We Have Moved

As you may have seen on Social Media, The Cat’s Whiskers has a brand new website with a new address, just follow this link www.thecatswhiskersonline.co.uk

All new content & Podcasts will be available on the new website. This website will still be available so you can view all the previous TCW content.

Many thanks for supporting this website since May 2008 and we’ll see you over at the new one.

The Cat’s Whiskers Team.

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Cam Janssen Show

On this week’s Cat’s Whiskers Podcast Jono Bullard, Aaron Lord & Andy Haywood start by discussing the no overtime debacle in Belfast last Friday before moving on to look back at Panthers weekend games against Manchester Storm and Coventry Blaze. We also discuss the other EIHL results and comment former Panther Guillaume Lepine who has ices for Ottawa Senators in NHL pre-season.

We answer some incredibly tough and well thought out #AskTCW questions before finishing with a look ahead to Panthers two weekend home games against Cardiff Devils on Saturday and Braehead Clan on Sunday.

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Or listen to the embedded stream below:

Cold Introduction

In his article this week Paul Balm looks at Panthers new entrance video

It won’t come as a surprise to any regular readers of this column that I don’t profess to be an expert about anything (if you ignore the catchphrases of Reeves & Mortimer and the strange behaviour patterns of temporary staff). In fact that I’m pretty sure I prove I’m not an expert on anything on a weekly basis. There are plenty of people who are far better placed to talk about some of the topics I touch on than I am and I’d always encourage them to do so, if only so I can have a rest from doing this week in week out. There is one thing I think I understand though after 46 years and that’s me. I might be wrong about that but I’m pretty sure that I’ve now reached the point where I know whether or not something has had an effect on me and what it was.

The reason I said that I could be wrong is that having watched the new Panthers introduction video I didn’t really feel anything. These pre-game videos should really only be about one thing – getting the crowd involved. The game’s about to start, the opposition is skating about in the dark and the home team are about to take to the ice. At this point you need to get the crowd involved. We can talk all night about the over-use of the phrase “best fans in the league” and give the front three rows as many bouquets of flowers after but if you don’t do something to distract them from their mobile phones, their conversations or their trips to the concession stands then there’s not much point in the rest of the match-night presentation.

Everything between the end of warm-up and the start of the game should be geared to building an atmosphere in the arena bowl and your entrance video is a vital part of it. The music you play won’t suit all people and what will work for some won’t work for others so the entrance video has to be the cornerstone that keeps the whole thing together.

Ours isn’t. To be honest when it was first announced I never really understood how a bunch of people walking around Nottingham was going to get the team going. Why would it? That’s a genuine question rather than a pop at anyone who went. The idea, as it was first pitched to the fans back at the beginning of August sounded like one of those little films they show before each performance in the Eurovision Song Contest, you know the ones I mean, the quirky little films that show off some aspect of life in the host country.

Why would seeing a bunch of people walk past the Council House get me pumped up for a game? We haven’t come to watch the fans, we’ve come to watch our team play ice hockey so surely it would make sense to give us some of that instead? Give us the high points of the past, let’s see big hits, big goals, the good fights, players lifting trophies. Basically the things that lift us during the game. We want a rousing soundtrack to get the heart racing. The monologue we got is great for a meme (or whatever they’re called) on Facebook or a rallying speech in a dressing room but out in the bowl? Forget it.

For me, it should boil down to a simple question – will it bring those people in the seats into the game? Will they become the much vaunted extra player? Or will it leave them feeling cold. Nottingham fans can often be the type of people who, for whatever reason (and that really is a topic for another day) want to be given something before they react. Look at the largely turgid second period on Saturday. Janssen comes on and throws a couple of checks and the noise increases. At one point he lined another up and you felt as much as heard the sense of expectation increase. The entrance video needs to do that, it needs to draw people in.
We’re told time and time again that there are limitations to what the scoreboard screens can do and they’re true (and I have no reason to believe they’re not) then that’s fair enough but what’s the difference between overcoming those problems for what I’ve just spoken abut against doing the same for what looked like something out of an episode of The Walking Dead?

I said I’m no expert and I’m not. I don’t want to talk about the problems with the colouration, the sound quality or how it was shot because I don’t have enough knowledge so I’ll leave that to those that do. I can only talk about how it made me feel and I think I’ve more or less done that except to say one thing – it bored me and that is probably the worst thing it could have done.

