Penguins Are Losing Focus on What’s Important

“Just Win, Baby.”

  • Al Davis – late owner of the Oakland Raiders

In the world of sports, no truer words have ever been spoken.

Al Davis knew the recipe for success in the business of professional athletics. In the mid-70’s through the mid-80’s, his Raiders were the scariest organization on the planet. Because they were mean, they were nasty, and they were the best at those two things. And all because of those three little words.


As a professional sports franchise, winning should be all that matters. However, there are some owners among the four major sports leagues of North America who value the almighty dollar over this trait.

What they fail to understand is that winning leads to more butts in the seats, which leads to more money.

Sports franchises are businesses to those who own and run them, and making money is of the utmost importance to these men and women.

There are two facets through which to make money: the logo and the brand. The logo is ultimately what puts those butts in the seats through ticket sales. Its the product on the field, or in our case with hockey, on the ice. The logo accounts for the majority of money made.

Lets face it, look at teams like the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders. Presently these are considered less-than-successful franchises, and their ticket sales show it.

The brand meanwhile, is how the general public perceives an organization. It can help drive merchandise sales which also plays a major role in income. But the brand runs deeper than that. The brand includes a team’s website, its presence in social media, and its interaction with the public through charitable events and appearances.

After some consideration in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dismissal of GM Ray Shero, I’ve come to the conclusion that the line between logo and brand is becoming distorted for this hockey franchise.

Morehouse’s work.

The Penguins’ Brand

Under the guidance of team President and CEO David Morehouse, the Pens have adopted a very aggressive approach to its marketing strategies as well as its perception in the public eye.

Morehouse has instituted a number of public relations events such as having the players deliver season tickets to the fans, which has been a huge success (and quite exciting if you happen to be one of the lucky fans).

And I constantly see pictures of different Penguins players making appearances at the UPMC Children’s Hospital and Childrens’ Institute of Pittsburgh, putting smiles on kids’ faces who usually don’t have too much smile about.

The brand even includes the design of the Penguins’ website, from the colors to the font to its navigation.

All of these things are designed with the idea in mind of drawing in the fan, and making him or her want more.

This is a direct quote off the Penguins website from Morehouse’s profile:

– Since Morehouse was named President in April, 2007, the Penguins have reshaped their image and strategic vision with an emphasis on branding, fan relations, youth marketing, community interaction, corporate outreach and innovative technology.

It goes even deeper.

Have you been to a Pens game in the last seven or eight years? Notice the music thats playing? That’s all part of it. Its all designed with one thing in mind: to suck you in.

In layman’s terms, they want to brainwash you to a degree. No, the Pens aren’t trying to send you subliminal signals to buy a certain type of ice cream, or to make RC Cola your cola of choice.

But think of the focus that is put on the sellout streak (a streak which may very well come to end next season if the higher-ups don’t play their cards right). What they’re hoping for is for fans to take pride in the streak, and not wanting to see it end more so than coming to the games for the product on the ice.

I’m not saying that they’re trying to distract you from what’s on the ice, but…

The logo should always be the highest priority.
The logo should always be the highest priority.

The Penguins Logo

In my world, this is what its all about.

The Logo.

There’s an old saying in hockey that you play for the logo on the front of the sweater, not the name on the back of it.

If you take a tour of Consol Energy Center and you’re fortunate enough to see the locker room, there are explicit instructions NOT to step on the logo in the center of the room. Every die-hard hockey fan knows this.

The logo is what the GM’s primary focus is. Its his job to build a team that is capable of going out and winning, night after night. The logo, quite simply, is the main product to which fans should devote the all of their energy and passion.

Ultimately its the logo, and the work that is put in to making what’s behind it a better product, that will win the Stanley Cup.

I fear the Penguins have lost sight of that.

The Fallout From Last Friday

The Penguins needed a fall guy, and Ray Shero was their man.

However, its what WAS NOT said (that was reported no more than an hour earlier by every hockey writer who follows the Penguins to some degree) at that fateful press conference that has me most troubled.

Dan Bylsma, the one guy on whom all Pens fans could agree should not return next season, was somehow inexplicably retained.

This goes to tell me that the Penguins, like a well-oiled political machine, are controlling the narrative out of their campaign.

This is particularly disturbing because politicians (by the way, politics are Morehouse’s background, not hockey) aren’t interested in the truth. They’re sole interest is whatever will help them achieve their agenda and get people in their corner.

Co-owner Mario Lemieux is the hockey guy at the top. Ron Burkle, until last friday anyway, was simply the money, and Morehouse was the guy in charge of just about everything off the ice.

Morehouse delivered the news to the gathered media at Consol Energy Center and the fans either watching on tv, via the internet or listening on the radio that Shero had been let go, and Bylsma had not. Considering his background, pretty scary stuff from the guy who oversees most of the Penguins’ operation, and word is he wants more power through a say in hockey operations.

