Trending Topics is a new column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you don't know about Twitter, get with the times old man.
Yeah, yeah, Jay Grossman, we saw it all before. You guaranteed that two weeks ago and all we got outta that was a fortnight of walking around like Charlie Brown on that Christmas special. Not that this didn't generate a couple re-Tweets and some fretting in both New Jersey and Los Angeles.
But then, just 31 minutes later, it turned out he was right. And who broke the news and scooped all the insiders?
It was the Devils themselves. And they did it on Twitter.
As you can imagine, pandemonium immediately broke out. That was the first time a team broke a signing of that magnitude on Twitter, to my knowledge.
Then on Wednesday, St. Louis Blues forward David Perron(notes) announced his new two-year deal on Twitter as well, in conjunction with the team's website. But he's not the first player to do it. Earlier this month, Eric Fehr(notes) announced his new contract with the Caps on Twitter as well. And a few months back, Hobey Baker winner and future Nashville Predators forward Blake Geoffrion(notes) (@BlakeGeoffrion) announced that he would sign his first pro contract at his old elementary school, though that Tweet seems to have been deleted.
Will this become a normal practice by teams and players? What does it mean for the media and fans?
A lot of people have emailed or commented on here that Twitter is stupid and why should anyone care about it because only being able to type 140 characters at a time means the information is useless. These are the same people who said they were perfectly happy with their MySpace accounts and would never ever use Facebook because it's stupid. But clearly, it has value for professional athletes, agents and sports franchises.
The only thing in the way is that pesky "we don't reveal details of any contract" thing, which I'm sure will work itself out. And plus, how many followers do you think the Devils got out of that one Tweet?
Allan Walsh and Jay Grossman are two agents who know the value — current and potential — that Twitter holds, and know how to use it to generate maximum interest not only in their clients (we all bit hard on Grossman's "Kovalchuk will make a decision today" announcement on July 5) but also in the agencies they work for.
Know how I know? We know their names. Not too many hockey agents are exactly widely known, and yet those two are brought up a lot because they're out there. That exposure could, in the future, lead more players to sign with them. (Glowing Tweets like this one from Perron about Walsh help as well.)
And of course, for the players, the exposure increases their brand name and makes them more recognizable to fans, who might just buy a shirt or a jersey of a guy they've found they happen to like quite a bit. Twitter takes out the wall between Athletes with a capital A and normal people who are buying tickets at souvenirs at the rink and makes them more ordinary ("hockey players like video games too!" and so forth).
So for all those luddites who say they'll never sign up for Twitter, you definitely didn't hear about the Kovalchuk signing first-hand, and you're going to hear even less in the future.
Are you happy now, Internetters?
When I covered the Boston Bruins, no one bothered to talk to Phil Kessel(notes) unless he had a multi-point night that included the game-winning goal, because the kid just didn't give you anything to work with.
Sidney Crosby's(notes) got a reputation for the same thing. Always safe. Lots of "I was just going hard to the net and my teammates got me the puck" kinda stuff, even when he picks up six points. Jonathan Toews(notes) is the same way.
The point is, professional athletes are often criticized for being boring. So when one comes on Twitter, as Phoenix Coyotes enforcer Paul Bissonnette(notes) did recently, and starts being not-boring ... well, people just can't deal with that.
Within days of his starting a Twitter account, he was accused of misogyny (he very obviously joked that men were smarter than women) and took pictures with homeless guys. He even started to offer his thoughts on the Kovalchuk contract.
Bissonnette noted that he can't imagine making that kind of money, but that even at league minimum, he has a tendency to "bawl [sic] hard." He also did some quick math to figure out that Kovalchuk could get lapdances (at a rate of $20 a pop) 24/7/365 for 11 years with that new contract.
Laughs all around, yeah?
But his misstep, if you wanna call it that, came after the Kovalchuk contract was nixed by the league.
"[K]ovalchuck's gana have to give lap dances for 20 years instead of getting them now that he got rejected," he wrote. "sory communist. back to the soviet."
And that's when the PC Police fired up the engines and came a-roarin' down the street. Racism, they said. Russians everywhere were outraged for some reason. Even PD's own Dmitry Chesnokov said the "Soviet" part was uncalled for. Many called it racism for some reason. Bissonnette posted a hurried apology and deleted his account a few hours later. No more fun updates from one of the league's actual characters.
And that's why athletes are boring. They're people, and they make jokes, and sometimes idiots find jokes offensive because they like having something over which they can get nice and upset. Then they try to get people in trouble.
Who wins out of all that, exactly?
Still more NHLers on Twitter
It seems like every week there are new NHL players on Twitter (gotta replace the guys crybabies run out of town on a rail, I suppose). This week saw the arrival of a pair of St. Louis Blues, Erik Johnson and Patrik Berglund.
They're in a bit of a contest with David Perron to get EJ up to 15,000 followers, Perron up to 20,000 and Berglund up to 10,000. If they do, they're going to donate $5,000 apiece to charity. So help 'em out with that, eh?
And by the way, the Blues have to be the most social media-conscious team in the NHL. From what I can tell, they've got five players — the above three plus Brad Winchester(notes) (@bradwinchester) and Cam Janssen(notes) (@camjanssen55) — two broadcasters in Darren Pang and radio guy Chris Kerber, and even their freakin' mascot.
They know what the kids like.
Late on Wednesday night a rumor started circulating that some guy called into ESPN1050 in New York and said that New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro had sustained a number of injuries in a car crash. First mention of it was from a guy that tweeted me and Greg Wyshynski about it.
As with all rumors, reports had it ranging from a broken leg and pelvis to a broken back and shoulder purple monkey dishwasher. And Twitter exploded with speculation.
Of course, it was all a bunch of crap, as these things so often are. But this one got out of control in a hurry to the point that Islanders reporters like Katie Strang and Chris Botta had to waste their time and confirm with Garth Snow and DiPietro himself that there was nothing wrong. Hell, the Islanders even put up a Tweet about it.
So I guess not everything about Twitter is awesome. You win this round, you old fogies.
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via email. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.
- Ilya Kovalchuk