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This is the final installment from Matt Rietz over at Viewfrommyseats.  Sorry this took so long but I was going through some job hunting issues and needed a break.  I hope you enjoy Matt’s take on Social Media and the NHL and you learned a lot about what the NHL is doing correctly.

People that are active in the online hockey community know where the most up-to-the-second information is available: Twitter. Big websites are dependent on their writers and the bloggers may hear about the information quickly—but it still takes time to put together even a 2 paragraph article. Even when it’s done, it’s not like everyone in the world will see it. But Twitter, that’s a different story. How long does it take for someone with a breaking story to knock out 140 characters? But that’s only the first part of the story…

The true power of Twitter is the speed at which information can spread from a single Tweet to across a community. If someone tweets that Jay Bouwmeester signed a contract with the Calgary Flames a day before free agency opens, they’re reaching all of their followers with the press of a button. But when I hear that news, I’ll be quick to re-tweet the information to all of my followers. Some of them, will in-turn share with all of their readers. When a story goes viral—THAT’S the power of Twitter.

From a news point of view, blogging and Twitter go hand and hand. But that’s only a single area that social media helps the NHL. Another area that is just as important is how Social Media can promote the sense of community between fans—whether the fans are in different cities, different states or even different countries. Bloggers and fans alike are increasingly using places like Facebook to strengthen friendships with people that they’ve interacted with in other venues. Maybe the met at a team function. Maybe they met at an NHL TweetUp. Whatever the case may be, Facebook and the like give them a place to keep in contact and share their ideas.

Specifically for hockey fans, it gives them a place to talk to other hockey fans about the sport they love. They can share articles they’ve read. They can share videos that they saw on YouTube (or NHL.com). They can vote on polls they saw on Twitter or even share Fan Pages to their favorite hockey blogs. Whatever the reason for communication, it provides a venue that hockey fans can interact with one another as much as they’d like. It’s like an electronic self-help group for puck crazed addicts (minus the 12 steps).

The NHL and individual teams have jumped head first into the New Media arena as well. During the playoffs, the Blackhawks and Penguins were serving up contests via Twitter for fans to win prizes—up to and including game tickets. Teams like the Los Angeles Kings will have contests on both Twitter and Facebook for their fans to win prizes as well. They’ve learned that they have a huge opportunity through the social media channels—they can either take advantage of the channels or watch another team do it for them.

Twitter and Facebook also serve as the newest way for bloggers to promote their articles. The high-end hockey blogs are rapidly becoming the backbone of hockey media for information for a huge percentage of the fan base. Unfortunately, bloggers often times can get lost in the huge sea of the World Wide Web. They need to get the word out—and they need to get the word out to the right people. Again: Enter Social Media.

Follow the right people on Twitter and you’ll have a never ending stream of quality information at your fingertips. Some might be from sources that have been around for decades, some might be up-and-comers that have always been good but have never had the chance. The genius of social media is that YOU get to decide who YOU want to give your attention to. If you find someone that you really enjoy, you can further engage the conversation on their blog or a Facebook page. It’s a two-way conversation—and it’s up to YOU how involved you want to be. You don’t have to, but at least now the choice is yours.

Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston

At the end of the day, I have to give a ton of credit to the NHL for being so accepting of the new media world. The old way of thinking was that online content was GIVING the product away for free. The NHL has realized that this isn’t giving hockey away for free—it’s PROMOTING it for free. The league could either acknowledge or shun it. They’ve acknowledged it and embraced it with open arms! They’ve certainly been through some rough times (and they’re still dealing with the hard times), but this is the way that they’ll save their league.

For the first time in a while, I can say this: The NHL is doing something right! Thank God, there’s hope for them yet.

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3 part guest post by  Matt Rietz —creator of View From My Seats.
The in-depth, intelligent blog has been listed all over the hockey blogosphere, on various newspaper blogrolls, the Huffington Post, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy and, most notably, on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Tired of seeing the same sports websites that were completely detached from what the fans were thinking, he created his own site in 2007. Early in 2009, the website transitioned into a hockey-only site and has shown steady growth.
VFMS is a potent elixir concocted with equal parts wit, intelligence, sarcasm and reality. Served liberally between October and June at just below 32 degrees. At the heart of each article is one simple fact: In order to be smartass, one must first be smart.

When I think of forward progressive organizations, the National Hockey League isn’t exactly the first thing that jumps into my mind. We’re talking about a League that had a labor stoppage in the mid-1990’s just as hockey was competing to make a dent into the Big 3’s market share in the United States. As if that wasn’t enough, the league shot itself in the foot again the mid-2000’s when they experienced another labor stoppage. This time, the stoppage was because their business model was so severely flawed that even teams that were successful on the ice were epic failures on the profit front. Any time there was a hint of momentum, the league squashed any glimmer of hope. Think of a drunken Inspector Clouseau in a China shop. I’m sure you can figure out how this is going to go.

Ironically, it might be technology, Web 2.0 and an extremely fanatic fan base that might be what pulls the NHL out of obscurity and back to its place among the Top 4 sports in the U.S. When there are some sports leagues that are trying to figure the world of Social Media out, the NHL is surprisingly in front of the curve for once. Instead of playing the reactionary game, they’re proactively doing something to bring their great game to as many people as possible. While they might be unconventional means of communication today, the NHL is banking on New Media and its participants becoming the MAINSTREAM media—not an afterthought. Check out Facebook and Twitter—they might be onto something here.

The NHL may have turned their attention to non-traditional forms of media out of necessity, but they’re taking this blessing in disguise and running with it. Traditionally, how have sports fans received most of their news? Three major outlets provided the vast majority of the coverage: Newspapers, television and radio. The gradual demise of the newspaper industry has been well chronicled all over the internet. But think about this: how many people do you know that get their hardcore sports information from the radio? Better yet, how many members of Generation Next even know what AM radio is? The newspaper industry might be dying, but radio is in the next bed on life support itself.

That leaves television as the major traditional player for all of the sports league. Any discussion of television and the world of sports begins and ends with ESPN. If you want me to start with Fox Sports, then I’m guessing that Rupert Murdoch is either signing your checks or is a relative. If that’s the case, I mean no disrespect—but Fox Sports is largely irrelevant compared to the Worldwide Leader. I didn’t make up reality, I’m just acknowledging it.

When was the last time you heard ESPN talk about hockey and they didn’t mention a fight, suspension or Sidney Crosby? They neither have the quality reporters, insiders or the desire to cover hockey the way they cover baseball, basketball or football.

So where do hockey fans go when they want information? In the absence of traditional media, they have had to find non-traditional methods of tracking their favorite teams and players. Enter the internet—and more specifically the hockey blogosphere. Big players like From The Rink of SB Nation and Puck Daddy on Yahoo have filled the void better than the radio and newspaper industry ever did. But just as importantly, blogs with a narrow scope have emerged for individual teams and leagues.

The NHL could have turned their back on their emerging corner of media; but instead they took the opportunity to embrace the bloggers, their hard work and their community. They’ve redesigned NHL.com to truly be one of the best websites for any sport. They provide scores, stats and schedules like all leagues are expected to on their home page. But they’ve gone a step further—they have specific play highlights, game highlights and even podcasts for fans that are looking for more than goals and assists stats. It’s like every A.D.D. Hockey fan’s wet dream!

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