As far as sports fans go, the NHL’s are regarded as some of the most web savvy on the planet. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why the NHL has gained popularity in the US in recent years.
It’s not like the NHL and its teams don’t know this or take advantage of it either. These days virtually every team has an official Twitter account. NHL.com is cutting edge. The New Jersey Devils invite fans to a social media-charged box during home games. The NHL’s COO John Collins set out to make the best online sports portal in NHL Center Ice and pretty much succeeded. The list goes on and on.
Collins and the NHL have quickly racked up 1.4 Million fans on Facebook too. That’s more than double what Major League Baseball has, despite the fact that hockey is nowhere near as popular as baseball in North America and beyond.
That’s all well and good. The NHL has loyal online fans and has worked some great initiatives to further engage them. All this feel good online love can’t possibly turn to bad… can it?
Oh sure it can!
The 2010-2011 season serves as a terrific example. Take whenever the NHL has a controversial hit for one (so pretty much once a week).
At no time was this better displayed than the Zdeno Chara-Max Pacioretty incident from a few weeks ago. Nearly every single hockey fan with an internet connection took to their online vehicle of choice to dish out their thoughts on the play. In many cases fans took to every online vehicle at their disposal. And the reactions? Let’s just say that was an exercise in e-diarrhea. I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a hockey fan.
Another example of good gone bad happened weeks before the Pacioretty overreaction during the NHL’s 2011 Trade Deadline. The rather boring final day of trades in the 2011 season will be best remembered for the hoax Twitter accounts and the proliferation of false news, despite the big news of Colorado Avalanche GM Greg Sherman’s apparent brain lapse.
And how about these NHL rumour sites that seem to pop up over night claiming to have the latest inside scoop about the next trade likely to never happen? All of a sudden there are more “hockey insiders” than former Ottawa Senator coaches. How the hell did that happen?
Whenever I log online, there’s some expert insider I’ve never heard of is claiming rumblings of trades. I always think to myself “Hey asshole, there’s a reason why people respect guys like Bob McKenzie so much.”
I see the internet as a primary reason why TSN now dedicates more than eight live hours with a full 20+ person staff to a day that features roughly 15-20 transactions we usually forget hours after the frenzy ends. Oh, and the mindless banter that we’re forced to endure. I guess I could turn it off, but I am a hockey fan after all. (Read: it’s easier to complain than do anything about it).
Although online interaction is great and the NHL’s lead in taking advantage of it has generally been seen as a positive thing, it’s not always. It’s a double edge sword. There’s a downside to having such savvy, integrated fans. At time I’ve felt like fans have gone too far with online usage.
This year we’ve finally seen the bad with all the good.
Stay classy, online hockey fans.