Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The one where I go off on pro hockey players who suck at Twitter but either don't know it or don't care

This rant has been building up for a while. I'm big into the Twitter, ya know, because it's awesome. And I'd say easily 95% of the people I follow have a hockey connection. Fans, writers, fellow goalies, players.

There's a real goalie community on there and I enjoy the heck out of that. Plus news is instant (and sometimes wrong, but most of the time it's not) and we keep each other amused quite nicely. I know it isn't for everybody, but I adore it.

And icing on the cake is that many pro hockey players have hopped on Twitter and taken to it nicely. Some, like Paul Bissonnette, took to it a little too nicely, offended some people, and his agent shut him down. BTW, boo on you, sir or ma'am, as we were enjoying watching his hilarious trainwreck of bad grammar, "unfiltered" opinions -- okay, he's an idiot, or at least pretends to be one -- and homeless photos.

A few players really nail it (more on them later), but so many just don't get it. They treat it like they're as much employed by their team's PR department as by hockey ops. They are polite and boring. They are obsessed with the number of followers they have and growing that number.

But rather than growing that number by being interesting and having people follow because they want a peek at the player without the team-spun façade, their first tweets look something like this:

"Let's get to 1000 followers today! I'll follow the first 10 to RT this!"


"I'll donate $5000 to charity when I reach 8,000 followers! Please RT!"

And subsequent tweets are mere variations on the theme. Or they turn on the cliche machine:

"Working out hard. Looking forward to a great season! Sushi for dinner!"

Really? Because we figured you were probably sitting on your ass, eating fried chicken, and dreading the season. Thanks for setting us straight. (And honestly, hockey players and sushi. We get it. You like lean meats and carbs rolled up in seaweed. Sheesh.)

What we don't ever get is an opinion, a taste of what the person is like when you take the gear away, anything that makes us laugh or think or relate to them. And when you don't get that, you start to wonder if it's even the player tweeting or is it some intern in their agent's office? Or worse, are they really that boring?

So, dear pro hockey players, here's what we want from you:

We want to know what you are about off the ice. What do you get excited about? What blows your mind? What gives you pause? What do you celebrate? What are your pet peeves?

  • We know from Dan Ellis that he's into cars and annoying dangerous wildlife. 
  • We know that Mike McKenna is crazy about car racing and he's painting his house (and regretting not hiring someone else to do it). 
  • For shit's sake, we know Mark Dekanich's calls his grandmother Nana and that she's an amazing cook! 
That's what we want from you. We want you to tweet like we tweet. Be a real person for us. Stop being a mouthpiece.

There's even a tag that these soulless pro hockey tweeters use that I never saw until they hit the Twitterverse this summer in decent numbers: #PassthePuck. Was there a memo about this to the players with a Tweet Script? That's certainly how it feels, and while many thousands of people follow these guys, I'm so turned off by it, I don't bother.

My thought is, if they ever DO say anything interesting, someone will RT it and I'll see it then. And if it happens a couple of times, then maybe this player has found a way out of the Matrix and is speaking for himself finally.

But thankfully, some guys do get it right. In fact, it was McKenna's tweet about reaching 1,600 followers last night that set me off. Not because he was tweeting about his follower count but because he never asks for followers and never self-promotes. And yet he still rewarded his followers with a pretty funny picture of him dressed as Macho Man Randy Savage for Halloween a couple of years ago.

THAT is how you acknowledge your fans with grace. McKenna could write the book, really. He shares parts of his life with his fans, he answers questions, he talks about whatever is annoying him at the moment or what is awesome for him at the moment. He was even very frank when Johan Hedberg was signed by the Devils, that he was disappointed to not be getting a chance to battle for that #2 spot behind Brodeur.

In short, he tweets just like you and me. It's just life. With less cussing and obnoxious drunk tweets.

Like McKenna, Dekanich, and Ellis, other good follows are Bobby Ryan (funny kid), and newcomer (recently signed by Charlotte) Mike McKenzie (son of TSN's Bob McKenzie, who is a terrific tweeter himself, so it's no surprise, and tweets between the two are fun to see, too). Any wonder some of the best are AHL guys...

Look, I'm not looking for perfect grammar or their darkest secrets or even replies to our tweets to them (that's just a bonus). And I'm glad players are jumping on. But if you're just going to spam your fans with demands for retweets, don't bother. Spare us the discovery that you have so little to say. Let us live with the fiction that you are as interesting off the ice as you are on it.

Now, get back to that workout, because we know you're really looking forward to [insert team name] making a run at it this year. *yawn*


Just a quick addendum, check out the "Prospects learn value of social media" article on this live blog from the Research, Development and Orientation camp the NHL is putting on. Check out this list of rules they give the kids doing this camp:
1-Always remain focused on your message
2-Take a team first approach
3-Set a good example
4-Be interesting, not controversal [sic]
5-Establish yourself as the real deal
6-Become a fan favorite
7-Don't let your guard down
Number 1 makes me want to cut a bitch. Some make good sense, like 7 and 5. 6 makes no sense at all. What does that even mean?


Goody  August 18, 2010 at 8:17 AM  

Awesome post. I don't do the twitter, but your analysis is spot on.

Anonymous  August 18, 2010 at 12:12 PM  

i always review their previous tweets and see if they EVER share anything "normal" or resembling an actual person or just a crosby style..."we worked really hard and look forward to playing well next time"
if they at least acknowledge ACTUAL life and are interesting, then i like to stalk...err....follow them...LOL
you really nailed it on the head this time.

Anonymous  August 19, 2010 at 12:18 PM  

"make yourself the real deal"

I sooo wanna see Ovechkin taunt Crosby "i'm the real deal, BITCH! I'm gonna take you DOOOOWN!" aka WWE least work in some of the NHL messages into it...

artandhockey  August 21, 2010 at 10:41 AM  

Does one really, but really,d want to know what a guy does..i.e. eat sushi, or ? Daily? Hourly? Don't they have something real to do while on Twitter burbling away their exciting secrets or not so exciting ones?
Tried twitter and can live very nicely without it! Thank you.

But I did enjoy your tongue-in-cheek posting...a tweeter can get into deep hot water tweeting one's real thoughts? A surfeit of information is tooo boring!

As politicians, artists and now sports figures are finding out
;-) :-D.. to the public amusement/outrage, that's in the 'eye of the readers'!

sharon  August 23, 2010 at 5:23 PM  

I miss Havlat's tweets-his were AWESOME! Could take twitter lessons from him-who knew he was funny?

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