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Just The Two Of Us

It’s a double act on the podcast this week as Jono Bullard & Aaron Lord take a look back at Panthers weekend games against Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants. We read out fans Tweets about the weekend and Jono speaks to Panthers assistant coach Rick Strachan about both games and the season so far.

After looking at other EIHL results & news we answer some of your #AskTCW questions about Cam Janssen, The Panthers/Steelers rivalry, EIHL expansion, UK CHL rosters and Oliver Betteridge.

Finally we look ahead to the weekend game against the Manchester Storm with Storm forward Grant Toulmin and also the Challenge Cup game at the Skydome on Sunday against Coventry Blaze.

Download & listen via iTunes, RSS or Spreaker

Or listen to the embedded stream below:

A Genuine Alternative

With the issue of webcasts being discussed again Ian Braisby gives his take on Panthers not offering one in an eloquently argued article.

It’s just a couple of games into the new season but an old discussion is rearing its head once again on social media – namely Panthers’ ongoing refusal to offer a webcast of home games, despite being one of only two EIHL clubs (both with the same owner) not to do so. Their rationale appears to be a belief that a webcast would reduce attendance at matches and thus cause a drop in revenue. I’d like to think that this decision is based on some actual financial projections, but I can’t help but feel that the assumptions underlying it, and to some extent the understanding of who buys a webcast and why, are flawed. So I thought I’d take a closer look at it from a business angle.

Before I go any further, let me lay my cards on the table and declare my vested interest. From a purely selfish perspective I would love the Panthers to do a live stream of home matches. Despite being a season ticket holder, there are always a number of games I can’t make due to my work commitments and the fact I live in Birmingham, which makes getting to midweek matches in particular difficult. If the Panthers offered a webcast I would definitely buy it a few times a season on those occasions when it is my only chance to see a game. So they would get extra cash from me, in addition to the ST money they’ve already banked! But even if I were paying for games individually, I would certainly drive up for the ones I could make, no question about it.

The first question then is whether my attitude and behaviour are typical? If so, there would be no reason not to do a live stream. Obviously the club feels the average fan does not behave as I do, and would see a webcast as a genuine alternative, not as a last-resort replacement for attending a match. While I can understand that there is a budgetary element especially if people are paying for a family to watch, with the incidental expenses involved, I think the case is being overstated. I simply don’t subscribe to the idea that a large number of people would stay home and watch a webcast rather than go to a match, whether they are individuals, couples, groups of friends or families. There are all kinds of reasons you go to a hockey game – of course the match itself, but also an enjoyable night out, a chance to catch up with friends and family who also attend, a welcome release from everyday stresses, and probably many others besides. While watching on a laptop at home might be cheaper, as the old saying goes you get what you pay for and it’s simply not a satisfying substitute for being at the arena and part of the event. You can’t capture the atmosphere or the experience of being at a live match, nor can you see the play develop or keep an eye on everything happening on and off the ice when you are watching a stream. In pretty much every way it’s an inferior option compared to attending in person. The club seem so scared of losing sales that they are actually undervaluing their own product by assuming people will choose to replace it with a cheaper but lower quality alternative. In my view they should have a little more faith in the loyalty of their customers and in the many positive reasons we all have for buying our tickets. If doubts remain, you can always choose which games to stream, perhaps excluding some where attendances might be lower and a little more susceptible to change such as midweek fixtures against teams seen as less attractive, games at holiday times etc.

To my knowledge, which I admit is relatively limited, there’s not an overwhelming body of evidence from other teams or other sports that fans who are genuinely considering attending a live game in the first place will stay away if they can watch at home instead. Maybe a few would every now and then, but would this be more than the additional revenue you can bring in by offering the webcast? I seriously doubt it. I would say that basing the decision not to offer webcasts on the potential of Panthers fans staying away is a misunderstanding of the market. People who can and want to buy a ticket will generally do so; they are not the target market for a live stream. When you operate a webcast you are aiming at two other main groups.

