Hockey Night in Canada Shoots and Scores with Social Media

If you’re Canadian, you know the tune better than the national anthem, you idolize Don Cherry, and you would never feel weird staying you stayed in on a Saturday to watch it. Hockey Night in Canada is as much a part of Canada’s past as maple syrup, but with a new social media strategy, Canada’s favourite television program is moving swiftly into the future.

If you’re Canadian, you know the tune better than the national anthem, you idolize Don Cherry, and you would never feel weird staying you stayed in on a Saturday to watch it. Hockey Night in Canada is as much a part of Canada’s past as maple syrup, but with a new social media strategy, Canada’s favourite television program is moving swiftly into the future.

For non-Canadian readers, Hockey Night in Canada is television program broadcast on The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Broadcasts of the show date back to days of radio when NHL games began being broadcast on CRN Radio in 1931. For years, Hockey Night in Canada referred to the Saturday night television broadcasts, though it is now used for all NHL presentations on CBC. The show is about as developed as any sportscast could hope to be with different segments running between intermissions such as Don Cherry’s – who’s wardrobe is notoriously quirky – “Coach’s Corner”.

There is no doubt that Hockey Night in Canada is an important part of Canadian television; however the 2011 Season has seen a new addition to the program: social media. As the Vancouver Canucks faced off against the Boston Bruins last night, a new interactive social media experiment was being experienced by fans.

The CBC has partnered with GetGlue.com. GetGlue.com is New York based company that works with entertainment companies and claims to be “a leading social network for entertainment, with over 1 million users, 100 million data points and a 30 million daily reach through Facebook & Twitter. Users check-in and share what they are watching, listening to and reading with friends; get fresh recommendations and exclusive rewards from GetGlue partners.” The Hockey Night in Canada site allows fans to check in and share what they are listening to and watching.

The GetGlue.com partnership is complemented by a unique partnership between the CBC and Microsoft which has been tracking social media reaction to the NHL on Twitter throughout the playoffs. The feature called Hockey Night Pulse allows fan reaction – or the “pulse” of fans – to be tracked through their social media use.  Last night, before the first NHL Final Game, Hockey Night Pulse had tracked 1.2 million tweets about the playoffs.

The tracking system reveals some interesting facts about NHL fan tweets. The Eastern Conference is slightly less active on social media with approximately 45, 000 fewer tweets than their Western Conference counterparts. The most tweeted game was the final game between the Sharks and the Canucks. The least active fans are Nashville Predators while the loudest are Montreal Canadian fans (no surprise for hockey fans), and the Bruins have been one of the quietest on Twitter, but that may be about to change with NHL Stanley Cup Final.

Hockey Night in Canada’s use of social media shows that there is space for sports organizations to tap into the power of instant communication and sharing through social media to benefit franchises and sports. However, while check-in sites and social media tracking are great additions for the NHL, the use of social media by official sporting outlets is still relatively new; we are still in the first period so to speak. The Hockey Night in Canada interactivity is interesting, but in order to truly benefit fans, the program will need to have a game plan: do more than track, find innovative ways to interact, put the game first.