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Tweet, tweet, chirp?

(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner)

Amidst all the other news Thursday, David Pollack made a brief mention of some issues the Sharks have had on Twitter, and that the players involved are not with the team anymore.

I suspect he meant the Twitter chirping over the handshake line after the series against the Kings, but I could be wrong.

Since both Jamal Mayers and Devin Setoguchi deleted their Twitter accounts not long after that, I don’t know if I could find any quotes from the episode. All I remember is that someone used the hashtag #noclass.  I could seek out secondary sources, but I don’t think I need to.

I also remember that Logan Couture jumped into the melee displaying not only loyalty to his teammates but also some considerable diplomacy.

Both Mayers and Setoguchi are back with new Twitter accounts now. All’s forgiven but not forgotten.  The incident was one of many that probably led to the creation of the NHL’s new social media policy.

Why did some players expect to see a coach in the handshake line, while he believed it was not his place?  Sounds to me like a tradition in flux.  Sounds to me like someone, everyone, needs to keep an ear to the ground, listening for indications that old traditions are no longer in line with modern expectations.

In a matter of minutes, a very old tradition blew up on Twitter and, I believe, was updated.  There were only a few more series to go, not much time to test a theory, but I didn’t see any coaches missing the handshake line after that.  The sample size is still too small to draw any conclusions.

Hockey is a sport of long, some might say intractable, tradition.  Nevertheless it has evolved a great deal in a relatively short time.  Social media, on the other hand, could be defined by the speed at which it evolves: so fast as to defy mastery.

I have been very impressed by how well some of these young men manage their relationships with the public, in an environment that is so chaotic.  It’s a credit to the sport and the players that they are better at this than a lot of professional politicians are.  I know they have training.  They are encouraged directly and by example to comport themselves with dignity in a critical public eye.  It’s nice that it shows.

By accident or design, our entertainments can make us better.  Whether it’s highly paid athletes not acting like jerks, or social media letting us know when we’re out of step or out of line, the things that amuse us can also raise our awareness and our expectations.

I understand why the NHL, like other leagues, wants to establish rules and limits for social media use.  They have a strong sense of identity and they want to maintain control over it.  If they want to control the internet, they will fail as others have, but it won’t be a disaster.  They have a good message, and good spokespeople.  It’s even possible that old tradition will help them navigate these new challenges.

For example, if you’re gonna chirp at the opposing bench, be prepared for them to chirp back.  That hasn’t changed and probably never will.  Also, even if you’re a closet jerk, you can learn to act like a courteous, thoughtful person in public.  The act might even stick.

As a Sharks fan, I feel especially lucky that we have no such pretenders on our team.  How did we get so lucky?

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