With the Jack Eichel saga stretching late into the summer, two New York Rangers podcasters and a talented designer are going to the next level to encourage the Buffalo Sabres to trade their injured superstar forward.
Ryan Mead and Greg Kaplan of the weekly podcast Blueshirts Breakaway bought a billboard next to KeyBank Arena trolling the Sabres.
“Aren’t trade requests a pain in the neck? #FreeJack,” the viral billboard reads. It includes a Buffaslug illustration that has Eichel’s blonde flow.
The time has come.
Starting today for the next two weeks in honor of our 300th episode:
Blueshirts Breakaway has purchased a billboard on I-190 next to the Buffalo Sabres KeyBank Arena demanding an Eichel trade.
— Ryan Mead (@OhRyanMead) August 16, 2021
The billboard went live at midnight, just in time for the Monday morning commute.
We tried to get the billboard as close as we could to the KeyBank Center, I've provided a map so you can see the distance.
— Ryan Mead (@OhRyanMead) August 16, 2021
The podcasters dropped four figures on the advertisement and spent over 12 hours alongside designer Nick DePalo of Empirical Creative Agency to create the advertisement. The billboard idea came as a way for the podcast, which has a Patreon, to celebrate its 300th episode on Monday.
“We just want this whole saga to end,” Ryan Mead said. “It’s not about the good people of Buffalo — Go Bills! It’s about us as NHL fans, wanting this all to be over. If you love it, let it go, and let’s all move on.”
“The Sabres did this to themselves and they seemingly overplayed whatever hand they had by not trading Jack before the draft, plus letting it get to this point,” Greg Kaplan added. “We’re so tired of talking about Eichel on the show. We want it to end. We’d love for it to end in New York, but at this point, we just want finality.”
The hockey podcasters are both 32 and have full-time jobs during the day. Kaplan is a producer for Spectrum News while Mead does Marketing and Sales, which gave him the insights to complete such a big project.
“On Thursday morning I called multiple billboard places, Lamar Advertising Company got back to me right away and we got down to business,” Mead said.
The group initially had an image of Eichel without Sabres logos in its initial design but thought it was in better taste to go with an illustration.
The Rangers have reportedly been courting Eichel over the summer, but NHL insiders have suggested the Sabres, who don’t have much leverage, are demanding too much in return for their star. Eichel demanded a trade from the Sabres after the organization preferred rehab and wouldn’t allow its star to have Artificial Disk Replacement surgery to fix a neck injury.
Jack Eichel’s agents issue the following statement: pic.twitter.com/tiPXShdchz
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) July 31, 2021
The podcasters came up with the idea during a Patreon-exclusive show that they hold once a week called Blueshirts Breakaway OT.
“Last week Ryan says, verbatim ‘I literally have no idea what we’re talking about this week’ and I say ‘just hit record I have an idea,'” Kaplan said.
“The idea (to celebrate our milestone) wasn’t even this!” he continues. “It was signing Marist College athletes — we’re both alums — to Name/Image/Likeness agreements. From there, it dove-tailed to what if we got a billboard for the show? Then what if we got a billboard about Eichel? Then what if it says, ‘Aren’t trade requests a pain in the neck?’ and by Friday, we officially signed a deal with Lamar to launch the billboard on Monday to celebrate our 300th episode.”
The podcasters also run a website called Church of Kakko which worships Rangers second overall pick Kappo Kakko. Sports Illustrated, The Buffalo News, and Bardown have all done stories on the billboard.
“Greg and I are not new to extremely dumb ideas,” Mead said. “We started a religion about Kaapo Kakko, we raised a ton of money for NYC foodbanks in the name of Jack Johnson being bad at hockey, and now we’re asking for the Sabres to #FreeJack and let the NHL fans free of this saga.
“It’s still amazing to me that these things pick up traction, we’ve gotten tremendous support from our fans and we wouldn’t be able to do these dumb things without them.”
As for another topic Kaplan and Mead are passionate about, Tom Wilson and the Rangers’ reaction to him, the podcasters weren’t ready to talk.
“Let’s talk about that drama closer to the season,” they said laughing.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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