HFBoards

Go Back   HFBoards > General Hockey Discussion > The Rink
The Rink For the not so ready for prime-time players, coaches, referees, and the people that have to live with them. Discuss experiences in local leagues, coaching tips, equipment, and training.

Rinks, hockey guys, and bad information management

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old
05-01-2013, 03:23 PM
  #1
McDugan
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 147
vCash: 500
Rinks, hockey guys, and bad information management

I almost got into a full-on uncontrolled rant in JoeyB's thread about the clinic he's in sucking, but I'm proud to say I channeled my thoughts appropriately into a new thread.

So, what is it with hockey rinks and hockey programs?

Since getting into the game a couple years ago, my experience in trying to find local opportunities has been, universally:

- No matter which one you choose, the rink's website sucks. Poor design and layout, broken links, out of date program information (sometimes YEARS out of date!). I've noticed that often if a program cycle begins, say, April 1, the information might be posted March 20, if you're lucky. So, if you want to do a beginner class, if you can find one in the first place, good luck planning when and where you're doing it.

- Hockey directors don't call back. I've left messages or emails for the hockey guy at several local rinks a few different times. Usually asking about whether the adult clinic was happening and what time (since the website had old or no info) or asking when the spring/summer league would happen since in March (?!?!!) there was no info posted on the web. Once, I got an email back asking me to "call or text me after 5:30." Otherwise, nothing. Ever. From any of 4 or 5 different people.

At one clinic I went to, the instructors would say, try to get on the ice other times during the week. Go to stick time, practice your skating, etc. Then, try to find out about when they offer stick time, and it turns out the rink doesn't HAVE stick time. I haven't found any rinks in my area that offer stick time with adults allowed.

OK. Almost done venting.

Really, I'm just surprised that so many rinks operate with such poor business practices at work. It's not hard to have a simple, functional website with accurate information about what services you offer. It's not hard to return simple communications from prospective new customers. Hockey is a niche sport, I'm sure the call/e-mail volume isn't that high. In today's world, having to travel to the rink to get word-of-mouth information that may or may not be accurate simply to find out when and where to show up and spend your money isn't acceptable in any avenue of business/commerce.

McDugan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 03:52 PM
  #2
JoeyB
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 29
vCash: 500
Hey, it's me again!

As an example of what McDugan is talking about, here's my local rink website: (Please note, this IS NOT where the clinic I was complaining about takes place) http://www.wintersporticearena.com/

I like this rink, it's 5 minutes from my house, and even though it's as old as my pop, the people there are all pretty cool. But christ on a cracker, look at that website. It looks like it was put together in the mid 90's and hasn't been spruced up since.

I started taking the clinic at "that other place" which shall remain nameless because I went to Wintersport and asked if they were doing adult clinics in the summer (I knew they did them in the winter, but they weren't advertising anything anywhere about summer classes). Nobody I talked to seemed to know, but they took down my phone number to "call me back."

Sure enough, nobody called me back, and a week after I signed up and paid at "that other place" Wintersport posted an advert for summer clinics. I wouldn't have even known if I hadn't been talking to a friend of mine who mentioned he was taking them.

So yeah, I know where McDugan is coming from

JoeyB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 04:16 PM
  #3
rekindled
Rookie User
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 5
vCash: 500
Yeah, I can relate.

It doesn't make sense; we're trying to give them money...

rekindled is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 04:47 PM
  #4
mistrhanky
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 206
vCash: 500
Definitely agree. My rinks site is not so bad, but they are really bad about posting updates and cancellations. I was in a clinic last winter and we were scheduled to meet on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We all know that almost nobody will show up for that, and the clinic manager even said he was trying to get that rescheduled. It did get rescheduled, about two hours before the start and posted on the website at that time. No emails, etc. If a friend had not told me, I would have driven a long way to be left outside... and bitter. Another house in the area recently decided to move up there Wed night pickup by an hour... but told no one until everyone showed up and saw the change and that it was almost over. This is a pre-paid pickup, so they had everyones contact info. My D league will start soon, I expect to get a day or two's notice before the first game. Ridiculous.

mistrhanky is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 05:54 PM
  #5
Jarick
Moderator
Doing Nothing
 
Jarick's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: St Paul, MN
Country: United States
Posts: 23,489
vCash: 500
Well, I'm guessing the rinks don't have the money to hire a web developer. They'll either use a cheap cookie cutter web program or a friend of a friend who's "good with computers" makes them a web site.

