Monday, August 27, 2012

The Creative Process according to Yahoo!

Writing may seem to be a solitary pursuit, but it isn’t. Our friends, colleagues, and family are likely to provide feedback during the creative stages. Others help give pieces their shape and readers help identify typos, factual errors and other ways to make our writing ever sharper.
Recently, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo sports sent Chemmy, PPP and me an email asking us to take part in a new write-up at Puck Daddy. Greg was doing an “essentials” series to identify the singular player, goal, series, etc. for each of the 30 NHL clubs.
Our Leafs essential piece was recently posted at the Puck Daddy blog. I thought readers might find it interesting to get a peek behind the creative curtain – a chance to see how we work together at PPP to produce such forgettable content.
Getting Started
After receiving the initial email from Greg, the three of us reacted to this great idea very quickly by not giving Greg any type of response, doing any research or even discussing it amongst ourselves.
For me, one of the reasons for the inaction was the challenge the article presented: how do you come up with essentials for a franchise that’s nearly 100 years old and has gone through so many distinct phases?
I’m not sure how the idea came to me, but I decided a multiple choice format might be a fun way to let people define their own essential Leaf. Given the Leafs’ tendency to be, well, awful I thought it might be fun if for each of the questions we included a choice that reflected the worst of the franchise.
I assembled an early draft and sent it over to PPP and Chemmy for their feedback.
Early Feedback
PPP suggested expanding the eras – that there was too much focus on the Leafs of the 70s and 90s. He was right. I expanded the multiple choice fields from A to C, to in some cases A to E.
Chemmy gave me some great feedback on tightening up the intro, and selecting a few players/goals/ happenings that weren’t so similar.
The piece was coming into form.
Testing the Material
I had lunch with Godd Till from Cox Bloc and told him about our plans for the piece. His immediate response – “The Brian McCabe own-goal against Buffalo has to be in there.” He was absolutely right – it was another great addition. 
I shared a few of the jokes with his former Cox Bloc partner Kim Jorn who helped further refine the essential Leaf section. I laughed at his Nathan Dempsey joke, but ultimately couldn’t find room for it in the final piece.
Final Refinements
We now had a rather lengthy piece, well over 1,500 words, which I hoped balanced Leafs fans pride in the team with the acknowledgement that the Leafs, more often than not, aren’t very good; a piece that showed why I’m a Leaf fan and recognized that this is not an easy franchise to cheer for.
We submitted our 1,000+ word piece to the Yahoo community, here’s their feedback.

Puck Daddy Essentials: Leafs Edition

a) Syl Apps - Rookie of the year in 1937, five-time all-star, winner of three Stanley Cups and the Lady Byng (in 1942 he scored 41 points in 38 games and didn't take a single penalty). He also sat out two NHL seasons to serve in WWII
b) Dave Keon - smart, fast and talented. The last Leaf to win the Calder trophy (1960) he also won the Lady Byng in 1962 and 63 and the Conn Smythe in 1967. Run out of town by misanthropic former owner Harold Ballard in 1975, he would go on to play until 1982.
c) Mats Sundin - 8-time All-Star and all-time franchise leader in points and goals
d) Tie Domi — because, in the immortal words of @GoddTilll, "He sucked, yet ownership and dumb fans loved him."

[Yahoo! Commentators note: You can only have one essential Leaf. Please make the essential Leaf George Armstrong, Apps, Bailey, Barilko, Bower, Broda, Conacher, Clancy, Clark, Day, Gilmour, Horton, Kelly, Kennedy, Keon, Mahovalich, Sittler, Salming, Vaive.]

a) 1942 - Down 3 games to none against the Red Wings, the Leafs rallied back to win the series and the Stanley Cup. The first time a professional team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the championship.
b) 1978 - A giant upset over New York Islanders before being eliminated in the Semis by the Habs with 2 games going to OT.
c) 1993 - A giant upset over the Detroit Red Wings before being eliminated in the Semis by the Kings with 2 games going to OT.
d) 2007 - The Leafs miss the playoffs by one point when, in the last game of the season, the Devils dress back-up Scott Clemmensen and lose a shoot-out to Wade Dubielewicz and the Islanders.
e) 2012 - Woo hoo! Playoffs here we come…uh-oh, that mid-season trend line doesn't look so good.

[Yahoo! Commentators note: please change to 1967, it makes both Leasf fans and detraktors happy]

a) Leafs last Stanley Cup win, May 2 (sometime in the late 60s, the year is not well known).
b) Leafs - Flyers 1976 playoffs. A fight filled series that was investigated by the Ontario police. Game three, Sittler and Salming combine for two goals two assists to shed the chicken label and climb back into the series.
c) November 29, 2000 Leafs winning 5-0 with 15 minutes left in the game, lose 6-5 to the St. Louis Blues.
d) A routine Tuesday night loss at home to some team from the Southeast Division.

