Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: September 2011
I seem to be returning back to to the world of the blog. Apologies for the relative silence, but life’s been really busy, and something had to give. I decided it was better for the blog to take a break than for me to jump off a bridgeâ€¦.
It’s been a strange year so far. After myÂ May trip to Yosemite, I knew I was going to go into a busy time as we prepared to ship the TouchPad, and so I figured free time was going to be sparse. I was right, plus I just felt worn out, so as it turns out, I only picked up the camera once between May and August, and it’s only been since mid-August that I’ve been trying to get out and bird and shoot again on any kind of schedule.
One thing I hadn’t planned on was that the TouchPad sales would be as challenged as they were. One thing I definitely did not expect was that our CEO would blow up our division and send it out behind the shed to be shot, only to later see the board take our CEO out behind the shed and shoot him as well (footnote 1). To say it’s created a bit of a chaotic and stressful time for people within the webOS world — well, that’s no surprise to anyone, right? And a week ago, they laid off a chunk of the webOS family (but I and Developer Relations are intact; still, it’s never fun, and it’s not easy for anyone).
We’re still waiting to hear how all of this is going to settle out, but I’m now sort of in a holding pattern until I hear more. Â So it’s gone from acute stress to chronic minor stress.
On top of that, mom decided she needed to replace her computer, which meant a couple of weeks of pulling the hardware and software together, getting it all set up, and then a pair of trips down to SoCal to set it all up and get her running on it (and then going back down to fix the Wifi network and a few things that didn’t work right the first time).
I’d been thinking of taking a bit of time off and going somewhere quiet to recharge the batteries, but the SoCal trips fixed that. right now, not exactly sure when I’ll get a chance to pull some time off, so I’ve been trying to do other things to recharge the batteries (like avoid the blog, not stress over writing, etcâ€¦.). And now, the fall weather is hitting the Oregon Coast, and I’m not sure whether it’d make sense to head that way as I was thinking, or if I’d spend the trip watching it rain from the hotel room. Hmm.
Oh, and the dishwasher retired. We have a new one, a Bosch, which we really like. and me knee and I had a bit of a fight, but I finally declared a draw. Which sort of made going on the trip mythical for a whileâ€¦.
So it’s been a crazy year, now finally settling down into a dull noise (I hope). at least pending the next corporate restructuring. Until then, I’ve started getting out and walking again, I’ve started carrying the camera again, I’ve been spending time in Lightroom again, and birding, and now I’m finally feeling like I have the time and energy to support writing regularly for the blog againâ€¦. We’ll see how well I do. No backlog of articles to buffer a busy day, but plenty of things I want to write about.
We’ll see how it goes. but if aliens beamed down and destroyed corporate HQ tomorrow, I don’t think I’d be surprised at this point.
(footnote 1: no, really. we didn’t shoot him. we drove him out to the farm where he can run free and be happy with all of the other corporate CEOs that have lost their jobs to major compensation payouts; payouts which, I note for the record, the 500 ex-webOS staffers didn’t getâ€¦ combined).
Some unexpected news this week in the sports world hit our email when the ECHL announced that they were adding a team starting next year in San Francisco, to be known as the San Francisco Bulls. They’ll be playing in the Cow Palace, which is actually in Daly City. Jon Swenson at Sharkspage has the background on all of this.
This seems to be the new home of the long-hibernating Reno team last seen as the Renegades of the WCHL, a league that has since merged into the ECHL. This will be the first return of hockey to the Cow Palace since the San Francisco Spiders played there in their one season of existence in 1995-1996.
To Laurie and myself, trying to move hockey back into the Cow Palace seems a curious choice. We are probably the two people who’ve watched more hockey in the Cow Palace than anyone alive, having not only been original Sharks season ticket holders for both of the seasons the Sharks played there, but on staff with the Spiders as their Webmasters, and as most of the Spiders home games that year. Laurie, in fact, likely has the largest file of Spiders photos in existence, not that anyone cares or wants them, since she was doing a lot of the photography for the web site.