But yeah, I struggle with most of them. One of my leagues keeps stats and is a pretty decent website, but there's no archive and a lot of the times the whole thing dies. My current league didn't update their info until the league started.

Then I e-mailed the guy because I wasn't hearing back at all, turns out the messages got lost in my spam filter because the league was spamming me with crap years ago.

Same thing trying to find a program for my kid...you'll get last year's stuff, not this year's, and then no dates or deadlines or info.

Jarick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 08:44 PM
  #6
jordanking87
Registered User
 
jordanking87's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Indianapolis,IN
Country: United States
Posts: 69
vCash: 500
I hear ya on this....these kind of poor business practices wouldn't last 6 months in another industry...I guess in most places ice is such a luxury that what other option do you have other than to just stop going all together...and Im not about to do that so I guess I just have to suck it up and deal with it. Living in a city with just 2 rinks leaves you without many options.

jordanking87 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 08:45 PM
  #7
jordanking87
Registered User
 
jordanking87's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Indianapolis,IN
Country: United States
Posts: 69
vCash: 500
Its good to hear that Im not the only one with these observations and that this happens all over the place (unfortunately)

jordanking87 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 08:47 PM
  #8
The Tikkanen
Pest
 
The Tikkanen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Yorba Linda
Country: United States
Posts: 6,385
vCash: 50
Send a message via AIM to The Tikkanen
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
Well, I'm guessing the rinks don't have the money to hire a web developer. They'll either use a cheap cookie cutter web program or a friend of a friend who's "good with computers" makes them a web site.

But yeah, I struggle with most of them. One of my leagues keeps stats and is a pretty decent website, but there's no archive and a lot of the times the whole thing dies. My current league didn't update their info until the league started.

Then I e-mailed the guy because I wasn't hearing back at all, turns out the messages got lost in my spam filter because the league was spamming me with crap years ago.

Same thing trying to find a program for my kid...you'll get last year's stuff, not this year's, and then no dates or deadlines or info.
That's probably the case. I don't think these rinks make a ton of money and they cut costs in areas they don't believe to make them money. Technically, a website doesn't make a rink money so it's developed for as little as possible and never updated. It's like mixing the old with the new at hockey rinks, most of them when you walk in it's like walking into a museum or the feeling somebody stopped time at about 1989.

The Tikkanen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-01-2013, 08:55 PM
  #9
jordanking87
Registered User
 
jordanking87's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Indianapolis,IN
Country: United States
Posts: 69
vCash: 500
Tikkanen...youre right about them cutting out what doesnt make them money...but with todays technologies there is no excuse for not getting correct information out to the public in a timely manner for leagues and/or schedule changes/cancellations (i.e. Facebook/Twitter, those are free and are instant update). Its just a lack of business/marketing/sales knowledge...they also don't know how much business theyre losing or missing because of parents frustrations with this sort of stuff...like the OP said, nobody has money or time to stay in the know just through word of mouth and by hanging around the rink every week.

jordanking87 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 09:14 AM
  #10
McDugan
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 147
vCash: 500
Yeah, I get that rinks aren't making money hand over fist and there's not a lot of money, but these days it's so easy and not at all expensive to have a simple website that works and provides basic information. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to provide all kinds of content. Just text that is correct and up-to-date.

It goes beyond a lack of business savvy to the point of being a stubborn refusal to heed basic rules of common sense.

Yes, it's a rink and people are forced to somehow find a way to use it no matter how inconvenient, but jeez, you'd think that the owners would prefer to sell MORE ice time and attract MORE customers. I also get that it's institutional business (school programs, etc.) that is the real cash cow, and individual rec players are small time, but seriously, rink owners and hockey directors... get it together!! You could be doing so much more, with probably less effort!

McDugan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 09:29 AM
  #11
jsykes
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: NoVa
Posts: 816
vCash: 500
I run a pro shop in a rink. I can tell you that rinks are not the best business investment in the world and therefore they have to be very careful with costs and the dollars its costs to run a rink would floor most of you, they're astronomical.

Additionally, adult hockey is usually one of the least profitable programs the rink runs. Learn to skate classes and selling ice time to youth hockey clubs are where the real money comes, so if the local peewee team needs extra ice time, the adult pickup or stick and shoot is the first thing that gets nixed. Also, generally hockey directors are also dealing with all the kids hockey lessons or programs as well, which make far more money and take up a ton of their time. Our hockey director is at the rink every day before 5 am for lessons, therefore he leaves by 3 or 4 in the afternoon and answering a ton of emails does sometimes take a back seat to a lesson that is bringing the rink a few hundreds bucks an hour.

