Valerie Camillo is the President of Business Operations for the Philadelphia Flyers.
She wrote an op-ed for The Hockey News that touches on the importance of going back to pre-COVID policy and allowing reporters back into NHL locker rooms. It’s a pretty good read, and I clipped some portions here:
Given the difficult circumstances we’ve faced these past few years, interviews and press conferences conducted virtually have sufficed as a temporary measure. But the fact is that when reporters and columnists can’t speak face to face with players and coaches, something fundamental is lost, and it just isn’t the same. It’s not the same for players and coaches who want to explain to trusted reporters what they’re working on and candidly discuss the team’s successes and challenges. It’s not the same for the members of the media who put in the hard work of building relationships and trust that can only be established in person. And most importantly, it’s not the same for our fans, who aren’t able to get to know their favorite players’ personalities beyond the game highlights and too-often-bland post-game press conferences. Both the NHL and individual clubs are marketing players in new and creative ways, but there’s no denying that reporters and columnists bring a different, crucial perspective that fans crave.
We should do the same, and we have to resist the unspoken but unmistakable preference by some in our sport to push away the cameras and reporters while scoffing at the role they play in creatively marketing and engaging fans in our players and our game. We can’t dismiss media access as an annoyance or a distraction – that simply won’t work for our sport anymore…
But make no mistake, we need to market our sport, our league and our players more than ever before. League-wide, attendance hasn’t fully rebounded yet, and we need to reconnect fans with the incredible experience of live hockey. Plus, in an ever-diversifying media market, we’re competing for attention, clicks and eyeballs every day, and we can’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to bringing attention and passion to hockey. At the end of the day, that’s what drives attendance, viewership and our ability to continue growing the game.
I’m in the minority of people who think the media belongs nowhere near the locker room, since it’s not our place. It’s a private area where athletes prep for games, walk around half-naked, etc. Give us that access in a different form and we’re good.
But most other scribes disagree with me, and it’s nice to see Camillo speak to the importance of this as being beneficial for the Flyers and NHL. The league does need to market itself. It competes with the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, etc, for a portion of the singular sports fan attention pie. Here in Philly, the Flyers often get the least amount of attention among the “four major sports,” and if you listen to the radio it’s like the team doesn’t exist.
Right now, most NHL teams are not doing locker room access, which is the same for the NBA as well. Baseball club houses reopened and I believe the NFL is going re-open locker rooms this coming season.
When you provide this access, maybe you pull better stories, or get better answers to questions, or develop relationships you can’t develop on Zoom. Maybe you get face-to-face interaction that helps address beef, before it culminates, for example, in a player calling a reporter a weasel who writes “fucking shit.” Regardless of how you feel about the media or individual members of said media, pushing for more Flyers stories, quotes, availability, etc – that can only lead to positive things in keeping the team relevant and keeping the city engaged.