#SmackTalkOnIce: NHL’s Twitter Twibe Skates into Hearts of Fans

Most professional sports teams have Twitter Accounts for updates, promo information, ect. However, some of the teams in the NHL have become very engaged in communicating with fans as...

Most professional sports teams have Twitter Accounts for updates, promo information, ect. However, some of the teams in the NHL have become very engaged in communicating with fans as well as the Twitter accounts of other teams. These interactions show a side of professional hockey that is approachable, as well as cute and funny, that speaks to groups of people that may not observe the sport in other arenas. NHL teams twitter accounts, combined with the witty tweets and posts of the NHL players themselves, provide a more personable and relatable face for the league and the faces of the sport as a whole.

One of the teams known best for associating with fans and other teams is the LA Kings Twitter account (@LAKings). The Kings are known for delivering insults and just starting conversations with fellow teams on Twitter. These conversations, notably involving the Dallas Stars (@DallasStars), the Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL), and the Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers), are shared and enjoyed by hockey fans and novices to the sport alike. This is a great way teams can draw attention to their sport without putting a whole lot of effort into promotional stunts. Since these conversations are humorous and lead the teams to come across as having a voice that is natural and relatable, these Tweets speak to members of all generations on Twitter. Occasionally, some of these conversations will make national sports news pages, such as SportsNet. Some of the teams have even called out ESPN on Twitter (@espn) for lacking in their hockey coverage. This caused many conversations throughout the Twittersphere about ESPN’s constant lack of hockey talk and obsession with LeBron. Another example of the teams interacting with their fans through Twitter is when the St. Louis Blues took notice to a new-to-hockey member of Twitter, @Soloucity (aka Tony X.). The Twitter user decided to watch his first ever hockey game on TV, and live tweeted his experience. The live tweets went viral and Tony became an online sensation overnight. The Blues Twitter account (@StLouisBlues) used the situation to promote themselves and their customer service commitment when they offered him free tickets to the next upcoming playoff game publicly on Twitter. This small gesture brought them a lifetime hockey fan, as well as national attention for being responsive and caring of their fans. Twitter was used in this situation as a way to connect the teams to new fans, and brought the sport as a whole into the spotlight. A third way that NHL-affiliates have used Twitter is to become fan favorites. Some notable Twitters belong to everyone’s favorite back-up goalie (frequently seen tweeting from the bench during games) is Roberto Luongo (@strombone1), who tweets his amusing thoughts taking stabs at his talent and career pitfalls, as well as using the platform to communicate with fans. Another well-known NHL scrub (online, of course), is Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0), who is known for tweeting his thoughts on arenas, other players, as well as his healthy-scratch status in the NHL. He is very good about communicating with fans and poking fun at himself. Recently, Phil Kessel was cut from the World Cup of Hockey’s Team USA. While watching the team lose from home, Kessel tweeted: “Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but I couldn’t put my finger on it” (@PKessel81 on Twitter). Kessel himself tweeting what most of the USA hockey community was thinking sparked a massive conversation on Twitter, and the tweet was interacted with over 200 thousand times. NHL stars have a great connection with their community members and Twitter gives many of them an outlet for people to hear what they are actually thinking, completely uncensored and uncontrolled.

Sports news hubs such as SBNation, SportsNet, as well as TSN, have all taken a close look at the conversations between twitter accounts. SBNation wrote a story on the Vancouver Canucks, who chose to release their 2016-17 schedule in the fashion of sending out “Save the Date” notes to all of their opponents via Twitter. TSN covered a story in which the LA Kings found a tweet sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013, and chose to revamp it. A few other teams came into the conversation, and the result (as best said by TSN), “some of the NHL teams Twitter handles have been having very casual, normal conversations with one another on Twitter, just as you would if you were wondering what your friends were up to on a Saturday night” (BarDown Staff). This casual banter between teams is great for creating an approachable hockey community. An editorial, posted on theHockeyWriters.com, states that the tweets are a great way to keep fans engaged during the hockey offseason, a time in which many hockey fans call the ‘Sports Desert”. This is a great way to look at the tweets, since almost all news sources ignore hockey during the offseason. The article continues in showing a series of tweets from the LA King’s players, showing them to be no different than the average Twitter user. For fans and kids especially, to be able to see their idols and champions of the sport in such a casual light is worth mentioning. If that one kid who has the dream of being in the NHL decides that his favorite players started out and are still fun and lighthearted, something to relate to, that kid may have a bigger chance of following his or her hockey dreams.

Twitter is a platform used widely for its interactive capabilities. Users can follow who they want, reply to tweets, retweet tweets they especially enjoy, and voice their opinions for others to see. Twitter is used widely by teams and players in the NHL to communicate with other teams, as well as fans. This use of Twitter is a great way to expand the NHL network online and for fans to feel closer to their favorite players and teams. The team Twitter accounts also give a human-persona connected to some of the teams. All of these factors make Twitter a great way to connect and interact with your favorite teams in a way that was never possible before a platform like Twitter was created.

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Author: Carly Tashman
About Me: Junior at the beautiful University of Vermont, majoring in Public Communications with a minor in Sports Management. Occasionally I play hockey.
Advisor: Rob Williams, Ph.D., University of Vermont Professor of Media/Communication.

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