Martin Havlat gave hope to Hawks fans hoping he'd re-sign on his Twitter page. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Ah, technology – how I misunderestimate thee.
Being something of a young old coot, it takes me awhile to figure out new developments in the world of communications, but once I found out I could go buck-wild on custom ringtones for my BlackBerry (Raekwon! Cattle Decapitation!), the ball got rolling.
With this newfound philosophy, I’ve dipped into the world of Twitter. Of course, I’m not contributing to the ubiquitous new trend; merely snooping at this point in time. And guess what? A lot can be gleaned from the hockey world by perusing the bite-sized messages posted by Twitter devotees.
Like any social group, there are those in the athletic world that like to be one with their public and Twitter has given those folks an instant outlet, filter-free. As Bill Simmons noted in a recent ESPN column, some athletes are now subverting the media establishment altogether by controlling the messages they put out: Why talk to a reporter when you can ‘tweet’ whatever is on your mind and have it said your way?
For me, the most intriguing so far has come from Chicago Blackhawks star Martin Havlat, an unrestricted free agent who – with 77 points in 81 games – just wrapped up his most productive (and healthy) season ever.
Havlat, tweeting on his plans for the day, wrote: “Meeting with (Chicago GM) Dale Tallon for dinner tonight, leaving to Prague tomorrow. FYI, I am NOT putting my condo up for sale (if you get my drift!).”
Sounds like nice news for Blackhawks fans.
Similarly, Havlat’s agent Allan Walsh has been a tireless twitterer throughout the post-season, bringing news and musings about his clients and the league. One of his more recent posts stakes NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly to the position that from the players’ perspective, it’s time the NHL left Phoenix.
Other gems run the gamut from the juicy – “Based on what I am hearing, I can virtually guarantee that Vinny Lecavalier will be traded before (July 1)” – to the bizarre – “Got a call from client Petr Sykora. He was out today in Pitt and a copperhead rattlesnake jumped out from a stairway and almost bit him.”
Another fun game is to play “Six Degrees of Twitter Followers” based on the profile links on the side of a profile. For instance, Walsh links to former THN Atlanta correspondent Craig Custance, who links to NHL.com hostess Carrie Milbank, who links to…former Republican presidential candidate John McCain? Adam Proteau is going to be crushed.
Of course, not everything can be taken at face value on Twitter. Parody profiles are very popular and in some cases have led to controversy. See: St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and ESPN writer Rick Reilly. The hockey world is far from immune from this trend, but so far no one has taken it too seriously.
Basically anyone who is anyone in the hockey world has a fake twitter parody at this point – Mike Milbury, Brian Burke, Gary Bettman, Gary Roberts, Vesa Toskala – the list goes on. Most of the parodies are fairly obvious and broad, but some take a little more digging.
For instance, Shane Hnidy of the Bruins purportedly has a twitter account, but unless you believe the steady defenseman is extremely liberal with his public persona (“I’m Chuck Norris on skates” and “I coulda fought (Donald) Brashear, I just didn’t wanna make him look bad” stretch the credibility of the posts), you would know the fix was in. Especially since one of the tweets was posted during a Feb. 14 game against Nashville – and this isn’t the NBA.
Either way, the dawn of a new era is obviously well upon us. For the (real) players who have bought into it, we’re all the beneficiaries.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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