Social media plays huge part in transforming hockey

On Jan. 12, 2012, at roughly 7:45 p.m., the hockey world was thrown for a loop when the news of a player being traded in the middle of a National Hockey League game spread like an out-of-control prairie wildfire down the information superhighway.

Through social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, and through people texting, the news of Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri being traded back to the Calgary Flames took over the focus of the actual game being played between the Anaheim Ducks and the Flames.

The power of social media channels was on full display on this night in Calgary.Eric Francis, from the Calgary Sun, tweets out that Mike Cammalleri was pulled from his game. Trade speculation begins to swell.
Screen capture from twitter.com

Roughly six minutes into the opening period, chants of “Camm-a-lleri, Camm-a-lleri” emanated from the upper-seating areas of the Scotiabank Saddledome, prompting many to dig into their pockets in search of their handheld smartphones.

What followed can be described as a modern-day communication phenomenon.

In an email, Flames fan Felicity McRuer described the moment she found out about the deal.

“It was crazy! We saw the guy in front of us noisily reading a text and then poking his buddy and showing him…it said ‘Cammelleri traded to Flames’…which made us both go WHHHAAAAAAAT?! and both whip out our phones to check,” she said.

“At one point I looked around and everyone was looking at their phones and talking about the trade. I don’t think anyone paid attention to the first period.

Sample of one of the many tweets that start to surface as the news spreads.
Screen capture from twitter.com
“Definitely a vibe in the stands that had nothing to do with the dull game at hand.”

Like playing a modern-day game of telephone, the news spread through the Saddledome as fast as people could type and talk.

Thirty minutes earlier in Boston, where the Montreal Canadiens were playing the Bruins, Cammalleri came off the ice for the second intermission and was told to undress and go to the hotel and await further instructions.

Less than an hour after that, he was changing teams and moving cities. Going the other way in the deal was Rene Bourque, who was serving his fourth of a five game suspension for elbowing a player in the head.TSN analyst Bob McKenzie confirms Cammalleri has been traded.
Screen capture from twitter.com

And back at the Saddledome, Flames general manager Jay Feaster made an announcement on the Jumbotron in the first intermission to clear up any speculation and to explain the deal, while Bourque cleaned out his locker and talked to the media.

There are no records that track a general manager announcing a trade mid-game on the Jumbotron, but one might assume that this has never occurred before.

The game itself became second fiddle. The news of the blockbuster trade was all anyone wanted to talk about — even the players on the ice as members of the Ducks were informing the Flames players at face-off dots and whistle breaks.

Truly unheard of circumstances.

Eric Stephens, an Anaheim Ducks beat reporter, tweets about the spreading news.
Screen capture from twitter.com
Milan Singh, who lives in Vancouver, and admittedly lacks Flames knowledge, all of a sudden had her phone light up uncontrollably.

“I got a series of ‘out-of-control’ texts from my mom,” Singh said, who could sense the excitement all the way from the west coast.

Her parents, Sarita and Ajit, were at the game and like many fans in attendance, went straight to their phones to let others know of the deal.

Mark Wolfe, a communication studies professor at Mount Royal University, watched the game and events unfold.

“Here’s a really good example of how social media made us all aware, almost as a single organism, of this event,” he said. “It adds a whole new dimension to the game.”

“Even for the average fan because it’s no longer what’s just happening on the ice but the complexities, the intricacies, and now the immediacy of being able to partake in how this game is played on all kinds of levels.”

dnewman@cjournal.ca