Inside the Vegas Golden Knights’ first victory: social media

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LAS VEGAS – At some point in the last several years, it apparently became mandatory that every NHL team social media feed had to range from somewhat cheeky to outright snarky.

We can probably trace this back to the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, when Dewayne Hankins and Pat Donahue not only created a sarcastic online presence for a team that still uses Eric Cartman to hype the crowd, but also had hilarious parries with opposing fans on Twitter. “They chirp us. We tweet back. And then they tell us how much they love us,” Hankins said at the time. “They think it’s the Kings talking to them.”

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The Columbus Blue Jackets followed in that tradition, and now every team seems to have its moments of self-aware comedy that were previously reserved for fan blogs and message boards. Now, they’re used to bring more fans to the teams, creating a different voice than they one they might hear in other marketing.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, their voice on social media is one of the first being heard by fans, not only in Las Vegas but around the League.

If their expansion draft tweeting is any indication … well, they’re certainly having fun out here.

What the Knights decided to do in the last week: Create buzz for the expansion draft by tweeting the unprotected player lists from all 30 teams, and then asking followers which player they should select from each team.

In the process, the Knights opened up the conversation to their fans, the fans of the “exposed” team’s players and every other interested observer in the NHL. The bit went viral, and was so successful that the NHL decided to rip it … er, borrow the concept for itself.

Of course, it helps when others play along. Like when Roberto Luongo responded to the Florida Panthers’ list:

And then Eddie Lack responded to that:

The Golden Knights reached out to social influencers like Steve Dangle of Sportsnet:

They helped write punchlines:

And made corny jokes that got called out by other teams:

So who’s behind this malarkey?

Eric Tosi, the team’s vice president for communications and content, oversees their digital stategy but it’s Dan Marrazza “doing the work on the front lines” on Twitter and Alyssa Girardi creating the graphics, according to Tosi.

Marrazza previously worked for the NHL and NBC on the digital side, along with freelance work with several NHL teams. Girardi was previously on the communications staff of USA Hockey. Tosi was director of communications and content for the Boston Bruins for 10 years before heading to Vegas. (Yes, one of the minds behind all that “Bruins Bear” content is now helping the Golden Knights get attention.)

“I oversee it and lead the overall planning across our channels,” said Tosi. “Dan monitors the chatter and comes up with the majority of the ideas, we talk through them to make sure we are comfortable and he’ll send. He has been outstanding.”

Tosi said the team was assembled in May. That includes Gary Lawless, former columnist for the Winnipeg Free-Press and TSN, who was brought on to do in-house media for the Golden Knights. The team also brought on a videographer who was working with the New York Rangers, and they’ve been sending out reports and updates during the week:

(My favorite thing so far in Vegas, regarding the Golden Knights, was Lawless yelling at me in a commercial on taxi cab TV, telling me to buy tickets for the NHL Awards with the subtly of a Paul Heyman promo.)

Tosi said the team expects to make a splash in Instagram this week, particularly during the expansion draft and jersey reveals around the NHL Awards.

Despite the work other NHL teams have done on digital media, this is still uncharted territory for the Vegas Golden Knights.

“We’re the first expansion team in the social media era,” said Tosi.

There’s a considerable hill to climb, to that end. The Knights have 119,000 followers on Twitter. Consider that the Arizona Coyotes have 293,000. On Facebook, the Knights just crossed 90,000 followers; the Coyotes, again for comparison’s sake, have over 300,000.

But for a team that doesn’t even have a full roster of players yet, the early results are impressive.

“It’s a team effort over here, and have planned a bunch of content ideas for a while. Excited to now be able to execute on them,” said Tosi.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


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