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Trending topics: This is why most athletes don't tweet

Ryan Lambert
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Trending Topics is a new column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead.

Sometimes one has to wonder why athletes join Twitter.

There are benefits, of course. The increased exposure that it provides could lead to more money from a potential endorsement deal, and it can be a way to vent or voice opinions on whatever they want. But the problem some may face is a lot of vitriol from fans of rival teams or people that have a problem with what they do.

Take, for example, newly-signed Vancouver Canucks farmhand forward Bill Sweatt (@billysweatt). He, like a number of young professional hockey players, has a Twitter account. He has been pretty free with the things he will discuss, and great about interacting with fans. But he may have made a mistake in making his Tweets available to the public so soon after he signed his first professional contract.

For those unfamiliar with the whole situation, Sweatt was traded with Kris Versteeg(notes) to the Maple Leafs for a trio of prospects the day before free agency started, but he was a restricted free agent that had just completed a college career at Colorado College. As a former NCAA player, the Leafs had a deadline to sign Sweatt before he became an unrestricted free agent. That deadline came and went, and he eventually signed with Vancouver, where his brother Lee - who also played at CC - had likewise signed a deal earlier in the off-season after a few years in Europe.

And Leafs fans were pissed. How, they wondered, could anyone not want to play for their dear Maple Leafs? And a lot of them chirped him about it. Some went a little overboard. (One shirtless meathead even hoped he would get "a career ending headshot" over it, which seems a bit excessive.)

"It's really funny how up in arms a lot of Leafs fans are at me," Sweatt tweeted. "I never hated nor do I hate the Leafs organization. Actually the opposite. ... It's a classy organization, and my agent and I never said No to them, they just drop us....but I'm thankful for the Canucks signing me."

In fact, after one Leafs fan tweeted to wish Sweatt good luck, he commented that most were "livid." However, he says the Toronto organization never offered him a contract, and just kept waiting for a call until Brian Burke "yanked the deal." From what can be gleaned over the entirety of Sweatt's answers to fan questions, the organization was waiting to see the potential return for the Tomas Kaberle(notes) trade that never materialized.

How was this spun into his never wanting to be a part ofthe Leafs organization? Well, that seems to be on either Burke or perhaps Sweatt's agent, Scott Norton. Burke claims Norton originally made it seem asthough a deal could be negotiated, but then "upped his demands."

And look, I'm all for heckling. I think it's a necessary part of the fan experience; in fact an instance of heckling is one of my earliest memories of attending a hockey game. Athletes have thick skin by necessity, but there's a difference between heckling players at the rink and hoping they pick up a career-ending injury on Twitter, where they can read every message of hate that gets sent to them.

I don't, however, think guys should have to put up with the kind of morons like the ones that have been harassing a developing AHL depth guy like Sweatt who, to his credit, has soldiered on and responded to a large number of detractors even though he probably shouldn't. Good for him for hanging in though. If nothing else, this shows he's at least got the mental makeup to succeed in the sport.

It's kind of sad that at a time when he should be reveling in the fact that he just found out for sure he'd be playing professional hockey for a living, he has to deal with a bunch of mouthbreathers giving him a ton of crap because he didn't sign with the team they like.

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More blogger/NHL stuff

Maybe it's the fact that I came to be a blogger via a three-year stint in the newspaper business, but I really don't see what the big deal with some NHL teams deciding to not allow bloggers to get credentials.

As a perfectly pleasant Thursday afternoon wore on and discussion calmed down a little bit - at least from the point where silly blanket statements were being made - I found that the person making the most sense was Erin Nicks. Her point was that blogs are inherently different from newspapers and other mainstream media, and thus cannot and should not be treated the same way with some overarching policy.

I'll oversimplify to make the point: SBNation has a number of excellent blogs, and some rather poor ones. Let's use Pension Plan Puppets as an example since I know those dudes pretty well.

It's quite good at what it does, and while it will never get accredited by the Leafs (given the often-critical content of their posts), the NHL gave it the go-ahead to attend the NHL Draft in Montreal last summer and any number of other league events. But the Leafs get to say whether its writers can or can't go to games at the Air Canada Centre. And they deny them.

Why? Because while, sure, those writers would PROBABLY be professional and keep their head down, the organization also doesn't want to run the risk of a person that is - from their point of view - a total idiot asking Ron Wilson, Dion Phaneuf(notes) or Brian Burke a troublesome question and pissing him off.

And that's to say nothing of the whole question of visiting dressing room access. Imagine the questions a guy like Sid Crosby or Sean Avery(notes) might get asked by some fanboy that posts for Winging it in Motown or CanesCountry (as a ferinstance) that doesn't know any better.

But anyway I think the most troubling thing out of this is the belief expressed by some that bloggers are somehow owed something by the NHL for merely existing. Buddies, you're lucky the NHL is even considering allowing bloggers - who are admittedly a bigger part of the hockey world than those for baseball, football and so forth - to sit in their press boxes, drin ktheir free soda and especially talk to their players.

A lot of times, for some reason, bloggers think they're a big deal. But just because you got a Wordpress one day and commented a bunch at your team's SB Nation site doesn't mean you should get to shove a recorder in Alex Ovechkin's(notes) face.

And this is why athletes don't say anything of substance

Often we've heard it said that athletes are "coached" to give reporters bland quotes intended to offend absolutely no one (except, of course, the reporters).

As it turns out, teams start 'em young, at least according to James van Riemsdyk(notes). When Erik Johnson(notes) asked what his followers' favorite quotes were, his former U.S. National Team Development Program responded thusly: "how about all the quotes we got fed at NTDP, there were some dandies." Johnson agreed that they were "semi brainwashed."

Players can play for that team when they're just 16. Good to start 'em getting boring when they're young, eh?


And finally, Yahoo released its Top 100 fantasy hockey players on Thursday, meaning that it's time to start thinking about what you'll name your team. As is always the case with fantasy team names, you have to come up with something funny and topical, which is in some way a pun on a person's name.

So when the perfectly nice Mr. Dany Heatley(notes) Speedwagon got the ball rolling, the Twitterverse gave us a lot of good ones. Among them:

@thejpiga: Kuba Missile Crisis

@3rdManIn:Bud Light Lalime

@b1rky: Fehr and Loathing

@musings_tweets: Mysterious Huets

@BlackAcesBlog: Etem, Pray, Love

@thekidcanada: Dr. Tobias Enstrom's(notes) 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution

@douge73: To Be Arnott To Be

@YakovMironov: I Can't Believe It's Not Sutter

and your winner:

@mforbes37: Funky Cold Kubina

If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. 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.

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