Welcome to Intriguing People 2018, our annual celebration of Las Vegas’ cultural trailblazers and social trendsetters. See more from this year’s series here.
Whatever it is that you’ve been putting off—launching a business, writing a novel, learning to breakdance—start doing it the minute you finish reading this.
Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier, creators of the Sin Bin media franchise, are Las Vegas’ new poster boys for following your dream. When the first serious conversations about our city’s National Hockey League franchise began, the best friends and sports radio vets committed themselves to becoming the ultimate insiders, launching a website and podcast in August 2015 to cover everything and anything related to the future Vegas Golden Knights.
“If anyone said the word ‘Vegas’ and ‘hockey,’ that was a story for us,” explains Boehlke, sitting across from his partner in the podcast studio they share at The Space arts complex west of the Strip.
Having grown up in major league cities—Boehlke hails from Chicago, Pothier from Boston—and spent time at local station KXNT-AM, the pair knows how ravenous sports fans are for the home team. Las Vegas fans, as we’ve all seen, are no different and have been feeding off a steady diet of Knights-related news from Sin Bin for more than two and a half years.
“We’re all just having fun,” Boehlke says. “We live by one goal: to make it more fun to like the Golden Knights. Granted, that’s been ungodly easy because they never lose.”
Adds Pothier: “There’s us and then there’s traditional media that will give us one big storyline. Then our goal is to find different storylines within that storyline.”
For their efforts, Boehlke and Pothier have proven the power of nontraditional media. They are on a first-name basis with players, team executives and league officials. They’re in the locker rooms after the games. They’re on the road with the team. They’re delivering more coverage and more angles than fans could ever expect from sports radio or nightly news highlights, partly because they don’t have to play by the same rules.
Tapping into a niche market has also turned Sin Bin into a full-time business, with advertisers, merchandise sales and a fan base from here to Manitoba.
Last month, Boehlke and Pothier recorded their 100th episode of the Sin Bin podcast. In a chat with Vegas Seven, they reflect on Sin Bin’s beginnings, breakthrough moments and what they’ve learned along the way.
Vegas Seven: What was the conversation like when you started?
Pothier: I never really knew how you started [a website]. Ken had it in mind, he said, all along, “We’re going to do it online.” All of a sudden, one day, he said, “We need a name.” We started talking. We came up with a name, and then boom. The next day it was up.
Boehlke: It was there.
Pothier: He’s like, “We need to start writing.” We were writing the most bizarre, ridiculous articles just to get content up there, because we wanted to start the flow of people paying attention. Then, I don’t know. What do you think? Around December, January people started …
Boehlke: It took a while. It took a few actual happenings. There was a meeting that [owner Bill] Foley went to and presented what he wanted to do with the team. Quebec was there, too. They had this meeting and nothing really came of it. A lot of people were finding that to be interesting. As things would happen, you’d realize that no one in local media is really talking about it. Nobody has enough information about it to where they’re going to be able to have something every single day. Originally, I told Jason, “The only thing we really need to do is we need to have consistent content all the time.” You have to be able to know that if it happened, [Sin Bin] has it. We’re not going to blow up overnight; we’re not even going to blow up when they get the team. I didn’t even think we’d be popular at this point. We had to have the content to be the go-to.
We were pumping out 25 stories a month. I’d say by December we probably had 150 hits on the website and then by March, it started getting real.
Pothier: It was a big boom for us. It was an event that boom. All of a sudden we’re like, “Oh, OK. We have more than we expected.” You know what I mean?
Boehlke: Then the team happened, and that’s what really helped. The day the team happened, or was going to happen, we decided, “Let’s do a party,” like a “Hey, we did it! Let’s have a party” type thing. Every single news station, radio station, TV station, they all picked up on it. It was the only party of its kind that anyone knew about, so we had every TV camera there; we had probably 250 people there. People still come up to me and say, “I was at O’Aces the day we got the team.”
Vegas Seven: Was that the breakthrough moment?
Boehlke: I don’t even know if that was it necessarily.
Pothier: I think the breakthrough was, as we were writing and covering the team, it was happening. We were 100 percent convinced at one point, and then we started to sort of feel the people around us catching on, sniffing on, saying, “Maybe this will happen.” We were so focused and convinced. I think as we were writing, things were coming true.
For me, that was the breakthrough. Another breakthrough was when we first hit Puck Daddy. I remember an article was posted on [Yahoo blog] Puck Daddy, which is incredibly followed by hockey fans.
Boehlke: Mine was when they hired [general manager George] McPhee. We went to the press conference. I had talked to the owner; I had talked to the VP and the ticket guy. Now they’re hiring a GM, and he’s been in the league for 17 years with the Capitals, an awesome team. Now we have the guy and [Jason and I] go to the press conference, and there’s probably 20 media members there, and I think [Jason] and I asked eight of the 10 or 12 questions that were asked to McPhee.
That was my breakthrough, when it’s like, “Wait a minute. We are so far beyond where everybody else is. This is going to just get better and better.”
Vegas Seven: You knew about radio, you knew about hockey when you started this. How much have you had to learn about business, marketing, merchandising, etc.?
Pothier: For me, I’m still learning, because I’ve never been in a position like this. I’ve never had to worry about [anything] outside of what my job was, and that was programming. I got to give Ken credit, too, because he had a little bit more vision. In my head, I’m thinking accounting—you need a bankroll first, you need all this first. He said, “We just got to start small.”
Boehlke: We’ll just go.
Pothier: We’ll just go.
Boehlke: It’s all trial and error. It’s all failure. It’s all being wrong. We’ve messed up over and over and over and over again. I will inevitably do the taxes and the IRS will be after me probably.
Pothier: I’m moving out of town by then.
Boehlke: We will likely mess it up, but you got to figure it out. You got to figure it out. That’s part of the cost of making the mistakes. We had the wrong server at one point. I still think our hosting is incorrect and we need to fix that. We’ve never redesigned the website even though we really need to. It’s all being wrong. We’re just wrong, and when you’re wrong, you figure that out. The only way to figure out that you’re wrong is to do it and be wrong, and then you fix it and make it better.
Vegas Seven: At what point could you comfortably say, “This is now my day job.”
Pothier: For me, it was [October 2015] when I lost my job. I was kind of panicking. I had a wife who was pregnant. I got another job right away as program director and it lasted two weeks. Knew that I didn’t like it. Then I realized …
Boehlke: Got sick during it.
Pothier: Got sick during it. Yeah. It didn’t work out. Then, as we’re still pumping out these articles, I start realizing that maybe we can do something here. Ken kept reminding me it’s going to take us a while.
Boehlke: I kept yelling at him, like, “This is going to happen, but it’s not going to happen now.” It’s definitely not happening before they play a game. It’s probably not happening before an entire season goes away and an off-season, which wound up being wrong. It’s going to take a while and we’re going to have to keep going. It can and will happen. I’ve seen it. I know other people have done it. There’s no reason why we can’t do it.
Pothier: There’s nothing like this situation. I always say that if Ken and I were back in Chicago or Boston, we wouldn’t have this opportunity, because it’s almost grassroots. This team is almost grassroots. Nobody really believed in it until they actually named the team. They still don’t.
Boehlke: People still ask us, “You guys really covered Vegas hockey before there was Vegas hockey?” Yeah, we believed it was going to work. It’s working.
Pothier: I think also, again, I got to give a lot of credit to my wife, because she is currently the breadwinner in the house. She works her ass off. It worked out well, where we had the kids, so I was distracted that way. Instead of going to work, I was [parenting], but then this started growing and growing and growing, and here we are today. I can’t imagine us having other jobs.
Boehlke: No. There’s no way.