Believe it or not, fantasy hockey is a bit like scuba diving. The threat of sharks is vastly overrated, sometimes there’s nothing you can do except hold your breath, and for the enthusiasts, both can provide moments of pause, like when first gazing over the far edge of a reef into the dark blue vastness of the open ocean.
I’m pretty comfortable with my fantasy resources. I visit them regularly and enjoy knowing where to go to get what I need. But for some time now, I’ve been catching glimpses of something that exists just beyond my carefully constructed hockey neighbourhood. It’s obviously large. And it’s not like my other sources. It’s showing up everywhere, on webpages (this one included), in the middle of online chats, and it’s mentioned in the mainstream media.
I’m talking about Twitter.
If you haven’t already embraced Twitter, maybe it’s time you look beyond your usual resources, because I’m wondering if we’re soon going to need it to win our pools.
Have You Two Met? Allow Me to Introduce Twitter…
Twitter launched publically in 2006, and now boasts over 200 million registered users. It’s estimated that 65 million ‘tweets’ (Twitter-speak for messages) are sent daily, and thousands have been published each second during noteworthy events. If you’re really not sure what I’m talking about, check out some Twitter basics here.
The social-networking site is perhaps best known for its celebrity users. I’ve now discovered that none other than Britney Spears is Twitter’s most popular tweeter. She blesses her fans with such unforgettable tidbits as, “What's uuupppp tweethearts? Spending the day in the studio recording. – Britney”. Fascinating. But sadly, not very useful as far as preparing for our fast approaching draft nights.
Fortunately, the tweeting realm is populated by more than pop-stars and Hollywood celebs. Twitter has become almost indispensible in the sporting world. Many sports media people and others have active Twitter accounts, from the big boys right down to the armchair fanatics who live next door. This season’s Yearbook from The Hockey News even has an article about NHL players using Twitter.
When several personalities at Toronto sports radio station, The Fan 590 were recently let go by program director, Don Kollins, he explained his decisions by stating, “I can’t move into the new millennium of blogs and twitter with guys who don’t get it.”
But to be honest, Twitter makes me a bit edgy. Like the empty, open ocean, it’s alien to me and it seems like a whole new world to navigate. I’m not sure if I have the time to wade through a long list of potentially conflicting tweets in order to find out if my goalie is starting tonight or not (Don’t tell anyone here, but my whole life isn’t about fantasy hockey).
Yet, Twitter exists, people are using it, and it’s even getting sports media people fired apparently. How long can I ignore it for?
And the paranoid little voices in my head have been building of late. Everyone in your pool is already using it…you’re behind….get in the game or you’re never going to win again…NE-VERRRRR…
I’ve yet to wake from a nightmare with a two-story version of Kollins bellowing ‘why don’t you get it?!’, but for a while, every time I saw that damnable Twitter @ symbol while surfing, my left eye started twitching.
Touring Twitter as a Poolie
Despite my concerns, I finally had to check it out. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
First Lesson – You don't need to sign up to get information published using Twitter. For example, you can check out TSN's collection of hockey related tweets here. Or Dobber’s own collection here. Or Spector Hockey’s.
Second Lesson – It is handy to get your own account since once you have one, you can compile your own list of personalities to follow. Once you’ve chosen to follow someone, their latest tweets appear on your page – some have described this as ‘building a newspaper where every headline is interesting’. If nothing else it’s a lot easier than bookmarking every person’s Twitter page that you want to follow (I may have tried this, but I’m not admitting to it publically).
Third Lesson – There is a lot of information out there. For example, while wading through the TSN tweets, it quickly became clear that Bob McKenzie is a Twitter addict. It also seems clear to me that a lot of what he's passing on would be of no value to you (mind you it is August). I get the impression that a lot of tweets are like this. I’m not saying that I wasn’t interested in a recent post by the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown who tweeted, “Only in Canada can I go in to a watch store and get recognized in a rival teams city.....”, but the fantasy impact is obviously minimal.
Fourth Lesson – There is interesting stuff out there. Scott Cullen recently posted "RT @CraigCustance Spoke with an NHL scout yesterday who said N. Horton will score 40 goals this year." For the record, ‘RT’, means ‘re-tweet’, and so Cullen is reposting something from Sporting News writer, Craig Custance. Well, 40 goals certainly got my attention, but I have no idea who the scout was...a team's head professional scout, a bird-dog just chirping? Custance later tweets that it was indeed a pro scout, and a “well respected guy too.” But it’s hard to include quality analysis in 140 characters or less.
Fifth Lesson – A lot of what I’ve found in my (admittedly brief) time so far in the Twitterscape I’ve also found within my more traditional online resources. Okay, maybe not the Brown quote, but the information that you or I would use to make an informed fantasy decision seems to be available beyond Twitter. However, the information is often available sooner on Twitter. And that can be useful. If you’ve participated in any of Dobber’s draft day, or trade deadline day chats you’ll have seen certain people’s tweets piped directly into the chat because, particularly during quickly evolving events, Twitter increasingly seems to be the fastest way to get information out there.
Do You Need it to Win? An Early Conclusion (by a Twitter amateur)
Twitter is fun and like most internet success stories it offers compulsive and endless click-throughs, moving from one hockey tidbit to another as fast as your attention span desires. It isn’t hard to get into.
Will it help you conquer your pool? Like anything on the internet, if you listen to credible sources you’re going to learn useful pieces of information. However, unless you repeatedly find yourself in ultra-time sensitive situations, I doubt Twitter by itself will prove to be a decisive weapon in your quest to be the best this year. Websites that offer news and accompanying analysis will stand you in better stead than even the most complete list of tweets.
But that said, every little bit helps…assuming you’ve got the time.