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Better late than never: IPB Blogging Questionnaire!

(The comment-happy Devils blog Interchangeable Parts, inspired by recent hockey-blog publicity, has put together the following questionnaire about the role of NHL-themed bloggers. I was asked to contribute to this a few weeks ago, but thanks to some quality Niedermayering, I've finally gotten back to it today. If you'd like to see some less tardy responses, you can check them out at IPB's Questionnaire Page.)

IPB Blogging Questionnaire
Earl Sleek, Grade 8

1. What was your motivation for starting blogging? Has that changed at all in the time you’ve been blogging?
My main motivation to start blogging about the Ducks was that up to that point, it seemed that nobody on the internet was doing so. I really started with two main objectives: (1) to promote the notion that there were indeed knowledgeable Ducks fans in southern California (even fans who had never played hockey before), and (2) to further promote the legitimacy of independent blogging, both in terms of analysis but also in terms of a fan voice—an alternative from what the mainstream media provides. I’m not sure that these loose goals have changed very much in the year-and-a-half that I’ve been at it, though now that the Ducks are cup champions I’m discovering new challenges, mostly around my level of team expectation.

2. What do you think your blog contributes to the hockey conversation?
I love BoC mostly for its regular inconsistency, even among just my own posts. On any given day, it’s tough to know what you’ll find on the blog—a silly cartoon, a whiny rant, a number-driven analytical piece, or just a personal recollection. There’s plenty of room to talk serious about the California teams or the league, and there’s plenty of leeway to stray from that as well. The overall multi-author, multi-team format works really well for the blog also—I think it does a great job in demonstrating that even though we’re individuals who root for different teams and respond to hockey in different ways, there’s really more that’s common among hockey fans, especially in a hockey wasteland like California, than there is that’s different. The blog is extremely non-profit, too, which I enjoy because (a) BoC will never be meaningfully sued, and (b) it demonstrates pretty well our sick devotion to the sport.

3. What do you want to get out of the blogs you read?
As silly as our blog gets, I’m a numbers guy by nature, and I really enjoy learning about the dynamics of hockey through statistical analysis. Oftentimes player contribution is inferred by very basic statistics—goals and assists, or shots and saves—but there’s plenty more to think about when it comes to determining player value. Which linemates does a player play with? Which opponents does he regularly go up against? What sort of special-teams assignments does he cover, and how do his minutes contribute to overall team success? There are plenty of valid and explorable data questions that frankly don’t get much media attention, but they are really what drew me to hockey blogging in the first place, mostly in the Oiler-blog-arena with and Irreverent Oil Fans, among others.

Of course, I do try to keep abreast with hockey news developments and league issues through sites like James Mirtle’s, Paul Kukla’s, and Tom Benjamin’s. And of course I still do love the silly side of hockey writing—Battle of Alberta and Covered in Oil are some of my early influences there.

Overall I don’t have huge criteria on what blogs should provide—whether it’s analysis, information, reaction, or cynicism, though, it should reflect a fan’s perspective. That’s the angle I relate with the best.

4. What determines which blogs you read and which ones you don’t?
Sorry, east-coasters, but being a Ducks fan I am heavily biased towards blogs that cover western conference teams, as they are the opponents that are competing on the same standings board as the BoC squads. Writing style is fairly important, as I’ll read well-written blogs for teams that I’m not even that interested in.

5. How important is the issue of gaining press access to you as a blogger?
I’d accept a press pass to figure out what it really meant, but I really don’t know if I’d be a guy to use it regularly—I don’t know if it contributes very much to our fan perspective, and also I’m not sure I have a lot to ask players (I have very little tolerance for generic cliché answers). Personally, I have no desire to duplicate the mainstream media’s functions; their reporting is usually sufficient for me. As I’ve said in the past, one of our strengths at BoC is remembering what side of the glass we sit on.

On the other hand, I would love to have several drinks with Brian Burke, if given the opportunity. He’s both a great hockey mind an an excellent quote, and I’d much rather experience something like that than listen to an out-of-breath player tell me how many minutes a team should stick to a system.

6. To what extent do you feel accountable for the content of your blog? How concerned do you think readers should feel about the authority and accountability of your blog?
Well, first off, BoC has never been in the business of "breaking news", so in terms of reporting, we’ll generally throw a link to an actual news source. As for our other content, generally our best source of accountability is in our comments section—we have a pretty broad and knowledgeable readership that has shown little hesitance to point out what aspects we may have omitted or overlooked, and our e-mail contacts are readily available on the blog.

Most of our writers use ghost names on the blog, primarily so that we can keep our day jobs. While that may cause some accountability concerns, I don’t see it as a huge problem. While it may not say "Earl Sleek" on my birth certificate, there’s a lot more hockey credibility built up over the past year-and-a-half under that name than under my birthname.

7. How concerned are you about the authority and accountability of the blogs you read? Do you find it difficult to judge the authority and accountability of the blogs you read?
It depends on the purpose of the blog I’m reading. If someone is in the business of breaking news or spreading rumors, that’s probably the only time I will really consider accountability, and that accountability is developed by longevity and consistency.

8. What value, if any, do you think blogging brings to the NHL?
First of all, it provides an avenue for hockey fans to express their reactions to their teams, which can provide a much more relatable experience than what traditional media can offer. It allows for tough questions to be asked and answered, or unique observations to be made, and with linking these thoughts can be easily shared and developed on other blogs.

The main thing that has struck me about hockey blogging, though, is that it helps reinforce the idea that hockey fans are more alike than unalike; I may hate the hell out of some rival team, but the blogging experience reminds me that even though me and rival fans each come with a different set of biases, I still have more in common with them than I do with a neighborhood Laker fan.

All in all, blogging is a great way to put interesting perspectives into a useful medium where intelligent and creative minds can develop a conversation of sorts. It provides passionate fans of the NHL a perspective they can relate (or disagree) with, and if nothing else, serves as a testament to how addictingly fascinating NHL hockey can be.

(So those are my answers. If anyone has anything they'd like to add or subtract, feel free to keep me accountable in the comments. If any local cup-winning GMs want to experience a drinking-themed interview, contact me and I'll clear off my schedule.)