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Ten Things We Want To See this Season #3: Let’s talk fan videos

Sometimes being a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning simply needs to be celebrated.

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Ten Things We Want to See is a series of articles we’re running on Raw Charge that look at ten things that we, the staff, would like to see happen during the 2018-19 season. It represents our hopes, our fears, and our wildest dreams for this coming season. We hope to be able to look back next summer and check off that each one happened.

One of my favorite parts of sports fandom is the excited creativity of the fanbase around it. Remember the 2014-15 season when the Tampa Bay Lightning got all the way to the Cup final? One of the best parts of that run was the fanworks that celebrated it. For example, remember 94.1 creating a whole different take on Uptown Funk? (Uptown Puck!)

Something we can always use more of every season are fan videos of this team we love. Hype videos, season highlights, light-hearted interviews, whatever. And not just from the fanbase (we do a fine job), but from the Tampa Bay Lightning organization too.

All through our Stanley Cup Final season (2014-2015), in-arena reporter Michelle Gingras gave us her own take on fan videos. Caley Chelios and the rest of the staff do well nowadays, but Gingras provided us with some extremely wacky content that I would love to see return. Yes, the organization creates lovely montages like Victor Hedman mic’d up at the NHL awards, but remember the corn maze where we learned that Andrej Sustr is one corn stalk high? Or that time when Alex Killorn and Jason Garrison visited a haunted house (the video for this might be removed)? More of that, please.

Could TBL take notes from the NHL?

The NHL does well at keeping things light during the season. Every media day and All-Star Game, they take the time to ask top players a range of questions. They publish the results in video form at different points during the season. Nowadays, they hide it halfway down their right website navbar under “viral videos,” and the content ranges from “What kind of pet do you like best?” (the answer is borrrrring), to “who has the worst tape job?” (the answer is less boring), to “what are your hockey pet peeves?” (TyJo is at the 32 second mark).

During the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have one big day where they answer an important question unrelated to hockey, too, and it’s during the gameday right before the Super Bowl. This has been going on for years, and I always find the segment fun, no matter how wrong the guesses are. I’d love to see more of this, especially if it’s as easy as sliding a question in after morning skate.

Could TBL learn from Canada?

Canadian media does a pretty good job of hyping up the smallest thing that hockey players do. Perhaps this is because the sport is otherwise so regulated by unwritten rules of hockey society that nobody gets to show much personality, but the second they do, Canadian press is all over it. For example, Toronto Maple Leafs players sure do play fortnight.

The Montreal Canadiens have an entire video playlist entitled “The Lighter Side” that features their mascot Youppi (what is it though) doing various activities around town. They also have a great recurring feature called “The Duel” that features two of your least favorite Atlantic Division players facing off against each other in all kinds of non-hockey challenges, and the best part is that one of them always loses!

The Maple Leafs carefully frame fan expectations of the team via videos that reveal the inner workings of the organization in a series entitled The Leaf Blueprint. The propaganda machine is strong in this series, and was especially effective during their “tank for first overall” season, where they had to celebrate each victory while treading lightly over loss after loss. One recurring theme that season was Mike Babcock’s overvoice repeating, “There will be pain.”

Once the Leafs fandom got used to the idea of the constant pain of loss during a losing season, the fanbase felt hopeful rather than disheartened by the end of it. Managing expectations is everything — and perhaps why instead of feeling happy that the Lightning are a top-four team in the league, we all feel disgruntled that we aren’t at a Cup parade. Tampa Bay Lightning media, would you guys consider making a documentary series of this nature, to better support the fanbase’s understanding of how difficult it is to even make the Eastern Conference Final?

Could TBL snitch ideas from the Syracuse Crunch?

[This part is by Alex!]

The Lightning and their fans have shown that they can produce great videos when the inspiration strikes. But what if they didn’t have to go far for such inspiration? What if the organization only had to look, oh, about 1,267.5 miles to the north?

The Syracuse Crunch is, of course, Tampa’s AHL farm team. During the past few seasons, the Crunch has done a ton of work improving their promotional video work, and their efforts have paid off. Their lip sync videos were shared far and wide - including a re-tweet by Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys.

The series helped the team win the AHL’s award for Digital Excellence in 2017. This past season, the team hit another home run with their lockeroom karaoke battles, a series of videos that earned them the 2018 AHL award for Unique Social Media Promotion.

Both series of videos had one major thing in common: They showed fans a different side of the guys on the team. They were good because they were fun, unique, and well-produced, but they were beloved because fans got to see guys like Kristers Gudlevskis show off his unexpected dancing abilities, Daniel Walcott display a much different persona than he does on the ice, and guys like Erik Condra be silly. The voting element to the karaoke battles was also a fun aspect that directed people to the Crunch’s website, a smart idea in a world of people who use social media to keep up.

Walcott is normally viewed as a tough cookie, a guy who can switch back and forth between defenseman and forward without breaking a sweat while also showing off his football background. But in these videos, fans got to see such a different side of him:

Gudlevskis was always seen as the epitome of “The Goalie,” a quiet, solitary type that fans weren’t really sure they knew. This was why his performance in “Born to be Alive” was so awesome:

Former Crunch captain Condra was also usually very serious and intense on the ice, which is why watching his antics - and seeing his reactions to Reid McNeil’s performance - was so funny:

There were many other players fans got to know through these videos, which really added to the family feeling the Crunch has been focused on creating lately.

Finally, one more video. In 2016-17, the unlikely group of players that made up the Crunch took fans on a wild ride that ended two victories short of a championship. The team and many of the players from that squad took some time at the end just to simply say thank you to the fans. It was a highlight video combined with appreciation, and it was a gesture that touched many who had watched the team grow and change all season:

Fans, let’s keep doing what we do

But back to the fans! During the most recent playoff run, our excellent r/tampabaylightning reddit crew posted a thread asking for people’s favorite hype videos. One guy say, “i got a whole ****ing playlist,” and shared it — great stuff, go check it out.

Here are some of my own favorite videos:

The Triplets became a league-wide story in the Cup final season, and a fan created a video about them:

This past season might have had a disappointing end, but fans came through:

There is an amazing guy who has continued to put out goal videos with Dave Mishkin’s excellent calls over them:

How about your favorites? Please share!