With the past week as laboratory, it’s an apt time to broaden our lens a bit and remark on how fantastically hockey coverage is expanding and improving by virtue of a single social media application: Twitter.
The two big-on-the-calendar events of the past seven days, indeed of the entire hockey season — the NHL Draft and Wednesday’s start of free agency — were by virtue of this single communications tool blown wide open in insider access: every hockey fan with a hand-held suddenly had access to the real-time thoughts and experiences of the most gifted 18-year-old hockey talents on the planet, player agents, NHL free agent stars, leading media personalities, and of course bloggers.
To be brutally honest, I have but a big toe in the Twitter tidal wave; this blog, however, thanks to the visionary instincts of Gustafsson, started boogey-boarding in it before it was cool to, and today we have over 2,000 folks following our Tweets. Up in the Verizon Center press box last season we had Intern Andrew manning the Tweet feed, while the old man to his right soldiered on primitively in merely 21st century blogging fashion. Very belatedly very late in the season I joined in.
To be brutally honest, I had my suspicions about it: in general I’m not a big believer that substantive communications are commonly conveyed in the confines of 140 characters. Imagine Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day battlecry condensed to 140 characters. I’ve grown more comfortable with it by embracing its inherent limitations, as well as recognizing that just as a picture can be worth a thousand words, a well-conceived, well-executed Tweet can illuminate and engage a large community of followers.
It was on Twitter this week, for instance, that Martin Havlat ignited an on-line firestorm with his parry and thrust against the Blackhawks in the aftermath of failed contract negotiations with them: “Excited to be in Minny where I was welcomed and appreciated by
management. The real story about what happened in Chicago to come out.” [133 characters]
Soon thereafter he followed with: “There’s something to be said for loyalty and honor.” [51 characters]
The moment, in a constricted-character nutshell, billboarded the warp-speed change with which hockey is communicating and is communicated. We didn’t need the Chicago Tribune, its writer’s union, or its online editorial staff to convey the innermost tension and drama of a high-profile player’s career-altering decisionmaking. Just the player himself, and his cutting edge digital media account.
Speaking of media and Twitter, TSN’s Darren Dreger — he of the 21,000-plus Twitter followers (Dreger Tweet on Entry Draft Friday night: “Gord Miller just compared my number of followers to Paris Hiltons . . : ) “) — was tweeting in real time from the draft floor in Montreal. The Versus/TSN broadcast of the Draft opened with word of the blockbuster Chris Pronger trade to Philly. But if you’re like me, you were exasperated waiting for television’s word of what Philly was sending back to Anaheim. The broadcast didn’t have those details for a curious period of time, but Dreger on Twitter did.
In his recent ‘Year in Hockey Blogs‘ overview Greg Wyshynski rightly says of Twitter that it is “an essential part of the alternative hockey media. It’s a place for
breaking news, a place for live-blogging events and, perhaps most of
all, an avenue for social networking that takes the old, moldy message
boards into a stripped down new model of efficiency and speed.” For Greg Twitter was the second-biggest storyline/development of new media and the 2008-09 hockey season.
This past Wednesday Wyshynski amalgamated 12 different Twitter feeds from a variety of hockey sources providing a variety of hockey scoops, housing them in his iconic chat forum. It was such a hit on day one of free agency that he kept it up yesterday and today. This is newshound 3.0, or 5.0; how would you like to be a big city old media editor and trying to compete for breaking news on big-name hockey signings against what Daddy’s doing?
Years ago Ted Leonsis told us that his vision for growing hockey’s profile in a congested and voraciously competitive sports media market was to have his league’s players actually be content providers, digitally of course — telling their own stories in their own words. It’s happening.
Where are we headed with this communications tool? Damned if I know. But I’m comfortable deferring to Puck Daddy for his take:
“Twitter as comedy, Twitter as communication, Twitter as community. It’s
everything to everyone. And it’s changed online journalism.”