First, you’ve got fans of visiting teams. You can apply the same argument as for home supporters here, but I have to say I don’t think a webcast would reduce their numbers significantly. Away fans tend to be the hardcore supporters, who go on a road trip for the whole experience and camaraderie, which you can’t replace by watching it at home with a couple of mates round and a few cans from the local off licence. Let’s turn the situation around and think about the streams we can watch when Panthers play away. I can honestly say that of all the webcasts I have bought for Panthers away games, there is not one occasion where I would have gone to the match if there had been no webcast on offer. Every single time the club concerned made money from me that they would not otherwise have made. And I’m sure I’m not the only one – just look at the size of our fanbase and the number of regular travelling supporters. Yes, there might be a few people who would choose a webcast over travelling to the NIC, but you have a captive market of the entire visiting team’s fanbase to sell to, easily offsetting the odd lost ticket sales.

Secondly, you’ve got Panthers fans who are unable to attend any or some matches for whatever reasons, be it health, family, work commitments, geographical location or whatever. Those people, and I include myself in this category as I mentioned at the beginning, would willingly fork out to watch their team on a webcast if it’s the only way they can do so. The same applies to families and friends of players and various other individuals with some link to or interest in the club who cannot get to Nottingham to watch a game.

The crucial point here is that these two categories are all people who will not come to the NIC regardless of whether you offer a webcast or not. In other words, whatever you do you cannot make any money from them through ticket sales. But with a webcast you can turn them into a revenue stream. As someone with a background in business and the owner of a small company myself, I struggle to understand the business rationale behind willingly turning your back on two significant revenue streams that you can tap into with minimal additional cost.

Ultimately I think it’s about how you market it. Nobody is suggesting you start publicising the Panthers by encouraging people to watch them online. The focus in and around Nottingham will remain on attracting people to the arena and increasing our home attendances (which equals revenue for the club). To be quite honest, if someone is interested in trying the Panthers, I am sure their first port of call would be to find out when they can catch a home game anyway, not to look for a way to watch a match online – the fact such a facility existed probably wouldn’t even enter their head. In parallel you offer a live stream through the club’s website. No big fanfare or hype, just letting people know that it’s there if you need to use it, with the emphasis very much on it being something you can buy if you can’t make it to a match. You support this with targeted marketing to fans of visiting teams via social media. If you’re still concerned about losing ticket revenue, you can do this marketing in the couple of days before the match once those away fans who will be making the trip have made their arrangements and booked tickets.

We all understand that hockey is a business and the Panthers are looking to maximise their revenue. However, I can’t help but feel the club is a little bit stuck in the past, with a model where bums on seats is the only way to generate money from hockey fans. It’s an approach that, by and large, has worked well for them before so it’s not going to be an easy thing to step outside of that comfort zone. But times have moved on, other clubs have moved on, and I really do believe our club needs to do the same. Like any business decision there’s an element of risk involved, but there is also significant potential for additional revenue. The key is to understand that increasing ticket sales and making money from live streaming games are not necessarily mutually exclusive. With the right strategy and targeted, sophisticated marketing there is no reason it can’t be done. The result? More revenue for the club, a better service to its fans and customers, and a stronger presence in the modern digital media. And those are all good things in any business.


This week Paul Balm has got nothing to write about, so he’s answering your questions instead

This is a bit awkward and not a little troubling. Here we are just two weeks into the new season and I’d run out of ideas what to write about. Now, I could blame the fact that nothing much has happened yet. DOPS have barely been apart from passing judgement on Leigh Salters fighting the Blaze bench and that can’t have taxed them for long, surely. There’s definitely nothing much to talk about on ice at the Panthers and I don’t think there’s much more I can say about Panthers off ice. Well, there is but we’ll save that for another day…

So, that left me with a few hundred words to fill, nothing to fill them with and a quandary about what to do. I didn’t want to not write anything because there might be some people out there who look forward to my ramblings every week. I know that’s unlikely but you never know. Then I had an idea – I’d appeal for (sensible, (vaguely) hockey related) questions on Twitter. Risky given some of the people out there (including me, I know) but it was either that or nothing. I shouldn’t have doubted doing this for a minute and what you see below are the results of something that I might well do (if only because this won’t be the last time my imagination will run dry) again.

