Twitter, for better or for worse but probably on the whole for the better, has changed the way we consume professional hockey.
It’s made coverage of news more immediate, transforming everything from delivery of breaking news to viewing of game highlights. At the same time, it’s created countless pitfalls and unscrupulous habits that sully the delivery of that news. (It's also created a platform where pundits can chow down on their own feet.)
It’s created access points to connect fans with players, teams, pundits and other fans. To that end, it’s created ways for magic moments that otherwise would have never been possible – like a fan delivering a burger to a hungry player that requests one – while at the same time creating a means for abusing these lines of communication (ask April Reimer).
It’s made watching hockey a communal experience in the digital space, necessitating a second screen to keep up with the conversation while keeping up with the game itself.
It’s created an unprecedented marketplace of ideas and communications. Sometimes those ideas and communications enhance life. Sometimes they make life more difficult. Sometimes they make you want to climb into the corner of a darkened closet and stay there until it all blows over.
In the end, everything we experience away from the screen – humor, insight, jerks, harassment, dumb arguments that consume our days, weird diversions that stoke our creativity but suck away our time – is transferred to that marketplace. It’s an amplified microcosm, heightened by the anonymity and impersonal nature of the medium. Some people are good. Some people are bad. Some people feel good when making you feel bad, which makes them terrible.
But none of it is ever boring. Even the dumbest of hashtags.
As we said, Twitter has changed the way we consume hockey. Here are 10 outrageous hockey moments during 10 years of Twitter:
10. Dan Ellis Problems
In 2010, NHL goalie Dan Ellis took to Twitter to lament the lack of respect for hockey players as specialists in their fields, comparing their years of preparation to those of a brain surgeon.
A month later, he piggybacked on a tweet by NFLer Reggie Bush to further lament his financial strife as a millionaire:
“If you lost 18 percent of your income, would you be happy? I can honestly say that I am more stressed about money now than when I was in college.”
With that, #DanEllisProblems were born, as a journeyman player was recast as an oblivious pro athlete in 140 characters.
9. Mediator Guy Serota Canned
If there’s nothing else we’ve learned about social media, it’s that it can create instant celebrities and instant controversies.
Which brings us to Guy Serota.
Who the hell is Guy Serota, you may ask? Well, in 2012, he was part of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediation team tasked with attempting to end the NHL lockout. He was also a boorish Twitter presence, and “that guy who thinks he’s in on the joke except he should leave it to the pros.”
Once his Twitter comedy was exposed, Serota said the funniest thing he’s ever uttered, which was that his feed was hacked.
Thanks to the tweets, he was dropped from the mediation. But he did help introduce “ass mode” to the hockey lexicon, briefly.
8. Down Goes Brown and the “Fake Brian Burke” controversy
Before he became an author, a Grantlander and the funniest man on hockey Twitter, Sean McIndoe (a.k.a. Down Goes Brown) was the fan behind an epic “Brian Burke” parody on Twitter in 2009. Despite the fact that feed had a link to his blog and a giant, blaring “YES, IT’S A PARODY” in the bio, Globe & Mail writer David Shoalts reached out to Burke to formally declare that the feed wasn’t his.
"The part that makes me laugh is that he actually got Brian Burke to confirm that it wasn't him,” said McIndoe. “I can't shake this picture of Brian Burke -- 10 days before the trade deadline, one of the most important weeks of his professional career -- and he has to respond to these email inquiries from a Globe reporter."
7. The Rise of BizNasty
Paul Bissonnette has played 202 games in the NHL. He’s scored seven goals. He’s fought countless times. But he’s also perhaps the greatest example of how Twitter can take a marginal player and turn him into a star, serving as a platform for unique personality to shine.
His feed was a frequently ridiculous combination of observational humor, photographs of homeless guys to whom he gave money and comments about his banana hammock and panty soup.