Our website is ok, we're pretty good with keeping info up to date either on the site or through FB pages, however, its pretty simple and looks pretty bad. I'd love to have them re-do it, but having a full blown business website build is pretty costly if you want to incorporate calendars and ability to sign up online and things like that.

I agree, I have a photography background and worked in media and with PR people in another industry and I know the value of PR and good marketing. However, for a rink to do it well, you would need a full-time person that does that as their only job. As is, most rinks dont want to add another salary when they can "get by" with those already at the rink. As a result, our hockey director has to handle all the marketing web stuff for the hockey, our skating director for skating, me for pro shop, etc, etc. Sad thing is, I have a ton of other things to do without worrying about keeping the website up to date.

Lastly, while I agree, a great website and marketing would be awesome for rinks, I also think its money spent that will not be recovered by the rink. After all, you're likely to still skate and use the rink, unless you're in an area that just has a ton of options, you're going to come here if you want to skate.

Its not an excuse, however, if the rink is going to pay many tens of thousands of dollars a year to have a great website and someone to keep it up, its not likely that that really nice website alone will recover the cost of keeping it up and making it nice.

All of that said though, there is no excuse for poorly run programs such as in the other thread. If you're dealing with that, the best thing you can do is talk to a rink general manager and explain to them that they'll be losing your business if things dont change. Because of all I've said, you can see every dollar they can bring in counts, they dont want to lose your business, so use that as leverage to get those programs where they should be.

BTW, do any of you have any guesses as to what the general operating costs for a rink would be in a month? We have two sheets, I'd be interested in hearing what you guys think it costs, because when I took over this job, I was floored by it to say the least.

jsykes is online now   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 09:42 AM
  #12
mistrhanky
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 206
vCash: 500
Yeah, I can appreciate all of that. I don't think the real complain is even the outdated designs many have. I think the bigger issue is communication. When schedules go up, times change, etc that is important information for your customer base, and if I don't have that available... I start shopping around. Penny wise, pound foolish not to update your information.

mistrhanky is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 10:08 AM
  #13
rekindled
Rookie User
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 5
vCash: 500
I don't really mind the poor website layout and would echo that the main complaint is communication. I've emailed about the adult hockey league multiple times and have never heard back. This isn't a case of me just fishing; I am itching to play and just want to know how to get onto a team/into the league.


rekindled is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 10:15 AM
  #14
McDugan
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 147
vCash: 500
jsykes, believe me, I understand what you're saying, but in some ways, it's just a list of reasons not to bother trying improve business practices.

Nothing I'm griping about calls for a full-time P.R./communications person or anything close to that at all. I'm not talking about a fancy website built by a design consultant. There are templates out there for free or very little money that will get the job done fine. Hockey rinks are not businesses that need a flashy presence online and they certainly don't need to go to the expense of advertising aggressively - but they SHOULD recognize the value of putting basic program information out there in a timely fashion so that, since people have to seek it out, it can be found easily enough. It does not take a full time staff member to make sure that the dates for a clinic are decided and posted more than a week before it begins. All that takes is common sense. It's very much, as mistrhanky points out, a case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish to continue with inefficient working methods to avoid the minimal expense of implementing a much more efficient system.

I'm talking about making sure the very basic information is out there and up-to-date - on the web, and in the hands of whoever is answering the phones. That's it.
If that is done, many of the phone calls and emails that now go unanswered never even happen, because people don't have to try to track the hockey director down to answer a question as basic as, "What programs do you offer for me and at what time?"

I don't know enough about the energy costs to throw a number at you, but I understand that the operating costs for a 2-sheet rink are huge. Between refrigeration, resurfacing equipment and fuel, lighting, and the minimum number of bodies on deck to keep a place open, I'm sure it's ridiculous.

McDugan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 10:55 AM
  #15
17of26
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 94
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by McDugan View Post
jsykes, believe me, I understand what you're saying, but in some ways, it's just a list of reasons not to bother trying improve business practices.

[bunch of other stuff I agree with]
Setting up a basic website that would suit a hockey rink's needs could easily be just a one time cost with occasional support after that.