Thats like me wanting a say in the South African space program.

Bottom line, the Penguins seem to be losing grip on what’s most important. It seems as though, from every news article and tweet from trusted sources that I read, the politicians in power within the Pens organization are the ones wielding the biggest stick.

A bit of advice for those in the biggest offices: the best approach is the simplest approach.

Just win, baby.


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2 thoughts on “Penguins Are Losing Focus on What’s Important”

  1. Also, I guess the Pittsburgh Penguins are supposed to be the only professional sports franchise who has to do their business in public.. They also should be the only franchise who isn’t worried about making money. The Pens would be much better off if they didn’t care about making money. The only issue with that is in your next article would be majorly disappointed about the Pens being a cap floor team instead of a cap ceiling team. Yes the GM job is the LOGO and Shero failed at that over the last 3 years, miserably.. He dented their future in 2013 only to watch his coach misuse a HOF bc the coach was too worried about being the players buddy. Morehouse job is to worry about the brand and if you’re trying to say he’s done a poor job you’re crazy considering the Pens spike in popularity in this town. After all I would think since the Pens have the highest local tv ratings out of any US based NHL or NBA team over the last 3 seasons that’s a pretty clear indication that the brand and the product are both doing quite well. Morehouse wants more say in hockey operations? Who said this? Did you hear it first hand or are you relying on the Pensblog who relied on a TSN reporter for that news? Maybe just maybe Lemieux wants more say and since he isn’t one for talking to the media he’ll use Morehouse as the scapegoat. The CEO should have say in some stuff but if you bloggers or media minds think that Morehouse will be putting together an NHL roster you’re all fools, lol..

  2. This site MUST BE A TOTAL JOKE HUH? WTF IS THIS ARTICLE? First off how about some proof reading bc ” they’re sole interest” makes ZERO sense you should have said their.. Obviously to write on here you just have to be a part-time fan and not part of the ” real media” bc you’re basing a lot of your opinion on what you have gathered second hand on social media. That pretty much correlates into hack journalism 101.. In case you lived under a rock or were an oblivious from 1984 until 2001 the Pens had 1 of the 2 best players in the NHL during that time frame. It was Lemieux for the better part of the 80’s and 90’s – him and 99- and it was Jagr from the mid 90’s until he was traded in 2001. During that stretch the Pens brand and fan base wasn’t even close to what it has been since Morehouse became CEO. Sure 87 and 71 help the ticket sales but so did 66, 68, 25, 10, 35, 27, 92, 82, 20, etc.. In all the years that 66 and 68 were collecting Art Ross trophies this town was a football first city. However, that has changed under Morehouse and now the Pens might be the most popular ticket in town and the hardest to acquire. You IDIOT bloggers can try and criticize Morehouse and his political background all you want but the bottom line is none of you could do what he does and criticizing him for making hockey relevant in Pgh is just DUMB. If what he was doing was less than adequate Billionaire Ron wouldn’t be having any of it and there wouldn’t be NHL organizations trying to emulate what Pgh does off the ice. Why are you trying to make the sellout streak sound like it’s a bad thing? For God’s sake the Steelers have sold every ticket since around 1976 yet nobody talks about it at all. The downside to Morehouse marketing is that the Pens popularity has brought in a ton of bandwagoneers. It almost sounds like some of you bloggers are part of that bandwagon to be honest. Shero was fired bc he was deserving!! It’s pretty simple. If you can’t see that you should do some more research or follow another team. His arrogant way of softening the Pens since the NYI fascicle of 2011 was a direct correlation to his departure. Just look at their bottom 6 this past season. They had 2 bodies sitting in WBS who should have been playing in the playoffs instead of Vitale, Adams etc.. heck they even had Engelland on the pine. Shero went from having the need for an enforcer to slowly eliminating the tough gritty players from his lineup in favor of the speedy midgets. They tried to convert the NHL into a Euro league and the other 29 organization’s failed to hop on board bc that’s not North American hockey. This is why he was fired!!! He also – along with some serious lazy scouts- failed to draft adequate forwards who could contribute in the NHL. More importantly Shero has severely hampered this organization by signing Kunitz and Dupuis to ridiculous contracts with both turning 35 next season, He signed Scuderi to a contract that the Pens will probably have to eat some salary to get out of, and he gave Kris Letang too many years considering he can’t stay healthy; never mind his stroke. If you think this makes Shero a ” fall guy” you’re lost in the sport of hockey. If Shero had fired Bylsma in 2013 like he was asked to do he very well might have been here until his contract expired. Instead he extended him making them a package deal. So Bylsma fumbled the 2013 roster and Shero destroyed the bottom 6 in 2014. So firing Shero was the move. Also, by not firing both this prevents both from competing against the Pens within their division. Can anyone just write an article for this site when they have no credible information except what they got off of Facebook, twitter, or another site? Pretty ridiculous..

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