA...
This is why everybody wants to be a rock star. To feel this power. To bask in the effect of your creation.
I don’t want to hear that this financial wizard is a rock star, or this politician, that’s missing the point. A true rock star can touch and move people in a way that no one else can. That’s the power. 
And Steve Perry and those ancient Journey songs from last century have the power to not only ignite a whole city, but an entire nation.

Was the World Series the peak of the zeitgeist for the song?  It's been all over sports for the past couple of years.  And I think Steve Perry's appearance was inspired by Ashkon's cover.  Detroit teams have been using it for years - I've heard it many times during broadcasts of  Red Wings playoff games. Then there's Annakin Slayd's sampling of the song in his tribute to the Montreal Canadiens.  And how about this guy, who's started a tradition at Dodgers games.

Where else have you seen/heard Don't Stop Believin'?

Mar 3, 2011

Joe Favorito on why the Washington Nationals President mascots are awesome

Good piece here by Joe on the Washington Nationals Presidents Race: Nats Make The Most Out of Their Mascots:
However for all their onfield issues, one thing that the Nats have done well is market and create interest in their mascots, interest which has drummed up American Idol like appeal for the brand and ancillary marketing dollars not seen in the mascot business these days...
They are goofy, fun and maretable in the offseason, and easily packagable to sponsors. Their races are capable of thousands of downloads without license fees on YouTube, and their appearance can easily be tied into a sponsor year-round, giving great added valkue to anything the Nats sales team can drum up. They appeal to young and old, and those selected through the tryouts are probably unique stories enough to generate even ancillary pubilicity for the team.

Mar 2, 2011

NBA player gets ejected for pointing at the video scoreboard

My Algonquin students will enjoy this one, especially after we spent today's class talking about video replay controversies.  Here's a report from Balls Don't Lie about an incident last night:

In the second quarter of Tuesday night's Grizzlies win over the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis center Marc Gasol received his second technical foul of the game, after taking in the first during the initial quarter while arguing a call. His ejection was not only the first of his NBA career, but it's also the first time we've seen a player get a T for pointing to the instant replay on the scoreboard above.

Watch the video here.

Since the advent of Jumbotron technology, NBA players and coaches have made a show of either watching or pointing to the replay featured above, following a tough call that didn't go their way. Refs clearly don't like the practice, but more often than not (as the groaning crowd will no doubt let the referees know, following the replay), the referees are aware that they blew a close one, and they'll let the player or coach vent, point or stare at the flickering images above.