Has social media played a role in the uptick of NHL suspensions?

Let the modern day NHL fans exit in 3,2,1…. ok, awesome. While 90% of readers have clicked off this article because they are to ignorant to hear anyone out on this. Those who stayed around I hope this article opens your eyes a little and leaves you with a different outlook on the topic.

As we all know social media has been growing rapidly over the last few years, Twitter has 336 million active monthly users  and 500 million tweets sent per day (per omnicoreagency.com). Instagram has nearly 1 billion active users, up from 90 million in January 2013 (per http://www.statista.com). Snapchat has 188 million active users per month. We seem to get the point here, the world uses social media a lot, a lot more than we all should. Which means with nearly 500 million tweets sent per day and 100+ million videos and pictures shared on Instagram per day, the public voice has a lot more say than we believe it does. Keeping all politics out of this but look at the most recent election, you’d be ignorant to think that social media did not play a role in individuals opinions.

While social media only continues to grow and many accounts continue to create more and more of a following, the higher the following the more likely it has some influence on the public. Take a look at the accounts you follow with the most followers and likes, are you going to sit there and say those accounts don’t have an affect on your point of view or others…

Ok, let’s get into what the whole article is about here. Look I am not saying the NHL has gone soft (a little soft, yes), while I do understand they are doing their best to protect the players, the young guys of the NHL, the superstars who reel in the most money and looking out for the longevity of the players careers. But what I have noticed and I know I am not the only one on this stance. Social media has certainly played a small, if not minor role in the severity and attention of these suspensions recently. The most recent one that raised a lot of eyebrows was the Michael Matheson hit on Elias Pettersson, Matheson a 6’2 190-200lb defenseman against a 6’2 170-175lb rookie, against a 19 year old Pettersson. We are not going to get into the details of the hit and what you think but, let’s just say if Pettersson is not 19-years-old a recent draft pick and a potential NHL star, there is no suspension or even thought about it. The video below has a great dialogue about this.

So far this year we have seen already 7 suspensions, two related to off-ice incidents and 5 from on-ice incidents. Already this years suspensions total has reached up to 81 games, including Nate Schmidt’s 20 game suspension(for a eye lid of performance enhancing drugs in his system, no policy for it I understand) and Austin Watson’s 18 game suspension for misdemeanor domestic violence case. We have seen already 20 games to Tom Wilson for a hard hockey hit, controversial as well(on number of games), Max Domi sucker punch, Robert Bortuzzo elbow on Michael Kempny, Mike Matheson hit and most recently the Mark Borowiecki elbow during Tuesday nights game vs the Boston Bruins. To watch it click here.

And, again I won’t get into the hit much but if you watch the video linked above you literally hear the announcer say “a forearm shove to the face”, in my honest opinion. Borowiecki was trying to get to the scrum in front, there was a lot of commotion going on in the crease, he saw a defenseman come flying in from the blue line and his natural reaction with his other hand tied up in the play was to protect his goalie/crease. It did not look intentional at all, but it sure does not look pretty. Within in less than 24 hours, Borowiecki had a hearing and was suspended one game. It just seems during todays day in age social media plays a profound influence on these things, I am not saying we the people legitimately decide the call at the end of the day. But when things like this happen the first thing every fan does is throw a knee jerk reaction out there and voice their opinion.

Coming from my own personal experience, one of the most popular accounts on Instagram regarding NHL news, the NHL Discussion account with 193k followers and 12.6k posts. Posted a video about the Borowiecki hit, sure I said that the fans commenting are absolute jokes and trying to voice their opinion too much. Just from that one comment, I received about 15 replies from fans, literally getting angry about what I said and getting personal along with 60+ likes on my comment. People feel as if their opinion matters more than everyone else’s and when they need to voice their opinion and are given a platform they “NEED” to write a comment displaying their voice on the call. Sure that’s what I did by commenting but I was also commenting with the intention to one draw results for this article and two to sir some good fun(some people just can’t take an opinion if it doesn’t agree with theirs, sheesh). I bet if NHL Discussions account disabled their comments they would get reported by their fans for doing so, which is sad. All I am saying, fans your opinion does matter of course but seriously some of you have to take a breather, you don’t play in the league, you are not their agent, you do not make decisions so let George Parros and his colleagues do their job without 500 million people jumping down their throat.

Anyways, the Tom Wilson suspension for example there were 170 tweets fired off about Tom Wilson minutes after the event, Mike Matheson there were 130 tweets covering the Matheson incident and all major news sources covered the stories like, The Athletic, Sports Net, and more. These social media articles and tweets have an influence perhaps not on the call directly but I believe it is making the NHL Player Safety think twice about some decisions they make. I mean with 126.2k followers and their tweets getting nearly 500-1,000 responses, whoever runs that account does not ignore all those messages.

At the end of the day, sure it is great to voice your opinion, this is America and it is what the country is built on, freedom of speech and right to hold your own opinion. I just think the keyboard warriors who start firing off knee jerk reactions after Elias Pettersson got hurt, saying some ludicrous things need to take a break and relax a bit. Perhaps wait it out a second, then respond.

I am not going to sit here and say social media does or does not play a role in these decisions but I think if anyone with a brain and some working knowledge of how the internet and social media works can figure out that the suspensions have been increasing more and more as social media and users continue to increase. Not saying there is a direct correlation but in the world of “everyone has an opinion” we are definitely seeing an increase in “fan engagement” over the years. I just hope this does not get out of hand.

Taking a look at suspensions over the last five years this is what the trend has been…

2013-14: 50 suspensions, 174 total games, 16 preseason, 133 regular season, 25 postseason. This includes a 13 game suspension from Paul Bissonnette for leaving the bench to fight, same with David Clarkson having a similar incident.

2014-15: 31 suspensions,178 games total, no preseason or postseason. 20 games included Zenon Konopka for violating the NHLPA substance program and Slava Voynov 76 games for domestic violence.

2015-16: 41 suspensions, 203 games total, 196 regular season, 7 postseason. Including 31 games from Zach Kassian for violating NHLPA substance program. Same for Shawn Horcoff for 20 games, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin got 1 game for missing NHL All-Star game and Jarred Tinordi got 20 games for violating NHLPA substance program.

2016-17: 28 suspensions, 93 games total, 15 preseason, 76 regular season and 2 postseason, this included 25 on-ice incidents and three off-ice incidents.

2017-18: 29 suspensions, 87 games total, 4 preseason, 73 regular season and 10 postseason. This included 10 games from Luke Witkowski for “automatic suspension for returning to the ice to take part in an altercation after being escorted off by an official”. And of course Radko Gudas’s famous tree chopping slash on Mathieu Perreault.

2018-19: 7 suspensions, 82 games, 20 preseason, 61 regular season. It is only October 27th, 2018 and we have almost exceeded the amount of total games in suspensions from last year. Not an opinion just facts…




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