Take a Kings fan and a Ducks fan. Mix in a ton of passion, professionalism and an audio studio. Put all of it together and you have the Puck Podcast—one of the best hockey podcasts on the net. Eddie Garcia and Doug Stolhand have joined forces to not only create one of the best shows for your iPod; but they’ve also created one of the best social communities in the hockey world on their Facebook site. In the last day of our “NHL in the Social Media World” series, Eddie and Doug have graciously stopped by to answer some questions about their 3 years of podcasting and the community that they’ve helped build.
You recently celebrated your 3 year anniversary on the Puck Podcast. Over that time, you’ve seen the show become one of the best hockey podcasts on the internet (as well as becoming the featured hockey podcast for Fox Sports). Did you guys ever expect this kind of success when you started? What WERE your goals when you started the show 3 years ago?
Eddie: I never thought about a goal as far as numbers of listeners. I just hoped that those who did listen felt it was a quality show that was done professionally and was both informative and entertaining. Based on the feedback we have received, I feel the show has been a huge success.
Doug: I did not expect this kind of success, mainly because I didn’t really expect anything. Eddie and I started this show because we wanted to do something to help promote the sport of hockey and to give it the same type of coverage that many other sports enjoyed. I had no idea who would listen, how we would promote the show or how long we would do this. We simply started doing a show and took it week by week. There was no master plan, no goals of listener numbers or website hits – it was simply two guys who loved hockey and who wanted to do a show that allowed them to talk hockey together.
One of the best aspects of the Puck Podcast is your interaction with the fans on your Facebook group. Was it a conscience decision to include the fans and encourage interaction? Were the Facebook and MySpace communities just something that happened or something that you actively try to cultivate?
Eddie: I definitely wanted to have as much interaction with our fans as possible. I read ever e-mail and I’d say I respond to about 99% of them. Even if it’s just a quick, “Thanks for listening”. I became a big fan of Facebook and it just seemed like a no brainer as far as promoting the show and interaction with fans who use Facebook as well as Myspace and Twitter.
Doug: It was not a conscience decision on my part, it was simply a natural way to interact with fans. I love to interact with fans and to hear their passion, insight and ideas about both hockey and the show. Facebook is an easy way for me to keep in touch with fans and to talk hockey with them. I’ve had many fans via Facebook, played against fans in NHL 10 over the Xbox Live and met fans in NHL arenas. That stuff comes naturally to me and I hope I am always able to interact with fans via the internet and in person.
Obviously Social Media has exploded in the time between Puck Podcast’s inception and today. How has the ability of listeners to communicate with you guys changed your show? You always have a certain “openness” that comes across in the show—but it’s almost like a chicken/egg situation. Did you guys become open to get more listeners? Or did the listeners and their ideas MAKE you become more open?
Eddie: We use things like Facebook to make sure our fans have a voice on the show. We encouraged listeners to interact with us, not to get more listeners but to get different opinions. One thing that’s great about things like Facebook is you get almost instantaneous feedback. If Phil Kessel gets traded all I need to do is go on Facebook and ask for reactions. It doesn’t take long to have several good opinions that we can use on the show.
Doug: I think we’ve always been open, the social networking sites just makes it easier and more convenient. Before Facebook and Twitter came around we had Eddie’s answering machine in his apartment and we encouraged fans to call and leave messages. We’ve always actively encouraged fans to get a hold of us whatever way they can and now it’s just much easier for that to happen.
Another part of the show that separates Puck Podcast from most of the other podcasts is the quality of guests you are able to interview. You’ve been able to expose some great writers from all over the U.S. to a new audience. Is that something you give any thought towards or are you simply trying to find someone relevant to a particular topic?
Eddie: I think we are just trying to find someone that is closer to the situation and knows more than we do. If you get a beat writer that covers a team on a daily basis, someone that goes to practices and goes into the locker rooms, they are obviously going to know more then someone who just watches games on TV or reads the occasional blog. It’s all about being as informative and accurate as possible. Now that we are making a big attempt to include GMs, coaches and players I think it helps our credibility quite a bit.
