It is hard to believe that it wasn’t that long ago when the Portland Winterhawks were lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.
In 2007-08, the Winterhawks won 11 games. The next season, they won 19.
Last spring, you’ll recall, they reached the WHL’s championship final. Last month, they watched as 15 players off that roster departed for NHL camps.
And now the Winterhawks have taken a step off the ice that is just as impressive as what they accomplished on the ice last season.
If you missed it, the Winterhawks have announced the launching of “a dedicated online network that will host all live game broadcasts for this season at winterhawks.com using an audio player powered by live365.com.”
Understand that this isn’t an ESPN channel or anything like that. But, geez Louise, this is major junior hockey . . .
“Along with the games, the Winterhawks will use the online network to broadcast team-related content 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the news release continues. “Fans can find the station by visiting winterhawks.com and clicking the ‘Listen Live’ link at the top of the page.
“Among the content on the team’s network will be podcasts, roundtable discussions, interviews with players and coaches, replays of recent and classic games, and much more. Live365.com includes apps that allow listeners to tune in on their smartphones in case they aren’t near a computer.”
Think about it for a minute. . . . A major junior hockey team providing fans with access to it on a 24/7 basis! That is almost mind-numbing.
“The idea for a Winterhawks.com Radio Network is about two years in the making and we are very excited about being able to finally roll it out this season,” Kelley Robinett, Portland’s senior vice-president of marketing and operations, wrote in an email. “We knew all along that streaming would allow us to provide fans with unprecedented access to our games, player interviews and features about the team.
“However, we needed to get to a point where we were comfortable with the streaming technology and delivery methods to the fans. The explosion of both high-speed Internet in the home and Internet connected smartphones has finally made this possible.”
The Winterhawks continue to have a radio deal with Freedom 970 and the Alpha family of stations and have put together a Friday night package — they play 23 Friday games. However, the Winterhawks have learned that many of their fans are listening to the radio station via an online stream or tracking scores on their smartphones.
“In launching the network, we take control of the stream content (24/7) and provide our smartphone users with access to the broadcast feed,” Robinett continued.
And what is the objective?
The Winterhawks, according to Robinett, want “to continually push new and relevant content to the fans each week.”
The Winterhawks also announced that the legendary Dean (Scooter) Vrooman will be more involved than he has been in recent seasons, which is the best news of all for veteran hockey fans in the Portland area.
As well, Todd Vrooman (yes, he is Scooter’s son) and Andy Kemper have switched roles — Vrooman will be the play-by-play voice, while Kemper provides analysis at home games and some road assignments.
Todd Vrooman, I’m told, has been part of putting together this entire 24/7 package for the last two years. He also now is a full-time employee of the Winterhawks as their communications manager. He is responsible for all content on the team’s live365.com station.
The two Vroomans and Kemper, along with veteran broadcaster John Kirby, will be involved in round-table discussions, feature interviews, etc.
“Todd has been outfitted with an iPad that he can use to record, edit and upload interviews from the team bus,” Robinett explained. “Andy records his show from a home office and some of the round-table discussions are literally recorded from the round dining-room tables of our broadcasters homes!
“As we get more and more comfortable with the technology we will explore call-in, text-in or even tweet-in live shows — both studio and on-location. Needless to say, we are pretty excited.”
And, finally, Robinett notes that “the live365 smartphone app is a big key to the success of this network. Two new videos are available now on YouTube that show Android and iPhone users how to download the app and connect to the Winterhawks.com Radio Network. We know that there will be some growing pains as people make the transition so we want to make it as simple as possible.”
As Graham Kendrick, the Winterhawks’ director of media and public relations, noted: “We’re really excited about this new venture. It’s going to be a lot of fun and our fans will love all the new content. This network on live365.com allows us to broadcast whatever we want, whenever we want. And with no subscription cost to fans, the content is free to whoever wants it.”
Robinett also sent along a couple of addresses for those YouTube clips:
Android: Right here.
iPhone: Right here.
“In the coming months,” he added, “we will launch our own app across the Android, iPhone and Blackberry networks that will incorporate live audio, on-demand audio and, eventually, links to video highlights.”
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