The game day experience that goes along with a professional hockey match is really a sight to behold. From the pre-game music choices to the intro video, to your in game arena hosts, there are lots of moving parts and things for fans to love or love to hate. That said, the Canes have been pretty consistent over the years in their presentation and that has become some of the fabric of attending a game at ESA/RBC/PNC Arena. Well, the winds of change continue to blow at 1400 Edwards Mill Road and those changes have hit some of the longest tenured employees of the organization.
Ron the Ref, the ubiquitous game day in arena host and jovial storm squad mascot was released today by the Canes after 16 years with the organization. Stephen Rutherford, Director of CanesVision was also relieved of his duties. We were able to speak to Ron and he shared his thanks for the outpouring of support that immediately sprang up on Twitter. He shared that he was told that the Canes were going in a different direction with their game day production. The move is to allow the team to focus less on the “game show” aspect of in arena marketing promotions and to focus more on video montages of fans, players, and hockey overall. Ron admitted that some parts of the game day program had gotten old. “How many times can Stormy and I skate out and shoot t-shirts into a crowd before a game?” Ron shared. He felt that while there were new and creative ideas being tossed around within meetings, that hands were tied when it came to making changes to the program.
This blog will never be confused with having a great relationship w/ Stephen Rutherford. We were often critical of his style of program and CanesVision lack of a spell check button. Stephen did exemplary work with the Ryan Murphy piece last year, but the attempt to make that into a center piece of an intro failed miserably. The intro was quickly replaced by yet another song and lyrics intro that we had seen many times before, and we continued to get more of the same from CanesVision v.2013.
Finally, while not confirmed, it is rumored that Fox Sports Carolina in game host Chantel McCabe reached the end of her initial two year contract. Chantel has improved tremendously during her time here in Raleigh and is really excelling in her coverage for NHL.com during the playoffs. Should be interested to see what happens with the broadcast as well.
Doug Warf, VP of Marketing for the Canes confirmed the changes to game day productions. Doug shared “this was one of the most difficult decisions we have had to make. We are making a concerted effort to reduce whistle stops and return the focus to the game with highlighting replays, game notes, game stats, and fan cams during stoppages.” Some of these changes were trialed in small doses last season, and according to Doug, “we made the decision to rip off the band aid and make big changes for this season. We are working with our branding partners as we speak to help them understand”. A search is already in process for a replacement for CanesVision and the intention is to have that filled with someone who has experience focusing on hockey and providing a great in game experience. Amber Jaye will do limited in arena promotions with a high percentage of her work being focused on delivering digital content such as StormFront.
So, while we hate to see a guy like Ron the Ref out of a gig that he was good at for lots of years, count us as officially intrigued. Honest season ticket holders will admit that many of the game day spots had become more than stale. Some were down right moldy. So, when the calendar flips October and you make your way to PNC Arena for Game 1 of the 2014-15 hockey season, more things may be different than ever before. An offseason that results in a new GM, new coach, roster changes, and new in arena marketing are things that, if nothing else, will have the fan base talking.