Doug: I give a lot of thought to that because I want to bring not only good reporters and good opinions to the show, but I also want to recognize and reward people that do good work. The people that we interview or have as guests are people that we support and who’s work we enjoy. Michael Russo, Craig Custance, Eric Duhatschek, Doc Emrick, Sam Rosen…these are all people who do a job that I enjoy a great deal and it’s a thrill for me to be able to talk with them. I hope that our interviews are able to bring those people some more exposure and that fans check out their work online, or in the case of guys like Emrick and Rosen, that people get to hear their personality a bit more than they do when they are on the air.
The recent access we’ve gotten to NHL GM’s and head coaches has been great because that’s a chance to interview a very exclusive group of people and to bring their opinions, insight and personality directly to the listeners. I take pride in my ability to conduct a good interview and to get more than just clichés from these men and I think we’ve been able to do that so far. I hope that continues for years to come.
While your Facebook group has a wonderful community, the bread and butter of the operation is the actual podcast. Clearly, the two of you have enjoyed a level of success that most podcasters never get to experience. What do YOU think is the future of podcasting and the world of hockey? Can you see mainstream media trying to get into the act a little more or do you think it will always be driven by individuals and fans (i.e. blogging)?
Eddie: The entire reason we started the Puck Podcast was because of our frustration with the lack of NHL coverage in the mainstream media. I don’t imagine most TV, radio or newspapers are going to suddenly start giving the league the attention we think it deserves, so podcasting can certainly help fill the void. I think individuals and fans will still be the driving force behind things like podcasts but where I think it’s going to take off is individual teams producing their own shows.
Doug: I think podcasting is a big part of the future of sports media and that it will continue to grow. I think within five years every major sports team will have an official podcast and I think many players will have podcasts. I also think that it’s a great way for fans to get information and access to teams, leagues, players and ideas that they would otherwise never have access to. The interesting thing will be to see how much the NHL itself does because it has a great opportunity to get out in front and lead the sports world in this area and I hope they take advantage.
Mainstream media is definitely going to get involved in podcasting and I think they will cherry pick the best of the podcasts to purchase and use to promote their products, but I think the best of the podcasts will always be the raw, unfiltered stuff that comes straight from the fans themselves. You can hear genuine passion in the voices of fans as they talk about their favorite teams and sports and that’s always more interesting to listen to than some host going over the talking points of the day as determined by some executive who is more interested in cross-promotion and synergy than he is in producing a good show. Eddie and I have no affiliation with anyone and no obligation to anyone so we are able to talk about whatever we want, whenever we want. We can criticize any network, team, person or media outlet without having to worry about getting fired and that’s a good thing because it allows us to always be honest. That’s something I enjoy and which I hope never changes.
Lastly, an actual hockey question for you. Who’s the better winger? Teemu Selanne or Luc Robitaille?
Eddie: Well, clearly it’s Luc. Despite being drafted in the 9th round the soon to be Hall of Famer is the highest scoring left winger in the history of the NHL, a former rookie of the year, an 8-time all-star and the Kings all-time leader in goals. He is now the Kings President of Business Operations, is the driving force behind several charities, has a HOT wife and who could forget his memorable performance in the movie Sudden Death when he scored the game tying goal on a breakaway to force….Sudden Death!
Doug: Luc Robitaille scored more goals than any other left winger in history but there’s no doubt Teemu Selanne is the better player. He’s faster, has a better shot and his goal celebrations blow Lucky Luc out of the water.
Thanks for including us and best wishes.
Here are all of the interviews from The NHL in the Social Media World series. If you have any interest whatsoever, you should check out what everyone had to say. Each guest comes from a different perspective, has a different area of expertise and brings something different to the table!
Interview with Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy
Interview with Dani Muccio of NHLTweetUp
Interview with Jennifer Leggio of ZDnet
Interview with Buddy Oakes of PredsOnTheGlass
Interview with Eddie Garcia and Doug Stohland from Puck Podcast