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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Boston Redux ... College Hockey?

I had a little time this beautiful Sunday morning and thought back on my week in Boston and wanted to jot down a few thoughts with the following criteria in mind:

1. Nothing too cerebral.
2. Something fun and different.
3. An impression that was made while I was in Boston.
4. Something related to sports, but something I haven't written about yet.

So here it goes:

I had a wonderful commute back to NYC on Friday. Took a bus from Watertown Square to South Station. Grabbed a cup of coffee and the papers right before I boarded the 8:20am Amtrak to New York.

I settled-in nicely in a near-empty train that would eventually fill as it treked southbound. I spent the first portion of the trip window-gazing as the scenery was terrific. The city-scape of Boston quickly turned to the New England fall foliage to the stunning New England seaside. It just doesn't get any better.

Then, after a sip of now cooling coffee, I opened the papers. The papers! (Two-times for the Goodfellas fans, out there).

I have always admired the Boston papers. At the Herald, I have found a number of very strong reporters and thorough coverage over the many years. My experiences with the Boston papers dates back to the early 80s when I was getting to know the NBA and met the likes of Buck Harvey, Mike Carey and a short time later, the wonderful Steve Bulpett. Steve has a real sense of the league's history and I enjoy his work.

The Globe? Well, quite simply, I think it's the best paper in the country. Especially in sports.

Get this?

On Friday, with the Red Sox opening their American League championship series and the undefeated Patriots playing the Dallas Cowboys, the Globe managed to carve a two-page+ NCAA College Hockey preview, complete with mega-coverage of Boston College, Boston U and Harvard. Each and every team in the ECACHL (ECAC Hockey League) and Hockey East.

How was that possible? I can understand that they were planning it and that the sports schedule -- with all four major sports, NCAA football and a handful of others all in action at the same time - is unforgiving, but a two page spread on college hockey is just tremendous.

Spare time will be a major factor in the future, but I hope to grab an extra pair of Harvard hockey tickets and take the kids to a game now and then.

Now, my two cents: College sports in Boston has gained a unique place in the sporting culture of the town - which is very loyal and pro sports-centric. The Red Sox have become the fabric that binds the region. The Red Sox have unconditional love and attention from the fans. Period. As a sport or sports marketer, they have hit the holy grail.

The Patriots, with a winning team - make that a well-deserved dynasty - are enjoying a tremendous and lengthy ride of popularity. The Celtics, while a major player for Boston's all-time love affair with the sport of basketball, have experienced a down-tick since the 1986 title team, but are primed for a new period of notoriety. The Bruins are solidly an 'also-ran' but have made strides (see Cam Neeley) and are trying to compete in the deep, deep competition that is pro sports in Boston.

Colleges? There are plenty as we all know. BC football commands considerable attention and respect. On the NCAA basketball scene, BC dropped from the popular BIG East and jumped over to the bigtime as its currently completes, as it does in football, in the ACC. Great, great basketball.

There are tons of others - BU is among the best in college hockey; Harvard has its Ivy League and a network of alum all behind their efforts in football and hockey, but have never commanded a bit of attention on the hardwood basketball court. Hiring Duke's Tommy Amaker is a nice step, but they haven't done a blessed thing to try to grab some attention outside of the Cambridge campus structure.

I could go on and on .. Northeastern competes on a pretty high level, while the rest of the local colleges especially Wellesley in women's sports - all deserve respect and coverage in the media.

All that said - Boston is a sports marketing dream come true. It enjoys a ton of activity, a ton of competition and some very active local sponsors - see Bank of America, John Hancock, among many, many others.

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