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NHL making waves and winning fans over through social media

Sep 2, 2010, 1:33 PM EDT

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GYI0060850489-dustinbrown-harryhow-getty.jpgThe relationship between players and fans has always been one of a curious nature. Back in the day, the only way fans could interact with players was either from their seat at a game and yelling to/at them or waiting for them after the game to grab an autograph. The times, they are a-changing. With fans and players all being connected online thanks to social media like Twitter and Facebook, players are able to better reach out to the fans. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times discusses how social media is changing the landscape in the NHL.

Including Kings captain Dustin Brown, who began tweeting in August, and Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, who hit the Twitterverse in July, more than 40 players are Twitter users. That estimate came from Michael DiLorenzo, the NHL’s director of social media marketing and strategy. He added that fewer than 40 players also use Facebook or have fan pages on Facebook.

Most players’ Twitter messages are funny: Ryan gets impatient in California traffic and Brown, watching Saturday morning TV with his kids, wondered what happened to all the good cartoons. Both needle teammates and talk about workouts and dinner plans, not revelations but information that gives them distinct personalities and builds rapport with fans.

Along with trivial uses come some noble uses. Brown’s tweets about building a playground in Carson triggered offers of help from fans. Player agent Allan Walsh, a pioneer in getting players involved with Twitter and Facebook, spread word that former Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak would sign autographs for charity at a Montreal shopping center this weekend. Brown’s agent, Scott Norton, started a program in which his clients will perform a good deed every Monday and tweet about it in hopes of inspiring similar acts. That can’t be bad.

Obviously if you’re here reading this on our site, you’re dialed into the Internet pretty well and you’re only a few clicks away from being able to get dialed into the players and their agents and virtually everyone else involved in the NHL in some way on Twitter or Facebook. Agents like Scott Norton and Allan Walsh provide great client-centric news and information and the players themselves have turned into a real joy to follow and engage with themselves (consider my guilty pleasure to be Paul Bissonette of the Phoenix Coyotes).

Considering one of the complaints some fans have against NHL players is that they’re “bland” personalities, reaching out through social media is helping to dispel that notion. Granted not everyone will be as colorful as Bissonette or even Bobby Ryan or Danny Richmond but it’s something else to have that sort of inside access to people in the league and that’s a good thing.

(Photo: Harry How – Getty Images)

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