Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the sports world has been turned on its head. Fans across the globe have been waiting anxiously to see what will become of their postponed seasons. As a hockey fan, I truly did not believe that the NHL would try to finish this season, as there are several moving parts that could impact the start of next season. Crazy enough, I was proved wrong this week, as the NHL officially announced that hockey will return this summer with a 24-team playoff format.
Now, as the fan I am (let’s go Rangers!), I wanted to spend this week tracking the rumors and eventual breaking news about hockey returning. My two outlets of choice were Twitter and Instagram, since these are the platforms where I tend to seek out information daily. At the beginning of the week, I first saw the rumors start to pick up, with beat writers mentioning that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would be addressing the media regarding a return-to-play plan on Tuesday. From there, writers began discussing what the format would look like and fans were scrambling to figure out whether their teams would make the cut. The news was officially broken by major sports networks on Tuesday night. Leading into Wednesday, a lot of the posts I saw were continuations of writers’ stories, but also a bunch of fan posts. I follow some die-hard Rangers fans online, and their opinions on the NHL’s return were just as good as the memes they created to accompany them. As the week began to end, a lot of the major commotion died down, and now sports accounts are posting old hockey highlights and regular-season award winners to continue getting fans excited for hockey’s return.
With sports coverage online being so unique, I was not sure what facts I would find right away. For most of the posts I saw, there were sources credited, which pleased me. Many tweets from beat writers mentioned sources from the NHL, and Instagram posts featured videos of Commissioner Gary Bettman himself, taking the information directly from the source. Beat writers’ posts did tend to stick to the facts, leaving little room for bias to sink in. Other posts I saw were just for fun, mainly fans starting to envision their post-season rivalries. Obviously, fan posts did tend to sound more biased, as each fanbase hopes their team will knock out opponents and eventually win the Stanley Cup.
Examples of social media posts from beat writers and a Rangers fan discussing the NHL’s return.
Once the first rumors were published, social media played a massive role in the spread of this story. I could not visit any social media channels without seeing countless retweets discussing the NHL’s return, and once the news officially broke, I was able to use links in posts to read articles. Not only was social media handy for the breaking news-aspect of this event, but it was also critical in gauging how fans felt about the decision. Without social media, I would not have broken down in laughter at fans’ witty comments towards their rivals. While social media is essential for receiving the facts, it also plays a huge role in fan interaction, which makes these stories more fun to follow.
Looking at the two social media channels I chose, Twitter was definitely the platform for opinion. People used their personal accounts to poke fun at other teams and get back into the spirit of sports, which was nice to see. Instagram was where I saw more “professional” posts, such as the NHL linking to Gary Bettman’s press conference and SportsCenter releasing its own breaking news post. This seems to follow the usual trends present on these channels, as Twitter tends to be teeming with satire and quips while Instagram presents more “serious” posts. Outside of these two platforms, I did see information breaking on the NHL’s website throughout the week. While reading about this story on social media was fun, it was also nice to take a step back and read the official articles to gain a better understanding of all the small details involved.
Instagram coverage of the event featuring information from credible sources.
I could not have pictured a better way to find out about this news. I thoroughly enjoy engaging in conversation with writers and fans online, so being able to spread the word about hockey coming back while also having a bit of fun worked perfectly for me. You can see it on each post; hundreds and thousands of interactions made for an incredible week full of all-around entertainment. Learning about breaking news through social media is one of our greatest strengths. We have the ability to spread information like wildfire, and in a moment like this, social media was the best way to inform fans of the return. As soon as I saw one post, I checked Twitter’s “Trending” page, and sure enough, the NHL was already one of the most trending topics in the United States. Social media gives us the chance to create massive online moments in a matter of minutes, and I can tell you from experience that this moment gave me a jolt of excitement I have not felt in a while. The NHL is officially back, and social media wasted no time in getting fans ready for what’s to come.