Assessing the Impact of Internet on Hockey Coverage

By

Assessing the Impact of Internet on Hockey Coverage
May 21, 2015

By Brian Marron

Introduction

Since Tim Berners-Lee proposed the Internet in 1989, the face of the sporting world has rapidly evolved into a global network that can reach most any crevice of the planet. The world of hockey is no exception, as the sport has taken advantage of the digital age to expand and revolutionize the way the game is presented and delivered to its current and prospective fan bases. Traditional websites, social media, blogs and mobile phone apps give fans more access than ever to the National Hockey League as well as the amateur ranks. Hockey is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world; the number of registered hockey players has grown 22 percent worldwide in the last five years across 68 countries, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation’s most recent survey in 2014. Thus, the hockey world continues to ride the digital media wave as it continues to increase the sport’s exposure and notoriety around the world.

Websites


In terms of traditional websites, NHL.com leads the way in providing digital content in a way print, radio and television cannot. Essentially everything an NHL fan could want is available on NHL.com. All of the day’s news and headlines are covered by its vast team of writers, videos and recaps of action around the league, including game highlights, interviews and analysis, statistics, standings and schedules are available at the click of a button. In addition, fans have access to fantasy hockey news and NHL draft talk. Fans looking for news regarding their favorite teams can access the teams’ official websites through NHL.com and can receive filtered news and information about their squads. All major sports media websites, such as ESPN, CBS and NBC Sports, Sports Illustrated and TSN, contain similar features in a smaller scope. Also, websites use mobile apps to bring readers similar features available on the main site. This helps ensure readers can still turn to traditional sites instead of alternative forms of media when they are on the go and not in front of computers.
NHL.com also includes the NHL GameCenter Live feature. For a yearly fee of $150, users can tune in to watch any out-of-market NHL game from their computer or tablet. This allows the game to reach fans no matter where they are located. This sort of tool is growing in popularity, as many minor league, junior and college programs are now offering live streams of games to increase their exposure and fan bases.
Fans of analytics and statistics are also benefitting from the emergence of the Internet in the hockey world. The main source for this information is Hockeydb.com, a digital hockey database that provides a comprehensive history of numerous aspects of the game. Users can find historical data on nearly every professional or semi-professional player or team, lists of every NHL draft pick and records. Hockeydb has distinguished itself as the premier source for hockey statistics and history as well as a valuable source for fact-checking journalists.
Blogs/Fan Sites
Beyond traditional online websites, hockey coverage continues to include more opinion-based and fan-oriented content than ever before thanks in large part to the rise of the Internet. Sometimes, fans want to venture outside of the straight news provided by conventional websites and other similar mediums to read about their favorite team or the sport in general. Sites such as Bleacher Report and SB Nation are the leading organizations that offer a brand of media that infuses a personal take into team news or commentary. There are multiple sites within Bleacher Report and SB Nation for every major professional sport, including the NHL. The writers for these sites are essentially fans giving their opinins on all aspects of the franchises and the sports they represent. Thus, when news breaks, fans log on to these sites to learn about what happened from the perspective of someone who shares the same interests and a similar background.
In addition to fan sites, numerous other prominent blogs exist to provide commentary on activity around the hockey world. The Hockey Writers offers similar reports and news around the league in general instead of offering team-specific pages; however, it also appeals to devout hockey fans interested in history, fantasy hockey and draft-related news. Meanwhile, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy offers a Deadspin-like take on the world of hockey. With hard-hitting, honest pieces that offer little restraint, Puck Daddy is one of the sport’s most popular blogs sites.
The rising popularity of blogs undoubtedly is changing hockey coverage simply because of such sites’ accessibility and abundance. Any person with a computer can create a blog and post opinions all day long to garner a following. Whatever happens in the world of hockey, there are hundreds of blogs with differing perspectives. It no longer takes a reporter or employed columnist to create chatter and opinions on hockey news; anybody can do it. Major sports outlets have taken notice. NHL.com has numerous blogs, including the popular Over the Boards blog with Dan Rosen; ESPN.com features the Cross Checks blog with its NHL staff writers; and CBSSports.com uses its Eye on Hockey blog as its main form of NHL coverage. Hockey coverage is developing with the times as blogging becomes a larger staple of the ever-changing digital age.
Social Media


Social media continues to change the way industries utilize the Internet, and the hockey world is no exception. Fans are now able to interact with one another, members of the media, their favorite teams and the NHL through tools like Twitter and Facebook. In a world that demands constant news and immediate information, social media is becoming an important form of newsgathering for hockey fans.
Every NHL reporter, team and most players use social media to quickly communicate and relay information to followers. This is especially true when it comes to breaking news. The three most hectic times of the season in terms of breaking news in the NHL are the trade deadline, the draft and the free-agent frenzy when free-agent players can first officially sign with their teams of choice. NHL insiders and beat reporters break news such as trade parameters, draft picks or trades and free-agent signings almost exclusively through social media, mainly Twitter. Stories regarding these transactions are later published with slightly more detail, but not until all the basic information in relayed over social media long beforehand. With top insiders such as TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger having nearly 1 million Twitter followers apiece, beat writers averaging more than 30,000 followers, NHL teams averaging more than 200,000 and the NHL at 3.3 million, such information is relayed and redistributed to such a massive audience that social media becomes the main form of obtaining news for the hockey community. In addition, teams and writers covering games can provide updates throughout the contest. So if a Detroit Red Wings fan is unable to watch the game, they can follow the team account as well as team beat reporters to follow the game and have the most up-to-date information about the game’s developments.
Hockey must continue to use social media as a tool to expand the game. Bloggers, websites and other personalities use this medium to promote their product. Puck Daddy founder Greg Wyshynski and ESPN anchor John Buccigross are examples of people with large Twitter followings that continue to push the game to new heights by creating trending hashtags to get more people involved in watching and sharing hockey. Social media as a whole has brought hockey into the current wave of media distribution and certainly has forever changed the way news is transmitted and received.
Impact Outside of the NHL


While the NHL is the premier hockey league in the world and receives the most attention from the Internet’s innovations, the World Wide Web has been instrumental in exposing and promoting amateur hockey. Before the Internet, college, junior and high school programs would never be able to reach the rest of the world with their product. Now, every major college and junior program has a website and social media accounts. High school state playoffs are covered, streamed and updated using social media and via websites. Blogs and message boards exist that are dedicated to amateur hockey, giving fans a chance to read a discuss the sport with others. Kids and programs can also reach scouts by posting YouTube videos displaying their highlights. Before the NHL can master its product through the Internet, the sport must first build a solid foundation by making sure its youth and amateur programs are strong and getting the proper notoriety.
Conclusion


Gone are the days when the newspaper, radio and television provided all of the day’s hockey news. The Internet has truly transformed hockey into a global community. The game is covered from all angles and all sides are now heard. Hockey is a game of speed, and now that memo has been instilled in the sport’s media, creating a swiftly changing environment trying to keep up with the revolutions of the digital age.

Comments are closed.