At a bare minimum, they need an up to date calendar of what's going on at the rink. The rink must have this information written down somewhere anyway, so it's just a matter of making that data publicly visible.

I would have to think that having a nice website where people could see available programs and sign up online would increase the rink's business dramatically.

These guys do it right: http://fmcicesports.com/. Full calendars for every rink they run, program listings, and online signup.

17of26 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:05 AM
  #16
jsykes
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: NoVa
Posts: 816
vCash: 500
I agree, basic info is not too much to ask but I can also understand their hesitancy to spend money on a site as I dont think its one of those items that really brings the monetary return in this particular industry when really done right. When a rinks basic operating costs (maintenance, salaries, utilities, rent, etc) can go more than $3 mil/year, every sent often counts.

Also, as a tip, I know in our case, our hockey and skating directors are very busy and field a lot of emails a day, so some can get lost or they just fail to respond. Often a phone call or trip to the rink to talk to someone is much more effective. May not be right, but just a fact.

jsykes is online now   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:10 AM
  #17
CornKicker
Locked Out
 
CornKicker's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Country: Canada
Posts: 6,341
vCash: 50
this must be an american rink thing? here in western canada all the programs that run out of the rinks are seperate from the rink itself. the program will rent the ice and thats as involved as the arena staff get.

CornKicker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:12 AM
  #18
jsykes
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: NoVa
Posts: 816
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by 17of26 View Post

I would have to think that having a nice website where people could see available programs and sign up online would increase the rink's business dramatically.

These guys do it right: http://fmcicesports.com/. Full calendars for every rink they run, program listings, and online signup.
I bet that site costs a lot more than you think. We have a similar site at our rink and the big deal is incorporating the website with the rinks software that handles registrations and calendars and having all the integration run smoothly. Its not cheap and does require a fairly extensive initial build, then a decent amount of yearly support, not to mention the hosting.

Additionally, the rink software that has the ability to integrate with the websites is absurdly expensive.

If a rink is starting from scratch, the combination of rink software and website build and integration can easily be a six figure investment.

It can be done a lot cheaper, however, the full integration you speak of which doesnt sound like a big deal, can become just that.

However, my experience is solely based on our rink, I'm sure there are other less expensive options out there, but again, just playing devils advocate and trying to give a bit of insight on what it really takes.

I can easily see a rink that might be barely getting by not wanting to worry about a website when its not likely to give an immediate return on the investment.

jsykes is online now   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:15 AM
  #19
jsykes
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: NoVa
Posts: 816
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by CornKicker View Post
this must be an american rink thing? here in western canada all the programs that run out of the rinks are seperate from the rink itself. the program will rent the ice and thats as involved as the arena staff get.
I'm sure there are rinks like that in the states as well. Its just a matter of how they want the business to work. Our rink wants to run all programs because it allows them to have an oversight in the quality of the services. If we can control them, we can make sure they run to our standards and if they fail there is no one to blame but ourselves.

If we outsourced all programs and the programs suck and fail to get customers, then they buy less ice time and the rink suffers. By controlling it all, we can make sure we keep the customers coming in and the ice time full.

jsykes is online now   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:22 AM
  #20
17of26
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 94
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by CornKicker View Post
this must be an american rink thing? here in western canada all the programs that run out of the rinks are seperate from the rink itself. the program will rent the ice and thats as involved as the arena staff get.
Here in Eastern Mass, we have both. Sometimes the rinks run the programs and sometimes it's a third party renting the ice from the rink.

17of26 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:25 AM
  #21
McDugan
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 147
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by 17of26 View Post
These guys do it right: http://fmcicesports.com/. Full calendars for every rink they run, program listings, and online signup.
Yeah, to be fair, there's obviously a large company behind that (running all those different locations). But also to be fair, they probably got to be a big company by doing something right. One hand washes the other.

McDugan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:27 AM
  #22
17of26
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 94
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by jsykes View Post
I bet that site costs a lot more than you think. We have a similar site at our rink and the big deal is incorporating the website with the rinks software that handles registrations and calendars and having all the integration run smoothly. Its not cheap and does require a fairly extensive initial build, then a decent amount of yearly support, not to mention the hosting.

Additionally, the rink software that has the ability to integrate with the websites is absurdly expensive.

If a rink is starting from scratch, the combination of rink software and website build and integration can easily be a six figure investment.