It wasn’t without its controversies. There were accusations of misogyny and general line-crossing on good taste. In 2010, BizNasty deactivated his Twitter when he reacted to Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract being rejected by the NHL by tweeting “sory (sic) communist, back to the soviet.” But he returned to Twitter later that year.
Today, he has close to 700K followers.
6. Joel Ward and the Bruins Apology
When Joel Ward scored the game-winner in Game 7 of the 2012 playoff series between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins, some Boston fans took notice … that Ward was black. That resulted in a flood of disgusting racist messages aimed at Ward (STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING), and eventually an unprecedented apology from the Bruins for its fans’ behavior:
"The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night. These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization."
The resulting investigation tracked some tweets to several high schools in New England.
5. Paulina Gretzky’s Twitter Feed Shut Down by Wayne
This is going to shock and amaze you, but sexy women who post photos on social media get ridiculous numbers of followers.
Such was the case for Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of The Great One, who first burst onto the scene in 2009 as a 17-year-old and then posted tantalizing photos through 2011. But then word came down that Wayne Gretzky had ordered her feed to shut down, as dad put his foot down over the racy images.
But the images would continue on all platforms of social media, and let’s all celebrate that. Without Paulina Gretzky’s scantily clad photos, we’d never know that she has a ‘99’ tattooed on her pelvis.
4. Evander Kane’s Money Phone
Perhaps the most infamous photo ever tweeted by an NHL player, this was published on Kane’s official Twitter feed in Dec. 2012, apparently taken on the balcony of The Cosmopolitan in Vegas. In it, Kane attempted to call boxing champion Floyd Mayweather with a stack of hundred dollar bills.
The photo would be grouped on the umbrella of Kane being “problematic” in Winnipeg, especially because the photo was taken during the NHL lockout, when players were crying about lost wages.
Kane would have fun with all of this in a subsequent tweet, in which he was doing pushups with stacks of money on his back.
3. Auto-Hashtags Are The Devil
Oh, hey, here’s a grand idea: Have your followers tweet to a specific hashtag, and then have those tweets appear on your feed or on television with scant filtering or editorial oversight.
Like in 2013, when the Toronto Maple Leafs’ #SeaOfBlue was polluted with by fans snarking about how terrible the team is.
Like on TSN, when Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert threatened a lawsuit after the network aired a tweet that inferred an affair between Lupul and Cuthbert, and it resulted on an on-air apology.
Like in Feb. 2016, when the Montreal Canadiens apologized for racist tweets appearing on this feed after an automated Twitter screw-up.
Like the next time this inevitably happens.
2. LA Kings Twitter Changes The Game
For years, NHL teams’ presence on Twitter would involve inane news, play-by-play of games and links back to their official websites. It was safe. It was tedious.
Then the Los Angeles Kings decided to change the game.
Spearheaded by social media gurus Dewayne Hankins and Pat Donahue, the Kings turned their feed into a snarky, confrontational and hilarious stream of messages. Sometimes they took heat for mocking the competition too hard, but it’s also led to some bizarre social media moments, like their love affair with “Lumbus.”
Love them or hate them, the Kings helped back the world safe for actual personality to be exuded from NHL team feeds.
1. Roberto Luongo’s “Strombone1” Redemption
In 2011, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was a hero, and Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was the much-maligned chokey other guy, called unlikable by some, unable to do seemingly anything right.
Then social media changed everything. On Facebook, Thomas became a divisive figure, espousing his support for Chick Fil-A and defending his decision to skip the Stanley Cup champion's ceremonial White House visit.
Luongo, on the other hand, quietly ran an anonymous Twitter account (as of yet unconfirmed officially, but it's him). And, as the year rolled on and it more and more evidence mounted as to who was behind @Strombone1 (partly because Luongo made it less and less subtle), fans began being captivated by him.
There’s no better example of an NHL player using Twitter to give fans a different perspective on their personality and life, and in the process changing the narrative about their career.
Bravo, Roberto Luongo. You win Twitter.
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