This is a tough venue in a tough market. Our motto back when we were working with the Spiders was “It’s a pit, but it’s OUR pit”, which kinda sums up the Cow Palace. The sight lines are tough, the building is — it has character — the location is tough with bad transit options and parking is expensive in comparison to the expected ticket prices, and the food will suck (I guarantee it). On warm days, the building tends to have an — ambience — to it because of its agricultural heritage.
We remember the place fondly, but I don’t think we’d be in a hurry to put a team in there. Thinking about it, though, there aren’t many options available.
The ECHL has wanted to go back to Reno for a while, but it seems the Renegades bankruptcy has made getting a venue there tough. Other than the Cow Palace, the only options are Oakland (sharing with the Warriors) or Sacramento (sharing with the Kings), both venues being too big and expensive for ECHL, assuming either is interested in having a second tenant. And the Arco Arena also sucks for hockey.
Fresno has two arenas, the old Selland arena downtown, and the newer Savemart arena. The latter’s not a bad place for hockey and has nice sight lines. The ECHL was there previously with the Falcons, but the Falcons left Savemart and moved back to Selland, then failed. Selland is in a bad part of town and not a good facility; it’s unclear if Savemart got tired of the team or too expensive (I’m guessing the latter), but it just looks like Fresno can’t support an ECHL team in this economy.
One other arena option is in Long Beach, where the IHL and later the ECHL had the Ice Dogs. It’s actually a rather nice facility, but hockey never drew well there. We had some minor involvement with the old IHL Ice Dogs as well, hosting their web site for a friend who ran it, and Laurie did some photography down there when we took in games in that facility.
So maybe San Francisco is the best of a set of bad options for minor league hockey here on the west coast. I do wish them luck.
Minor league sports is a tough sell here in the Bay Area. The San Jose Giants have made it work, but the team is going to find it difficult to get media coverage; with two MLB teams, two NFL teams, an NHL team and two NBA teams in the greater bay area, plus Stanford and Cal as Div I college and the Earthquakes in soccer, there isn’t going to be much interest in covering a minor hockey team here. The Spiders fought hard for any coverage at all, and things haven’t exactly gotten better in the print media world in the last 15 years. Broadcast media is even worse, and it took the Spiders half a season to even get a radio outlet for games, and that outlet was one step above broadcasting using a walkie-talkie out of someone’s basement.
For this to work, the team is going to have to work hard at marketing and be willing to spend to get noticed, because there isn’t going to be a lot of cooperation in the media with free publicity. With the Spiders, we found if we could get people to a game or two, they tended to come back; getting them to that first game without massive ticket giveaways was tough, and if you give away too many tickets, you set the expectation that you don’t need to buy seats, you just wait for the next free giveaway. it’s a tough dance; the Spiders ownership ended up not having the commitment to invest in the team to make it work; when attendance didn’t thrive early, instead of investing more into marketing, they started cutting losses, and that put the team into a death spiral. The new owners are going to have to be willing to lose money to start, work hard to attract their audience, and expect it to take 2-3 years to build that audience to make it profitable.
It’s a down economy, but in the last 15 years since the Spiders the Sharks have done a nice job of building a grass roots hockey community; there are lots of people playing hockey in the Bay Area, and if the Bulls market and create a family atmosphere, they can draw off of that. Tying into the youth and amateur leagues gives them a hook into a market the Spiders didn’t have. That’s certainly one thing I’d focus on if I were involved here.
Even then, I’m not convinced this market can support a minor hockey team. The Sharks were never happy with the Spiders showing up, and I can’t see that they’ll be thrilled with the Bulls, so I tend to think it’ll be tough for them to get any kind of player affiliation with an NHL team, and they can’t expect any marketing cross-promotion or help from the Sharks (if I were the Sharks, though, I’d want to see this as an opportunity, a place to stick kids in the system where they’re easy to watch and coach, and a way to help foster the fan base by creating a new price point for fans priced out of the NHL in a way that’ll generate interest over the long term).
I hope the Bulls succeed.Â You can bet we’ll show up for a game or two (at least), just to see how it looks. Maybe we’ll be able to get our original seats back again for the third team at the old “Palais du Boeff”. In any event, this is an interesting experiment, one we’re going to watch and see what happens.