NHL Creates Social Media Policy

Coming last doesn't always make you the loser; the NHL joins other major sports franchises and creates a social media policy.

Coming last doesn’t always make you the loser; the NHL joins other major sports franchises and creates a social media policy.

Following the lead of several other major sporting associations, the National Hockey League has finally chosen to draw up some official guidelines for their players when it comes to social media use. The new policy, which was developed by the NHL through negotiations with the NHL Players’ Association, allows room for athletes to continue to reach out to their fans via the web while placing some sensible boundaries for social media use, in particular the use of Twitter. Of particular interest, the new social media policy includes a blackout; players may not communicate via social media two hours before a game and until after post game media interviews. The same rule applies to team personnel who are prohibited from communicating via social media from 11.am on game days until after post game interviews.

According to Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL, “The policy is sensible. It lets our players and clubs participate substantially in the opportunity of social networking while identifying and mitigating some of the risks. To date, our players and clubs have been exemplary in connecting with fans on social networks, and fans should not expect to see any material difference as a result of this policy.”

In other words, it holds players, coaches, and other team personnel accountable for their comments on social media the same way they are held responsible for public statements. According to a news release on NHL.com, “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.”  This means that players cannot criticize officials on Twitter; however, the policy also restricts NHL referees and linesmen from using social media to voice their grievances. It seems like a fair gag order for both parties.

This is a case where being last may actually be an advantage. The NHL’s policy is both fair and smart, allowing room for the league, and its players, to advertise, engage and use social media to their benefit. However, it also limits the potential for risky comments by blacking out posting on game days. All and all, it seems like both the league and the players can count the new guidelines as a win for everyone.

So, does this mean you won’t hear from your favourite player on Twitter anymore? Not at all. Most NHL insiders note that players rarely tweet on game days anyways (turns out they’re more focussed on playing the game itself). Most players tweet about everyday activities. Michael Grabner of the New York Islander’s tweeted that, “Heard there will be a social media policy in the NHL…good thing most [of] my tweets are about food, napping or video games.” He later added the hashtag #don’twanttobefined. Phoenix Coyote Paul Bissonnette, an active NHL Twitter user agrees. He tweeted that “I don’t even play much and I don’t tweet on game days. Plenty of off days.”