Social media: NHL fans assemble online

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
1:00
PM ET
NHL PlayersBruce Bennet/Getty ImagesAll these NHL players wish they were back on the ice. And so do the fans.
The NHL and its players association are meeting all weekend as the two sides seek to find enough common ground to end the 13-day-and-counting lockout. The meetings will give both sides a chance to hear each other out.

NHL fans don’t actually have a seat at the negotiating table, but the league’s supporters are making sure their voices are also heard in this process. In an era in which it seems professional sports work stoppages are becoming commonplace, fans are turning to social media to express their opinions loudly and collectively.

The rapid evolution of social media over the last half-decade is especially obvious when it comes to the NHL’s current labor woes. In the midst of league’s second lockout since 2004, fans have assembled online in ways that weren’t possible eight years ago.

Fans are taking to social media to express their disappointment and anger with the league's and players’ inability to reach an agreement to save the season so far. And with each passing update -- such as Thursday’s cancellation of the entire preseason -- those digital supporters express their growing displeasure even more loudly.

Fans staged a social media protest on Sept. 15, the first day of the lockout. They’ve flooded YouTube with lockout songs, lamenting what could be another lost season. Numerous Twitter accounts and Facebook pages have popped up in protest, some accumulating thousands of followers.

One of the most popular handles is @NoNHLLockout12. Drew Beason, a college student and Carolina Hurricanes season-ticket holder, started the account as an outlet to express fan frustration. His swelling number of followers, nearing 8,000, illustrates he’s not alone.

“They also feel a camaraderie with other frustrated fans,” Beason said via email of his fellow social media users. “Through this unity, fans across the world hope to make a difference [and] show the NHL and the NHLPA that we do matter.”

Finnish fan Janne Makkonen launched a petition on change.org, urging commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL to save the season. The petition has more than 30,000 virtual signatures. The YouTube video Makkonen posted encouraging fans to take action is approaching a million views.

“It is extremely important that companies, such as the NHL, listen to the reactions and feelings of their consumers, here the NHL fans,” Beason said. “[Social media] very well could be a barometer to how much their consumers can tolerate.”

Lest anyone think the message is getting lost among the noise, the #nolockout video was tweeted out by the NHLPA, and the link to the petition has even gotten players’ attention.

The collective voice grows louder as fans continue to mobilize on the Web. Makkonen reached out to Beason. Beason has connected with Twitter users from every team’s fan base to help organize a comprehensive social media campaign.

“Some people on the Twitter account have said what I'm doing is a waste of time and won't make a difference,” Beason said. “I believe that giving fans a voice will make a difference.”

With negotiations under way, we’ll soon see just how much the NHL and NHLPA are listening to their fans.

Cricket and Twitter

With cricket’s World Twenty20 tournament under way in Sri Lanka, the sport’s international governing body has launched a major social media campaign. The International Cricket Council has partnered with Twitter to create an event page for fans to follow the tournament action, using the #wt20. Twitter has done similar promotions with NASCAR and the Olympics. And just in case followers aren’t quite sure what that hashtag is, the ICC has it prominently displayed on the field of play.

Elsewhere in the social mediasphere

Manchester City is giving its fans a chance to participate in prematch Google+ hangouts.

Sports documentary "Rollaball" reached its funding goal on Kickstarter after attention from athletes and celebrities helped drive donations to the crowdsourced site.

With the NBA season around the corner, the Golden State Warriors are holding a Tweedia Day on Monday.

Have a story we should feature? Have a site we should check out? Who's on your must-follow list? Tweet me at @BurnsOrtiz. If your idea gets mentioned in this column, so will you. Follow Playbook on Twitter at @ESPNPlaybook.
Maria Burns Ortiz covers social media for ESPN Playbook. She began writing for ESPN.com in 2006, covering college soccer for ESPNSoccernet.

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