Feschuk: It’s all about the fans…

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether your arena’s horn is loud enough to wake the dead.

Before each NHL game, there is a conversation among those in charge of the arena’s in-game production. From what I’ve seen as a fan, this is how it goes.

Big home game tonight.

Let’s go through our entire operation, top to bottom, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to enhance the experience for our fans.
It’s all about the fan experience.

Have we instructed our in-house camera operators to focus obsessively on hot young women?

Have we created a “Make Some Noise” graphic we can overuse to generate a sudden, incongruous and ultimately pointless burst of sound that will dissipate the split second the puck is dropped?

Where are we in terms of providing underwhelming on-ice entertainment between periods?
Nothing tastes quite like an ice-cold hot dog fired at you from a novelty bazooka!

Let’s talk music. It’s so important that we play just the right mix. I want music from the 1980s that people in the 1980s dismissed as “too 1980s.” I want death-metal guitar riffs that penetrate the dark places in our soul and make us dream only of murder. I want electronic music so bombastic and insipid that it provokes a grown man to doubt the existence of a caring God, disown his family and wander the streets in a blind rage, punching at the air and howling at the moon.
Well, we’ve only got about 13 seconds before each faceoff, so I guess: Skrillex?

And don’t forget to play it at a volume that makes fans feel as though their brains are being kicked in the face.
It’s all about the fans.

Any word from the sponsorship department? Last game, we had a sponsor for each goal and a sponsor for the last minute of each period, but we didn’t have a sponsor for offsides, shots on goal…
Stop right there. Eight words: “This icing brought to you by Patty’s Cupcakes.” I’ll make a call.

I almost forgot: Did we hire a new in-game host yet? We need someone to ask dead-easy trivia questions, promote the upcoming Bryan Adams concert a couple hundred times and otherwise ensure that the 19,000 people who come to this building tonight are never once alone with their thoughts.
It wasn’t easy. We interviewed a bunch of super-qualified people with normal voices, all of whom are entirely capable of doing the job with ease. So we really had to go out of our way to instead hire a pretty young person with a voice so shrill that it causes dogs in surrounding neighbourhoods to commit arson. My coffee cup actually shattered during the audition. And my coffee cup was made of Styrofoam.

I’m assuming this person’s voice rises in such a way that every sentence sounds like a question?
Sure does? 

Speaking of which: I have a concern about the horn sound effect we blow every time our team scores. I’m a little worried that, despite our best efforts, the horn may not be quite loud enough to wake the dead.
Fair point. But if we turn up the volume any further, there’s a good chance some of our elderly patrons will quite literally soil themselves on the spot. 

How do we know…
Let’s just say we ran some tests. 

Allow me to spitball a solution: We turn Section 316 into the Depends Zone. Or how about instead of making the horn louder, we just leave it on longer?
Everyone loves 38 straight seconds of yacht horn!

Looks like we’re ready for action. Can you believe people used to come to NHL games when the only entertainment was an organ player, the cheering of their fellow fans and the game itself?
The what?

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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