Golden Knights President Draws on Lockout Experience For Season Restart

    • Team President Kerry Bubolz was Cleveland Cavaliers COO during the last NBA lockout and is applying lessons from the experience.
    • Golden Knights are rolling out a wide array of content to keep fans engaged, from a fitness challenge to a book club.

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Vegas Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz will be ready to sprint when the NHL season restarts – whenever that might be.

With the NHL season on hiatus indefinitely as the nation works to get the coronavirus outbreak under control, Bubolz has his team preparing for every scenario.

FOS REPORT: 54.5% of industry executives believe that it would be at least 60 days before leagues resume play.

Bubolz said that while dealing with a health crisis on top of the stoppage adds more variables, he sees similarities to a prior break in play.

“I went through the NBA lockout in 2011, and there are some parallels there,” he said.

Bubolz was the chief operating officer of the Cleveland Cavaliers during that shortened season and said he’s using the lessons learned then to help keep things moving forward this year.

“You believe the season will restart; you just don’t know when,” he said. “There’s some learning we’re applying here from that: really encouraging our group to spend the time playing out every scenario, making sure we have plans documented, and that everyone on their respective teams knows their roles so when we do hit ‘Go,’ we’re running and not thinking about what to do.”

Plenty of reports and rumors have circulated on just how each league will come back from the coronavirus postponements. With so much fluidity to the situation and factors to consider, it’s not an easy proposition for employees to wrap their heads around. 

Bubolz said after the NBA lockout, the 66-game season played out nicely with one of the plans the front office had put together, albeit it was still an “absolute sprint.”

“In any scenario, we’re assuming we’ll be in the playoffs,” he said. “What does that look like? There’s a lot that goes into maximizing the two- to the eight-week window. Your profile and visibility are elevated significantly with every round.”

With sports generally being a place for people to turn to in times of tragedy, the team’s content also has added significance in this time without live sports. Bubolz said he’s proud of what his content and communications teams have been able to put together since the season was postponed. 

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The Golden Knights also feel an added responsibility to be a place for the Las Vegas community to lean on, he said, something it took tremendously seriously following the mass shooting in the city in 2017 ahead of its inaugural season.

“We were such a part of the healing here through the tragedy of Oct. 1 back in 2017, and with that comes a unique responsibility that is greater than most organizations have in their home market,” Bubolz said. “We have this whole community looking at us again and how to do it in a fun, entertaining way to take their mind off the situation.”

The Golden Knights have rolled out a variety of different forms of content on various digital platforms.

That included three, hour-long live broadcasts from the team’s studio the first week of the postponed season where the Golden Knights’ seven in-house broadcasters chatted about the season, the future and interviews with players. 

The team also hosted a live broadcast where in-arena host Wayne “Big D” Danielson played a full 60-minute EA Sports NHL 20 game against the weekend’s scheduled opponent, the Red Wings, with broadcaster Daren Millard providing play-by-play and cuts to in-arena activations.

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The Golden Knights have also rolled out a fitness challenge and a virtual book club – a Facebook group with more than 300 members that will read Ken Dryden’s The Game and discuss with Millard, team insider Gary Lawless and rinkside reporter Stormy Buonantony.

As a three-year-old organization, Bubolz said this provides the team a chance to elevate and build on a digital brand that already receives strong engagement rates but still trails some of the established teams in the sport in overall followers.

“It’s a way to be part of people’s personal well-being,” Bubolz said.  “if we can create content that takes them away from these day-to-day challenges with engagement and discussion about the game, team, and brand, those are all good things.”