Last week, the NHL announced that it had put into place a new social media policy. Effective immediately, players and hockey operations personnel would be restricted in when they could use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.
The move actually brings the NHL into line with most other professional sports leagues in North America. The NFL and NBA implemented their social media policies in 2009, while Major League Baseball reportedly posted their policy in April of 2010.
The policy institutes a “blackout” period which prohibits players from engaging in social media two hours before the game until after their post-game media obligations are completed. The blackout period for Hockey Operations personnel – general managers, coaches, trainers, etc. – extends from 11am on game day until post-game media obligations are completed. The policy also notes that any tweets made which criticize officiating or have an effect “prejudicial to the welfare of the League, the game of hockey or a Member Club” could lead to disciplinary action against the player.
This blackout comes just a few months after Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for two games for tweeting about an umpire who had just ejected him from a game against the Yankees. In 2009, before the NBA instituted its policy, former Milwaukee Bucks player Charlie Villanueva tweeted during halftime of a game versus the Boston Celtics. As the policy had not been implemented during the time, Villanueva was not punished. On the other hand, during last year’s NFL preseason, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeted during the NFL’s prescribed pregame blackout period and again while standing on the sidelines during the game. Ochocinco was fined $25,000 by the NFL for the two tweets.
Goaltender Jeremy Smith has spent the past two seasons climbing the ladder in the Predators system from the ECHL to the AHL. Towards the end of last season former Admirals goaltender Mark Dekanich convinced him to join Twitter.
While both Smith and Predators coach Barry Trotz expect his season to begin with the Milwaukee Admirals as the AHL club’s starting goaltender, the NHL’s policy still applies to Smith as long as he remains in Predators training camp.
“I feel it’s necessary,” Smith said. “Other pro leagues have taken it into account and I feel the NHL has implemented rules that are understandable. When it comes to this day and age, there’s going to be new rules and new policies and they’ve approached it very well and very professional and I agree with it 100 percent.”
In addition, Smith does not feel that the new policy will have much effect on him, as his personal practices are already similar to those dictated by the policy.
“I really don’t comment on anything that has anything to relate to hockey,” he added. “On game days, I try to minimalize distractions. I try to keep those away while I’m worried about the game and doing my job.”
Jon Blum is another recent Twitter adoptee. The rookie defenseman joined the Predators during the last quarter of the 2010-11 regular season and stayed for the duration of the playoffs. During that time, Blum began tweeting. In the few months that he has been on Twitter, Blum easily leads all other Predators players in tweets per day.
“It’s good and bad,” Blum said. “You don’t want to be tweeting about if you’re in the lineup or not, but I don’t see the harm if you’re going to a pregame meal with some of the guys and stuff like that. They like to know your schedule and the stuff you do during the day. It has it’s ups and downs, but I guess it is what it is.”
Unlike Blum and Smith, Blake Geoffrion’s tweeting predates his time with the Predators. Geoffrion had his Twitter account while he was attending the University of Wisconsin and was actually far more active on the account there than he has been professionally.
“I don’t really tweet that often, just occasionally here and there,” Geoffrion said. “I definitely don’t have any problem with it.”
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Mark Dekanich became a quasi-Twitter celebrity in Predators circles during his time with the Milwaukee Admirals and during his brief stints on the Predators roster. While most of his feed consists of updates on his workout regimen, pictures of his pug and tweets about Call of Duty, the new social media policy limits all social media during the blackout period, not just hockey-related ones.
“I think it’s fine,” Dekanich said. “It’s smart to have a baseline for everybody to follow. I don’t tweet on gamedays so I won’t have any problems there. I think having general rules will keep everybody in line and they won’t have to act differently in different cases.”