David Morehouse is the creepy Harry Harlow of the NHL, the Pensblog explains why

If you’ve felt that the Penguins organization has been an unfeeling wire mesh monkey mother since about 2010 (new arena, new branding strategy, all that cuntitude), the Pensblog has accurately explained why in their profile of Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse.

While we may not necessarily agree that there is any necessarily sinister intent with Dan Bylsma not being kicked to the curb, it’s troubling that Morehouse has taken such an active role in so many aspects of the Penguins as a brand.  The fact that Morehouse is a communications guy is particularly troubling, because he definitely comes from a more out-of-touch and, worse, conservative branch of the comm/marketing community.  As someone who was educated in a communications and publishing field and who Speaks The Language Of The Internet, I can safely say that the Penguins branding strategy is dogshit and designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that taking that approach with the on-ice product could likely be Morehouse’s next step.  If you want a good example of how something like this plays out in a dystopian future, pick up jPod by Douglas Coupland.

There are a lot of teams with innovative social media strategies, and the most forward-thinking have, among other things:

  • recognized the importance of actually engaging their fans on social media and having a god damn sense of humor.  It’s a well-known fact that the Penguins’ Twitter, Facebook, and especially their Instagram are horribly embarrassing and pandering.  Perhaps a good offseason project would be to feature posts on this salient data.
  • engaged fan blogs, recognizing the blogging community as allies.  The Penguins’ relationship with bloggers has always been a little cagey.  Now, Morehouse seems to be doing a great job of alienating the professional sportswriters in the community, too, which hardly seems the job of the President and CEO of the club.  Leave that to the coach and players–think of every time John Tortorella tore Larry Brooks a new asshole.  Because that’s aboveboard–it’s onstage drama.  Doing devious shit backstage is not the way to keep the media, professional or amateur, in your wheelhouse.  You will get burned eventually.
  • engaged with fans in meaningful and sincere ways in all aspects of PR.  The Penguins do a lot of things that other teams do.  They’ve had a kind of “Insider” pseudo docu-drama and interview show going on for years, which other teams have gradually started to do.  However, the Penguins always put it up as a puppet regime–they have a guy like Paul Steigerwald front and center talking about how Amazing the Penguins Are, as opposed to just saying “here, here is a nice thing for you guys! thank you!”  The Penguins organization always frames these great things (the pizza deliveries, the season ticket deliveries, the “Insider” information from social media and their web channel) as an elbow to the ribs like LOOK WHAT THE FUCK WE DID AREN’T WE THE BEST????? by plastering it all over social media in self-congratulatory fashion.  And you can get a bunch of assholes from the suburbs to say “omg yes” and share that Facebook status, but people who actually watch and analyze hockey are going to be continually unimpressed.  Basically, you’re alienating the people who most often actually go and spend money at you arena in favor of the people who want you to fucking retweet them.

The Penguins do this because in the last six years they have become an increasingly insular organization hellbent on its bottom line–not just its profits but the delicious intangibility of its own image.  In a way that is so awkward.  In a way that shows a lack of self-awareness that wouldn’t be out of place in a middle school cafeteria.  It’s a big game of, “your dad does what? well, my dad does this. . .”

As we said in our last PH Rant, the Penguins do not know what they want, because years ago, there was a promise drilled into our heads that we were going to be the best because we have the two best forwards in the world.  Not only that, but you love this team because those two best forwards in the world are insanely talented and, by all accounts, kind people who want to do good work in the community and don’t let their own egos get in the way.  It was built up as a dynasty because it was a heady, sweet dessert to take in with the 2005 lockout comfortably in the rearview mirror.  Well, we all realize now that dreams don’t always come true and sometimes you just have to go to work and cut the fat.

We always knew the Penguins’ new corporate strategy had sucked a lot of life out of the organization, and we’d like to thank the Pensblog for doing the research that seems to show why.

We were looking forward to a regime change, but let’s hope that “burn it the fuck down” goes much, much, much deeper than a new GM.  Let’s watch this ark burn for awhile and see how long Morehouse sticks around when the people of the Pittsburgh metro area (word on the street is that 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh it’s still 1989) catch on to the fact that pics of Kris Letang on Instagram don’t win championships.  Maybe Mario has a nephew or something who knows about Tumblr and has taken a few classes on critical theory.

basically, someone help us.

Totally serious about just making fun of the Penguins’ social media team all summer.  We taste charred flesh.

go pens


About Zoë

from Fayette County, living in Boston, chronically fussy. Writing about the Penguins, the CWHL/women's hockey, and hockey/sports media criticism.