NHL making waves and winning fans over through social media

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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    Boudreau knows he can only do so much to avoid slump after bye week

    ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The remarkably slump-proof Minnesota Wild will have their season-long stability challenged next week.

    That’s when the Western Conference leaders come back from their bye, the five-day gap on every team’s schedule gained by the NHL Players Association as a concession for the new All-Star Game format.

    The league’s current cumulative post-bye record is a woeful 4-12-4 with 10 teams, including the Wild, yet to test their ability to avoid coming back rusty. Coaches and managers around the NHL have not hidden their disdain for the debut of the scheduling quirk amid the grind of an 82-game season where momentum is an intangible benefit.

    Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t sound worried, even after losing Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, the lead chaser in the race for the top seed in the playoffs.

    “I told them to, quite frankly, get some rest and enjoy this break but want to get home to play hockey,” Boudreau said. “For 4+ months now, you guys have done a tremendous job, and we’ve got something special going on, potentially. So it’s great to get away for a couple days, but the desire to play has got to be there. Not like, `Uh, I want to stay on vacation. I want to stay here.’ You’ve got to want to come back and play, and if we do that then I think we’ll be fine.”

    For the players on this team, the best in Wild history, letting body and mind melt away at a tropical beach with a significant postseason run in plain sight is a rather unfathomable scenario.

    “What kind of message can you really give `em?” Boudreau said. “I mean, they’re 39-14.”

    Including the six overtime or shootout losses, the Wild have 84 points to rank one behind the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. They’ve played one fewer game than the Blackhawks and lead their playoffs nemesis by five points. The Wild need 21 points in their last 23 games to beat the 2006-07 franchise record.

    Boudreau inherited a team that qualified for the postseason in each of the last four years but endured wild swings in its quality of play during the five seasons in which Mike Yeo was the head coach. This time, the Wild are 14-3-2 following a loss, either regulation or extra time, to stop those long losing streaks in their tracks.

    “I think that’s due to our depth and our understanding of how we need to play and being able to get big plays from everybody,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said recently. “We believe we can win every game. We feel we should win every game. And so when we lose one, we get back to what we’ve been doing.”

    The next challenge comes Monday when the Los Angeles Kings visit Xcel Energy Center. Perhaps losing to the Blackhawks will prove to be good timing, particularly given the way the Wild overcame a sluggish second period to finish strong and nearly rally to tie the game before an empty-netter gave Jonathan Toews and Chicago a 5-3 victory.

    “We wanted to go into the break with a good feeling, so that one is going to hurt a little bit,” right wing Mikael Granlund said. “We know we have to make sure we recharge our batteries and come back stronger.”

    WATCH LIVE: Capitals at Flyers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals checks Brandon Manning #23 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBCSN features the Washington Capitals visiting the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Both teams have been stumbling a bit here and there. The Flyers only have three wins since Jan. 31, though one of them came in their last game on Sunday. The Capitals lost both games since returning from their bye week.

    The cost of struggles are easier for Washington to stomach, naturally. They’d rather make their Metropolitan Division lead insurmountable, but even so, they’re at least three points ahead of everyone else and have played the same or fewer games as their divisional peers.

    The Flyers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Right now they’re on the outside looking in.

    So both teams want this one, but the desperation level is higher for Philly. We’ll see how that impacts the game on NBCSN tonight. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.

    Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

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    — Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

    — It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

    — The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

    — On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

    — San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

    — Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

    Enjoy the games!

    Bolts rule out Callahan indefinitely following second hip surgery

    Ryan Callahan
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    Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan, who’s only played 18 games this year while recovering from offseason hip surgery, has undergone a follow-up procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely.

    The Bolts made the announcement on Wednesday, just hours after a big 4-1 win over Edmonton. Callahan wasn’t in the lineup to face the Oilers — he hasn’t played since early January, when he skated just under 15 minutes in a loss to Philly.

    The nature of this ailment has to be concerning.

    Callahan, who turns 32 next month, is in the third of a six-year, $34.8 million deal with a $5.8M average annual cap hit. And this lingering hip problem comes on the heels of a disappointing ’15-16 campaign, in which Callahan scored just 10 goals and 28 points — the lowest marks since his rookie campaign.

    As such, Tampa Bay is now bracing for an immediate future without a huge part of its leadership group. Captain Steve Stamkos has resumed skating, but there’s no set date for his return from major knee surgery.

    Callahan, who’s been an alternate captain in each of the last three seasons, won’t be playing anytime soon either.