So, first question please:

@Leebosims asks: How about how it shouldn’t be too much to ask to have the whole roster here and knowing the systems by opening weekend
If Panthers were the only people affected by this then I would be the first one up on his soapbox braying for answers. But we’re not, there’s a few other team’s in a similar situation – Belfast for one. What worries me more is that this sort of thing happens to us most seasons. We rarely have everyone in for the first game of the season never mind the whole training camp. This year has just been worse than most. OK, the league’s a marathon and not a sprint but it strikes me that not doing your very utmost to avoid these issues is like playing with one hand tied behind your back. We can’t say whether results would have been better this weekend had the players had longer together but it can’t have done any harm either. We as a club have to look at what we can do to try and improve this situation. If that means leaning on players more to get their visas sorted sooner then so be it. We should be setting the wheels in motion as soon as we’re signing players and maybe we are, I don’t know but we should be looking to improve. Of course there’s the fact that we signed a number of players late but that’s a different question.

@BStretton96: Maybe touch on our (current) lack of goalscoring at the moment to try and reassure the pessimists
You’ve not read this column before have you? Reassure the pessimists? I get them to reassure me. Yes, it has to be said that I spent a lot of time after both games this weekend bemoaning our lack of potency in front of goal. The optimists will point to the number of times we hit the post and how different everything would have been if they’d have gone in and they’d be right but I think Cardiff hit the post and these things will even themselves out over the course of the season. I’m happy with the way the defence has gelled we just need the forwards to do the same if they can and if they can’t then Corey has some thinking to do. One benefit of Peckham not coming is that It gives Neilson options in addition to the “extra” import slot. I just hope that if problems become apparent as quickly as they did last season the club will be quicker to try and solve them. OK we brought Doucet in but we needed a sniper a long time before the start of January. Right now I think that’s what we’re missing but it’s early days and who knows that clicking moment could be just around the corner.

@C2CMedia: Whether improving links between the Panthers & Lions would be worthwhile.
Definitely. There needs, for me, to be some sort of visible line of progression for young players coming up through the ranks. The Panthers should be working with the junior clubs and the Lions to establish this ladder for want of a better phrase. In addition I’d also like to see, as the Lions are in the NIHL, a link up with a team from the EPL to bridge that gap between the Panthers and the Lions. The thing is that there have to be benefits for all parties concerned, the Panthers, the Lions (or whoever) and the players themselves. There are all sorts of questions that need to be settled and egos or whatever it is that cause the breakdowns in these schemes or stop them happening in the first place, have to be set aside for the good of those interested parties.

@SarahAndrews: The difference between migrants and refugees is a good one
Let’s face it as ice hockey fans we should be used to immigrants coming over here taking the jobs of British players. We just call them imports rather than migrants or refugees. Obviously there’s a difference – refugees probably have issues with visa’s and that’s not something we like to talk about around here at the moment.

Thanks to everyone who took time to submit questions. Some I didn’t know how to answer and one that I’ve been informed we’ll be saving for this week’s podcast (apparently I’m not good enough to answer that on my own).

All of which brings me to one final point. There was an #AskTCW question on last week’s podcast that caused quite a bit of discussion in TCW Towers (were there such a thing) and Jono made a statement essentially on the behalf of all of the four of us that we thought would generate a lot of debate but it hardly created any. That got us wondering why, was it that no one listened beyond the Brock Wilson interview or are people not as interested/worried in the things that we are? If you haven’t already listened to the show give it a go and let us know what you think of what Jono had to say. It’s about 30-35 minutes in but listen to the whole show, it’s worth it honestly and give us your feedback on that particular issue if you would using the normal channels, Twitter, email, Facebook, coming up and shouting at us in the street, you know what I mean.

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Between Brock & A Hard Place

Jono Bullard, Paul Balm & Andy Haywood are your hosts for this weeks edition of The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast.
We look back on Panthers penalty shots victory over Dundee Stars and the signing of Austrian defenceman Andreas Wiedergut.

Former Panthers defenceman Brock Wilson joins us to talk about the imminent arrival of his good friend Cam Janssen to Nottingham before we discuss the other events over the weekend including Braehead’s superb CHL victory over Ingolstadt.

We try to answer one of the most difficult #AskTCW questions we’ve ever received before looking ahead to Panthers weekend game against Cardiff Devils with Sean Phillips from the Red Army Roundup Podcast and the home game on Sunday against Belfast Giants.

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The Cat’s Whiskers Twitter

  • RT @_TheLionsPride: Here’s the direct link for our live YouTube stream of tonight’s game vs @blackburnhawks. Join us for coverage starting…Tweeted 46 minutes ago
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