It can be done a lot cheaper, however, the full integration you speak of which doesnt sound like a big deal, can become just that.

However, my experience is solely based on our rink, I'm sure there are other less expensive options out there, but again, just playing devils advocate and trying to give a bit of insight on what it really takes.

I can easily see a rink that might be barely getting by not wanting to worry about a website when its not likely to give an immediate return on the investment.
I'm not saying I'd expect every rink to do that. FMC runs a whole bunch of rinks and they obviously have more resources available than a single independent rink.

Being a software developer, I fully understand the range of costs depending on what you want to get done.

Really the important part is having up-to-date information available online. This could be accomplished by a $10/month web hosting plan and a free Wordpress template. In an age where everyone finds information online, there's no excuse to not have at least that.

17of26 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 11:43 AM
  #23
ChiTownHawks
HFBoards Sponsor
 
ChiTownHawks's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Orland Park, IL
Country: United States
Posts: 1,274
vCash: 500
Rinks are money pits. I had a very wealthy friend actually look into building his own rink the costs are sky high. It is almost impossible to keep your head above water unless you have a partnership with city or a professional team.

That is why there are very few rinks in the US that aren't attached to a professional team or run in conjunction with a Park District.

My rink is far from perfect, but they do a great job with their communication and their website is always up to date and looks really good. Not surprisingly they have a partnership with the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago sold them the land for their newer rink for a penny, or so I heard. http://www.johnnysicehouse.com/

ChiTownHawks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 12:00 PM
  #24
McDugan
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 147
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by jsykes View Post
I can easily see a rink that might be barely getting by not wanting to worry about a website when its not likely to give an immediate return on the investment.
Two things...

First, you've kind of made a straw man out of the website issue when the larger overall issue is management and communication of information. In today's world a website happens to be a very important part of that (that is capable of reducing the burden on the human element immensely, when used well).

BUT, beyond websites, there are many other issues. Not returning communications is not excusable, high volume or not.

Personal anecdote - I am doing an adult clinic at a rink 10 minutes from my house. I like it OK. But getting to the point of participating was a pain. I looked on the website. The flyer for the Fall incarnation of the clinic was posted. That flyer says to contact the hockey director with questions and lists his email and phone. Tried email - it bounced back. Tried phone - no return call.
Eventually called the rink's main number.
Was told that yes, in fact the clinic starts this Thursday (I called on Tuesday). Showed up Thursday, turned out it started the following Thursday. I wouldn't be bothered if that were a unique experience, but it's not.

Much more often than not, even when asking someone a question directly, in person or by phone, the answers to what should be Yes/No questions are, "I think..." or "I don't know [and I can't find out]." Not OK.

Second, the ROI on improved communications WILL be immediate. Sure, integrating software and having one central database feed the web calendar and everything else would be great, but it's not essential. But the ROI on proper planning and simply putting the correct info out there (even if it's still a clunky grassroots format like the weird PDF's we see all over) in time for people to make use of it will certainly be immediate. I'd wager that publicizing current clinic info 6 weeks in advance of the clinic start rather than 5 days would have resulted in a significant percent increase in attendance at my rink, if not double. (not that double the 6-8 regulars is even saying much, but hey it's twice as much income for the same ice time)

McDugan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old
05-02-2013, 03:16 PM
  #25
jsykes
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: NoVa
Posts: 816
vCash: 500
You're right, those things you describe are not excusable. A call back or an employee willing to find out the right info or transfer you to the proper person are basic customer service items that all businesses should practice.

In general, it sounds as if your rink just has a basic issue with running the business. That is something completely independent of it happening to be an ice rink. I'm sorry your rink sucks so badly.

But the ROI, for a rink, isnt necessarily going to come back. Hell, most of our customers hardly even know or care that we have a website and most of our hockey programs are near capacity.

If your rink had a site that posted the information in advance would it really get them more business? Hard to say, sounds like they'd do much better spending the money on training their employees.

I may have read too much into the original post as it sounds that more of the gripes are just poor customer service rather than just having a crappy website.

jsykes is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Forum Jump


Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:50 AM.

monitoring_string = "e4251c93e2ba248d29da988d93bf5144"
Contact Us - HFBoards - Archive - Privacy Statement - Terms of Use - Advertise - Top - AdChoices

vBulletin Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
HFBoards.com is a property of CraveOnline Media, LLC, an Evolve Media, LLC company. 2014 All Rights Reserved.