It’s a day you knew was coming for the NHL. With so many players now taking to Twitter and letting loose with a stream of silly, fun, or informative tweets there was going to come a day where the NHL would have to implement a social media policy to make sure no one got a bit too out of control with what they were saying.
While anyone who’s taking part in Twitter is already, likely, familiar with the likes of Paul Bissonnette, Michael Grabner, and Derek Roy on Twitter, it was Flyers young tough guy Zac Rinaldo (found here on Twitter… For now at least) that caught the ire of the Flyers organization for tweeting that he wouldn’t be playing in Thursday’s rookie game. Giving away that sort of information can help give other teams a better way to prepare to play against your team.
With all that in mind, the NHL is going to institute a set of guidelines for teams and players to follow when it comes to Twitter, Facebook, or anything else that comes up in the future that involves social media.
The National Hockey League has joined other major sports leagues by drafting a social media policy for the upcoming 2011-12 season.
Highlights of the policy include a social media blackout window before, during and after games, as well as during practice and any other team obligations. Any use of social media applications such as Twitter or Facebook in violation of these rules may be subject to an undisclosed punishment.
Most of the stuff that goes on with players on Twitter is either silly fun or guys just busting each others chops. Other times it’s guys giving a look at what life is like working in the NHL. Some players have a better handle on things than others and can be informative about the things going on in the game later on. We can recall last season when Bissonnette would give his thoughts and insight into the fight(s) he had during the game, even fessing up when he was over-matched by his opponent.
That said, what some have gotten down perfect others are still learning about and the NHL setting guidelines for the players more than makes sense. The NHL is the last of the big four leagues to set a social media policy league-wide. The NBA, NFL, and MLB have all had something in place for a couple years now. The NHL getting caught up with the times, as much as fans might hate it, makes all the sense in the world.
Update (12:27 p.m.): The NHL released their statement on the new policy and it’s as straightforward as it can be. Here are the highlights:
The policy, the NHL Social Media Policy for League and Club Personnel, governs both players and hockey operations staff and is designed to promote the value of social media as a tool for communication with fans. It also highlights issues surrounding social media, as well as limits the use of social media by players and hockey operations staff on game days.
As per the new policy, there is a total “blackout period” on the use of social media on game days, which for players begins two hours prior to opening face-off and is not lifted until players have finished their post-game media obligations. The suggested blackout period for hockey operations staff is even longer, beginning at 11 a.m. on game days.
Also, the new policy makes it clear that players and club personnel will be be held responsible for their social communications in the same manner in which they are held responsible for other forms of public communications. As a result, discipline is possible for any social media statements that have or are designed to have an effect prejudicial to the welfare of the League, the game of hockey or a member club, or are publicly critical of officiating staff.
It makes sense to us and while some fans think it’s the NHL’s way of censoring players, it’s more of a way for the league to make sure that the game is focused on completely by everyone. It’s not as if a lot of players were abusing this as it was, if anyone has at all anyhow. Since the NHL is its own company of sorts, making sure everyone plays by the same rules on game days makes a lot of sense. This isn’t free speech being limited so much as it is making sure that game days don’t turn into a circus led by the players on the Internet.