Minnesota Wild receives PR penalty

I’ve admitted before that I’m not much of a sports buff.  But, if I had to choose one sport as my favorite, it would be hockey.

I was an only child. My father never regretted not having a son, but he also was a little bit ahead of his time and didn’t place a lot of value in gender roles.  Like lots of little girls in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I played house, Barbies, and dress up.  But, my father also insisted that I learn how to dig for worms and put my own worm on my hook when we went fishing.  He taught me the fine art of making things with my hands, how to rewire a lamp (he was an electrician by trade), and how to grow a garden, among other things.

But most of all, from the time that I was little, my dad took me to hockey games and taught me how to skate and play hockey. Long before there was cable and when we lived out in the country where we only got 1 of the 3 major channels, we would often go down to town to my grandmother’s to watch hockey on her colored television set.  I remember fondly laying on the floor on my red and blue sleeping bag with the sewn-on Ranger patch next to the chair where my father sat, coloring in my Peter Puck coloring book and special hockey stick shaped colored pencils while my father watched hockey. I never liked that sleeping bag because I preferred (and still do the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yeah, that’s the other thing my father taught me: I could actually think for myself, even if he thought it was blasphemous to be from NY State and not love the Rangers.

During the games, I would jump every time my father yelled at the screen because of fowl plays and big-time, knock-out, drag-out, all-team member brawls. He used to say that hockey was his favorite because you got two sports for the price of one: hockey and fighting.

My father has been gone from this earth for nearly 23 years now, and I think he would be a little disappointed that fighting in hockey is no longer as big as it once was.

But, I also think that he would have also been a little taken aback by the show that the Minnesota Wild put on for it’s fans the other night during intermission.
In honor of the Wild’s mascot’s birthday, they planned this whole skit that involved my team’s mascot.

The skit went down like this:  While other NHL mascots looked on at the faux birthday party, The Chicago Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk shoved cake in the face of the Minnesota Wild’s mascot Nordy’s face.  Tommy Hawk then got out the traditional birthday pinata.  The birthday “boy” Nordy was supposed to swing at the pinata, but instead started hitting Nordy relentlessly, “beating” him to the ice.  All the while, the announcer for the game cheered on the beat down until the  NJ Devils mascot stepped into break up the “fight”.



What’s the problem?

In a sport that has always been known for it’s violent side, this really should come as no shock.

But as I mentioned, the NHL is trying to spruce up it’s image by becoming more family oriented by curtailing fighting.  Yet, this intermission show is the antithesis of that goal.

The NHL thought nothing of tweeting the image of Nordy giving Tommy Hawk the beat down until they saw the reaction the tweet received. Some were supportive, but more were appalled by the encouragement of a violent act, especially in a birthday party setting.

According to the Chicago Tribune,  the NHL and the Minnesota Wild are now facing the PR fallout from the intermission show.

“We apologize to anyone offended by the mascot skit Thursday night. It was certainly not our intention.”

“The Hawks declined to comment” – Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune

I think that hockey fans would agree with me. It’s not the fact that the mascots fought. The problem is that the “fight” was encouraged and glorified to the point where it came across as brutal.  Another problem is that, like the Peter Puck character I grew up with, the mascots are the way the NHL markets the teams and sport of hockey to families and children.

And this is a mixed message public relations problem for the NHL.

Case Questions:

  1. In PR, is it better to go ahead and do what you want and ask forgiveness later, as it seems is the case with the Minnesota Wild?
  2. Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune (quoted above) calls the Minnesota Wild and the NHL, “tone deaf” in actions that go against their public relations goal to have a family friendly image.  Is he correct?  If so, how can the NHL’s PR team fix this and create policies to make sure to keep the NHL out of the PR penalty box ?


As always, thanks for following, commenting and sharing!



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