Commentary

Social media is a quandary for NHL

Updated: November 12, 2010, 7:32 PM ET
By Ryan Corazza | Special to ESPN.com

The NHL has a problem on its hands.

[+] EnlargePaul Bissonnette
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesPaul Bissonnette, aka BizNasty2point0, is a little-known player but he has more than 18,000 followers on Twitter.

Its general managers know a social media policy should be enacted. They're just not sure on the particulars yet.

"Should we have a league-wide policy? Should we have a policy with clubs?" Washington Capitals GM George McPhee told reporters. "It's all about trying to educate the players of the benefits of having those accounts, and the pitfalls if they're not doing the right things."

Phoenix GM Don Maloney led the discussion and told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun this afterward:

"Really, the point of talking about it, for all us 50-somethings in there, this whole Twitter/Facebook, we don't quite understand it. Yet this was more a discussion on how do we get ahead of it? We don't want to discourage the personalities; we want the personalities … We went to the NFL and what kind of policy did they have? This was our first blush at just talking about maybe just a general policy without discouraging the personalities of the game, which we all like."

While the league appears to still be sorting things out (and its older GMs might not have the best handle on the ins and outs of this new social media world), the NFL's policy -- as well as the NBA's -- are worth emulation.

The NFL doesn't allow use of social media or networking sites for players, coaches and football operations personnel up to 90 minutes before kickoff. And only after media interview obligations have concluded postgame can players bust out the cell phone and get to tweeting.

The NBA's policy is near identical. But instead of 90 minutes before games, it's 45.

Both policies seek to ensure the integrity of the sport. Players focus on the game at hand and the obligations that come before and after it. Tweeting and Facebooking and the personality and interaction with fans that comes with it all happens on their time away from the field.

And the NFL and NBA haven't been shy to hand out fines to players whose accounts that have been updated during the restricted time periods.

As we've seen, players in all leagues have proven to trip up now and again with what they've said on Twitter. In the NHL, Tampa Bay goalie Dan Ellis' comments about money received a large backlash, and he eventually took down his account. Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Paul Bissonnette's agent asked him to take down his account after an over-the-top joke against New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk was tweeted, but he's since returned to the platform.

"Last thing you want to see is him sitting in the penalty box tweeting about the three lefts he just threw," Maloney told LeBrun.

In the end, it's about a happy medium. To restrict players from using the service entirely isn't a sound business or personal relations practice for the league or its players going forward. Social media has its drawbacks, but it's imperative for leagues, teams and players to be where the conversation -- and the money -- is headed.

As long as it's kept on their time and largely away from the ice, that's about as good as the NHL can get.

People will talk

Last November during college basketball's early signing period, North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes had some fun, using Skype to connect to coach Roy Williams and the team to announce he'd be with the Tar Heels come this fall.

On Thursday afternoon, the nation's No. 15 basketball recruit, Cody Zeller of Washington, Ind., stepped to the microphone to announce his college choice between Butler, North Carolina and Indiana. Zeller's tightly guarded decision had become a big recruiting story in recent weeks.

The soft-spoken and reserved 6-foot-11 player had no such bells and whistles, as his announcement was a simple "next year I'm going to go to IU."

But as he began to field questions from the assembled media inside his high school gym, Zeller did have a social media tie. He quickly became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, meaning he was one of the most talked about topics on the service in the entire world shortly after he announced.

Near the end of his Q&A session, one reporter who noticed this chimed in to ask Zeller what he thought about becoming a trending topic.

"I don't know what to say, I guess," said Zeller, who has no Twitter account like many of his peers.

He may have been speechless, but countless Hoosier fans on the platform sure weren't.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago who also contributes to ESPN Insider's NBA Rumor Central.

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