[Yahoo! Commentators note: The Leafs have won the second most Cups in the League and have nearly 90 years of history to draw on. Surely the “Essential Game” should reflect the accomplishments of this storied franchise. Please change this to Game 7 win over the New York Islanders in 2002]

a) Defenseman Bobby Baun scores the 1964 Stanley Cup winning goal despite playing on a broken ankle.
b) Dougie Gilmour wrap around, second overtime, Game 1, division finals vs. the St. Louis Blues.
c) Mats Sundin's 500th PING! His hat trick goal, in off the crossbar shorthanded against the Calgary Flames.
d) A meaningless hat trick in game 82 by Boyd Devereaux, which drops the Leafs from 5th to 7th in the entry draft.
e) Brian McCabe's brilliant overtime winner against Buffalo:

[Yahoo! Commentators note: Every goal is essential*
*every goal is not essential – Al Iafrate fans.]

a) Acquiring Mats Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and Philadelphia's 1st round choice for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and Toronto's 1st round choice.
b) Acquiring Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Manderville and Rick Wamsley for Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube.
c) Acquiring Red Kelly for Marc Reaume.
d) Kurvers for Niedermayer? Kordic for Courtnall? Rask for Raycroft? Toskala for Lars Eller? Greg Hubick for Doug Jarvis?

[Yahoo! Commentators note: Please change to the trade where the Leafs aquired my favourite player.]

Unsung Hero
a) Paul Morris
b) Jimmy Holstrom
c) Mute button
d) Twitter filters that screen "#TMLTalk"

[Yahoo! Commentators note: Please make the unsung Leaf: Barilko, Bill Berg, Conacher, Corson, Day, Green, Horton, Joseph, Kelly, Mahovalich, McCauley, Potvin, Tucker]

Franchise Villain
a) Kerry Fraser
b) Alan Frew
c) Brian Burke's impatience
d) Any 3rd or 4th line player born in the GTA playing against the Leafs at the ACC.

[Yahoo! Commentators note: we searched Bing and this Alan Frew guy doesn’t play in the NHL. Please re-write without made-up names.]

a) Forbes Kennedy v. the Boston Bruins and the Bruins fans
b) Felix Potvin v. Ron Hextall
c) Wendel Clark v. Marty McSorley
d) Former GM John Ferguson Jr. v. a childproof bottle

[Yahoo! Commentators note: If JFJ fought a childproof bottle, and quite frankly we don’t remember that happening, it was only because the MLSE board told him too]

a) Roger Neilson
b) Pat Burns
c) Pat Quinn
d) Nick Beverley, who said his players were a bunch of "Nimrods" after blowing a playoff game in 1996. The next day he assured everyone that by "nimrods" he actually meant "mighty hunters".
e) Punch Imlach who built the Leafs dynasty of the 1960s (four Cups in 6 years) and then returned in 1978 to dismantle a promising outfit and launch a streak that would see the Leafs fail to hit .500 for over a decade.

a) Foster & Bill Hewitt
b) Bob Cole
c) Joe Bowen
d) Glen Healy's uninformed vitriol; Jim Hughson's painful affectations; Craig Simpson's I-don't-know-what (yet somehow he's an upgrade on PJ Stock).

Arena Behavior/Tradition/Trend
a) Sitting quietly in the lower bowl reading your smartphone, eating sushi and ignoring the game.
b) Sitting quietly in the upper bowl sipping on a $14 beer.
c) "Getting Cloutiered" a.k.a. watching in horror as another Leaf goalie messes the bed.
d) Getting slammed by the local media for supporting the team in September (plan the parade!) and then getting slammed by the same local media for booing the Leafs off the ice when playoff aspirations are left for dead each spring.

[Yahoo! Commentators note: This should read, “Cheering on the Leafs no matter what!”]

Arena Food
a) $7 to $10 for a hot dog from Burkie's Dog House.
b) $12 for a deep-fried Mars Bar.
c) $14 for a large beer.
d) I have no punch line. You'd be better off eating $20 bills dipped in your favourite condiment.

Waffles! [Yahoo! Commentators note: now that’s how you make a joke.]

Swag jersey, hat, shirt, gear, etc.
It's a toss-up. The most essential Toronto Maple Leafs swag is either
a) cycling arm warmers
b)    a cuckoo clock
c)     If you're better friends with the groom, you can't go wrong with a Toronto Maple Leafs grill cover as an engagement gift:

[Yahoo! Commentators note: Are you even a Leafs fan? Please change to Leafs sweater]


  1. Anonymous7:37 am

    How wasn't the franchise villain Harold Ballard?

  2. Anonymous10:19 am

    I think all your ideas were great. The ones from other people sucked, however. As J-P Sartre used to say.....

    Not Norm

  3. Grabovski12:45 pm

    Hee hee, I get the Iafrate asterisk.