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The Malik Report

A million angry bees, or the NHL’s inability to win the social media war

During the last lockout, I was part of a message board called the Hockeytown Center, going by a handle some of you might still know, "Homersonic." By mid-September, 2004, I was already well aware of the fact that the NHL's battle for a salary cap had jack and squat to do with lowering ticket prices, and everything with ensuring every-year gains in franchise equity due to theoretically capped player costs (if not for the recession, the NHL might suggest that the CBA would still be "working," because teams would likely still be increasing in bank value regardless of their profits or losses), but I felt like a voice in the wildnerness as the vast majority of hockey fans bought the Levitt Report hook, line and sinker, and were quoting from NHLCBANews.com's pack of lies spun by Gary Bettman and Bill Daly like they were gospel.

This time around, I have a voice, and it's highly likely that you do, too, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, and as the Globe and Mail's Bruce Dowbiggin suggests, while fan sentiment probably won't affect the course of CBA negotiations, fans voicing their opinions about a lockout that's all about owner greed and treating the people who truly form the backbone of a $3.3 billion industry like walking dollar signs has yielded an audible din of rancor, anger and plain old dissemination of information among the masses, making sham PR campaigns like NHL CBA News or another Levitt Report impossible:

[A]s it orchestrates another controversial lockout narrative, the NHL is faced with a massed choir of players, agents, journalists, statisticians, humorists, cranks, idlers and outright liars vying for the last word on how the NHL is doing. To say nothing of sarcastic Taiwanese cartoonists, seen on YouTube.

Daly has estimated, “I think opinion on Twitter is 50-50 for the NHL/NHLPA.” Nice try. Almost everyone concedes that, because of social media, the NHL is running uphill in this PR battle compared to the lost season of 2004-05.

One day’s harvest on social media reveals NHL Lockout: 15 Reason Why Hockey Fans Hate Gary Bettman (Bleacher Report), 9 Ideas for NBC To Replace the NHL (because we couldn’t get to 10) on Awful Announcing and threats to boycott NHL sponsors on http://YouHaveTwoWeeks.com


On Twitter, Anaheim star Teemu Selanne is calling Daly’s boss Gary Bettman “the most hated man in hockey.”

Lockout accounts have sprouted like mushrooms: @stopthelockout2012, @against lockout, @nolockouthockey, #becauseitsthelockout ... the list is long.

“The 2004-05 lockout was the catalyst for hockey’s digital media revolution,” notes Greg Wyshynski, who blogs as Puck Daddy. “When the media here in the U.S. stopped covering hockey for roughly a year, fans started writing their own ‘beats’ on blogs, attracting an audience and continuing that work long after the NHL reopened its press boxes. Instead of waiting for ESPN to give the lockout its customary 23 seconds of news before giving Barry Melrose the floor for his ‘drunk uncle at the wedding’ analysis, hockey fans of every experience level and demographic can distribute and scrutinize the news of the day on Twitter – while also offering a suitable place to vent, frequently profanely.”

“Fans no longer have to wait for a talk-show host to put them on the air or a letter to the editor to be printed,” says Mitch Melnick, long-time radio host on TSN Radio 690 in Montreal. “The immediacy of a well-crafted tweet almost has the effect of putting you in the room when Gary Bettman reads them. And you know he reads them. If not originals then certainly via retweets... Whether they care or not is an entirely different matter.”

Continued with former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly's take on social media, and news about the CBC retaining Glenn Healy's services...

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creasemonkey's avatar

The increase of the hockey online “community” is a major reason why I followed hockey closely again after the 04-05 lockout. Being able to find competent sources for the hockey info I wanted was a massive improvement over what I used to get (i.e. close to nothing in southern California). I’m finding myself counting on that more than watching actual games, especially since the NHL & its broadcast partners make it as difficult as possible to watch what you want to watch. I’ve said a few times before, I had been more than willing to pay $200-250 to watch the exact broadcast of the game I want, on the device of my choosing, when I want to watch it; the technology is already there, but it’s being controlled by broadcast rules and ideas from decades ago.

One of the things that upsets me about this lockout is the sense that it was never not Bettman’s (and Daly et al) first option. He was going to do it and there was no other option available, no need to even question what his actions would be. It’s disappointing to be subjected to a third lockout in my time as a fan (and the first where I cared enough to educate myself on the basic issues), especially knowing its inevitability six months ago. I honestly think the most optimistic view is maybe it can be settled for the start of the 2013-2014 season but wouldn’t be surprised to see a chunk of that cancelled too.

Posted by creasemonkey from sweet home san diego on 09/21/12 at 03:28 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.