If you missed the outrage and vitriol from Sunday, catch up with this article here as it explains the rationale (note, there have been a few positive tweets & posts since then). The fact that Minnesota has decided to continue with LaPanta, who spent the past few seasons as the play-by-play announcer for the University of Minnesota men's hockey team on Fox Sports North, is disheartening to many who saw their attempts to voice their opinion ignored. In fact, these two sentences from Russo's blog don't help.
An announcement was supposed to come Monday, but things got sidetracked when the Wild and FSN were taken aback by the backlash regarding the LaPanta hire on this blog, Twitter and other message boards...
...But they were always going to stick with the original decision of hiring the longtime Wild, Twins and Wolves studio host and Gophers' hockey play-by-play voice, though.More after the jump...
The fact that Minnesota and FSN did not see there being disgust and blowback of any level is more disappointing than anything - in fact as I write this, LaPanta is trending in Minneapolis. You can count the number of positive tweets on one hand. I won't go into reasons for why they should have seen LaPanta backlash coming since that's the majority of the last article on this but this isn't 2002 anymore and the Wild and Fox Sports North have to listen to their fans. They can't be taken for granted.
So what's next? Massive, massive damage control by Minnesota, FSN and Anthony LaPanta.
Right now the State of Hockey continues to be up in arms and the day delay to digest the blowback has made them (well those who aren't Gopher fans first...of which there are a lot) angrier. Hopefully those meetings for how to appease the fans and social media pressure were productive because appearing to do nothing is the only thing worse.
The Wild and Fox Sports North, who have input on the hiring (although the play-by-play voice is a Minnesota employee) have plenty of partners and firepower to sell the public on Anthony LaPanta. Whether it's LaPanta's weekly appearance with Paul Allen on KFAN, television or their own social media, don't let the news sneak by because that's not going to work.
(Honestly, it was disappointing that PA didn't ask Russo when he was on this morning about this subject just because of the backlash. I understand why he didn't with no official deal but imagine having one of the the most respected voices on Minnesota NHL hockey give his endorsement)
When it becomes official, Fox Sports North and the Wild better have the new face of their broadcasts out front and center. There's a human side to this - honestly I feel a little bad for him - and that needs to come in play.
Yes, have LaPanta sit down with Kevin Falness and talk about this new job but go elsewhere outside the team. Go on the Wild flagship station (KFAN) and have PA or Dan Barreiro ask the tough questions about why he's more than a studio host and qualified to take over as a NHL play-by-play announcer. Have him write about it on Fox Sports North's website. Have him talk to Michael Russo and/or Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press to give background on this "nice guy" for a feature. And so on and so on.
As negative as this may sound, I hope this comes off as constructive criticism. The point is instead of just announcing and then staying within the team walls (or worse, going underground), get out there and put out the fire from the Wild's passionate fans. In the scheme of things, this isn't the biggest deal in the world (if being upset over a play-by-play guy is bad, imagine what will happen July 1 if things don't go right) but with fans feeling neglected and resorting to social media and message boards to have their voice here, Minnesota needs to respond.
Even here. Our email is firstroundbust (at) gmail (dot) com - we'll be standing by, waiting for someone working with the Wild, FSN or even Anthony LaPanta himself to respond to the fans, one way or another.