The story that broke a few days ago about Cam Jansen and Krys Barch seemingly agreeing a fight on Twitter has set the hockey blogosphere on fire. I thought that while the fire is still burning, I’d add some more gasoline to it. Where I’m not a hockey pundit, nor do I want to be classed as one, I think the situation puts the NHL in a tricky spot and that is: How to manage players’ social media interactions?
I was interested in the story from a professional point of view as I work in PR and social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (to a degree) are valuable business tools. Generally social media in corporate world is regulated (to a degree) to allow organisations to engage with their target audiences in a more casual manner. Some do exceedingly good job at it, where others, well, not so much.
Twitter has caught the imagination of hockey as well and many players use their profiles to greater good. Most recently Rob Schremp said he’d donate to Special Olympics once he reached 5,000 followers, or fans as he calls them. It was through Twitter that I found out about Dan Ellis’ up and coming Free-agency and that he was not signing with my beloved Habs as he tweeted “July 1st can’t come soon enough”.
But Cam Jansen and Krys Barch are taking social media engagement to a whole new level, which many suggest is arranging a fight over Twitter. Though the word fight was not mentioned, it’s pretty clear when you read between the lines. Jansen said that as DJ King was gone he would be seeing a lot more of Barch, to which Barch replied “It’s a date.” I doubt he meant a candle light dinner at a fancy restaurant and sharing a bottle of red wine or catching a movie.
My personal view on arranged fights is that it is, well stupid. Sure it’s entertaining to a large crowd, but seriously, what is the point of saying before the game “yes we’ll duke it out and we’ll do it off the face off in the second period.” It’s hockey and the NHL not the WWF.
The challenge for NHL is, how do you police it, because if NHL is like any corporation it will want to have some say in it. Fighting and resulting head injuries have been a hot topic recently, so what if an arranged fight happens and one of these guys gets seriously hurt? I have a feeling that if this becomes a regular thing the NHL will adopt a similar policy to the Matt Cooke incident from last season. Sure maybe not the top dog of officiating wont attend the game, but I’m sure some one will go have words with the players before the game.
I’m not saying fighting is a bad thing. Hockey is such an adrenaline filled sport that sometimes you just simply have to defend yourself and your team mates by dropping the gloves and showing what’s what. If a fight happens after a big hit, fine. If it’s the two tough guys who have a chat at a face off circle and say you want to do it, my personal view tends to be meh. Sure fights like that can ignite or sink a team (depending on the outcome), but when you start arranging stuff over the web in public view that everyone gets to see, it’s where I draw the line. If you really, really, really have to arrange a fight, do it through a phone, email or what ever keeps it off our radars.
Interestingly though, both Jansen and Barch have now received plenty of attention. I didn’t even know Barch existed before this, so there you go and now that the Blues and Stars finally meet, everyone will be thinking when they going to do it? So yes, if nothing else, it has been a great PR stunt, that has generated international publicity to both teams that don’t get that many mentions outside of North America.