Social Media and Fair Weather Hockey Fans

It would be hard to argue that social media has had many positive impacts on society. The ability to receive information quickly from multiple sources and platforms at the click of a button has made things far more convenient in the age of the millennials and post millennials. The accuracy or legitimacy of the information can be debated, but the choice is there for the consumer.


Of course, it’s the Gen X members of society, like myself, who like to use it to weigh in on topics and give our two cents worth because we never had the ability to do this when we were growing up. It was a lot harder for us to get heard. We had to wait in queue on post-game shows to show how smart we were, and the audience was a fraction of the size it is today.



Facebook may have been the social media catalyst, but the majority of sports opinions are shared and debated in the Twittersphere. Usually, the opinions are shared in a very polar manner. The commentary is extremely flattering in the good times and very brazen in the hard times. It makes you think people don’t realize that digital footprints are being left everywhere once you click POST and that anyone can see them. Not to be too judgmental as I may have been guilty of that myself once or twice.


What strikes me about the opinions being shared about sports athletes, coaches, general managers and teams as a whole is not just the polar nature of the commentary but how the media and fans alike flip flop on their feelings. People go from GOAT to goats sometimes during the same game!


I recall, prior to social media, when Don Cherry gave the Habs faithful an earful for bashing on Patrick Roy when the Red Wings pumped them for nine goals on home ice. We all remember Roy muttering something to team President, Ronald Corey, while Mario Tremblay gave him a death stare. Less than a week later, Roy was a Colorado Avalanche.


Cherry called them “a bunch of front running fans” for jeering a guy who had been the Conn Smythe trophy winner for their last two Stanley Cup wins in 1986 and 1993 because he had a tough game. Grapes was absolutely right.


He reminded them again of that fact when something similar happened with current goalie, Carey Price.


Fair weather fans weren’t born during the social media age. Social media has just made them a lot easier to spot.


In the need to be first with a clever take on a subject, the media, in particular, and the fans like get their Twitterfingers going and give their followers their two cents worth on a trade that just took place and which GM did the best for their team. Of course, the same people will then applaud the GM when the trade works out in their favour while forgetting their scathing commentary because, by that time, 1000 tweets have been posted and it’s forgotten.


Best example from a Senators perspective was the day Erik Karlsson was traded to San Jose. I distinctly recall sports radio being very critical of the return Pierre Dorion got on the deal. The prevailing opinion was that whoever got the best player in the deal won the trade. At the time, that seemed to clearly be the Sharks. I phoned into TSN1200 to offer my opinion on The Drive and debated the idea that you had to get the best player to win the trade referring to the Wayne Gretzky trade to Los Angeles. Clearly, the Kings got the best player in the deal, but the Oilers won a Stanley Cup two years later and the best the Kings ever did with Gretzky in the lineup was a loss in the final to Montreal.


Now, nearly four full seasons later, the verdict on this trade has changed in media and fans more often than the weather. In Karlsson’s first year with the Sharks, he had a solid season and the Sharks lost in the conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in St. Louis. The Sens had nothing tangible to show for it in their lineup other than Chris Tierney and the organization was in hell. Now, with Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle en route to becoming excellent centremen in the league and Karlsson and the Sharks about to miss the playoffs for the third year in a row, the same trade haters have become trade lovers. Karlsson having a collective -38 since the deal and struggling to remain healthy hasn’t hurt matters either.


Has this trade been won or lost yet? I would suggest it takes at least five years to know who really won a trade and the Senators haven’t played a playoff game since the trade, so it is hard to call them the trade winners just yet. Having said that, it is amusing to see how the opinions change and recalling what was said in years past.


Do we have the right to change our minds? Absolutely, we do. However, what you seldom see in the social media commentary are these phrases:


“Upon reflection…”

“I take back my previous opinion…”

“I may have judged too quickly….”

“In hindsight….”


No one likes to admit they were wrong about something or someone and there seems to be no room for that kind of self-awareness in social media. I don’t think we can blame the limited number of characters allowed in a Twitter or Instagram post for the lack of willingness to own our previously misplaced comments. There is plenty of room in the tweets to tell everyone how smart we were for being right. Humility seems to have no place in social media opinions either.


The trade deadline is fast approaching, and this has led to fans and media weighing in on the future of Nick Paul and Anton Forsberg more than any other Sens potential UFAs.


Nick Paul has been signed and traded so many times in the last few weeks that I understand why his play tailed off of late. There was a time when Paul was viewed as a disappointment who couldn’t or wouldn’t get over the hump and become a full time NHL player. Now he is one and some of the same people who doubted him were saying that the Sens should do whatever it takes to keep him. Now that he has been dealt, if he gets an extension and lives up to it, Mathieu Joseph and the 4th round pick in 2024 coming back better yield something similar or Pierre Dorion will be tarred and feathered for letting a player the Senators developed get away because of money. If he doesn’t deliver or live up to his next contract, you won’t hear much contrition from the naysayers, but you will hear a lot of people jumping on the Joseph bandwagon.


Given his recent play, Anton Forsberg is being touted by many as a potential number one goalie in the league or a legit replacement for Matt Murray who has struggled to remain consistently healthy. Forsberg has never had that responsibility in the NHL and a small sample size seems to be enough for some to change all of that. Go back to November and see what people were saying about Forsberg. The clear consensus in the Twittersphere was that Gustavsson was the best goalie in the organization and should be playing in the NHL. No one was talking about Forsberg and then he stole a game in Carolina and went on a run and suddenly he's the Messiah.


Gustavsson had his first start in a month against Arizona and got beat for four goals on 14 shots and the same people who ordained him the saviour in November were hammering him on Twitter for one bad game.


I don’t know how much of a role the reputation or relationship with the fans plays in a player’s willingness to sign or waive a no trade to play in an NHL market. I imagine it comes down to term, dollars and the chance to win. However, I would imagine it could play a role in a player wanting to extend with their existing team. I could be all wet. However, Bobby Ryan cancelled his Twitter account because of the abuse he was taking on-line. He wasn’t someone the Sens wanted to extend. However, seeing the same people who rooted for me turn on me would be difficult to see and would do nothing to help my performance. You can say it comes with the job. I will buy that to an extent. If you want the adulation, then you have to expect a certain amount of criticism.


There has to be some limits and boundaries and you don’t see a lot of that on-line. I am not suggesting the issues that led Ryan to seek help from the Player’s Assistance Program were because of the on-line abuse as he had other history he was dealing with. I will bet it didn’t help either.


Feel free to change your opinions on what players, coaches, GMs and even owners do. Let’s have Sens Nation be better than other fanbases around the league. Don’t do a complete 180 on someone or something without acknowledging it. Own that change of opinion. If you bagged on someone previously and discovered that you were wrong, admit it. I would say this especially to those who like to remind people when they were right.


Let’s not be a Sens Nation of fair weather fans who forsake players the way Montreal did to Patrick Roy. If Brady Tkachuk struggles, are we going to boo him or start questioning his contract?


We’re better than that.


By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey