Toronto takes its sports seriously, never mind our country as a whole and its love for hockey. Prior to social media, hockey was an event that brought together the city of Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens and it was a sport that brought the nation together during the winter Olympics. Hockey’s popularity was growing without the help of hashtags yet today, there are new opportunities to showcase these athletes and capitalize on sports events with the use of social media.
The World Cup of Hockey (WCH) tournament had been on a hiatus since 2004 and in early 2015, the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association announced the third instalment of this tournament would be returning to Toronto in September, 2016.
The popularity of this event was assisted by hashtag #WCH2016 which was officially announced by the NHL’s Twitter account on September 15, 2016, two days before the tournament was beginning. The NHL and Twitter who have always had a close partnership, worked together on determining the role Twitter would play during the tournament. Christopher Doyle, Twitter Canada’s Head of Partnerships told Sports Business Canada, “We work closely with the NHL essentially year round. The role of our media partnerships team is to help our partners – especially premium content partners such as broadcasters, celebrities, athletes, or in this case the NHL – get the most out of Twitter.”
The specially launched emoji for hashtag #WCH2016 was one of many initiatives created specifically for use on Twitter to connect fans to the teams, players and provide live content. During the WCH 2016 tournament, Sportsnet noticed the engagement the teams Twitter accounts had with one another. And of no surprise, Team North America and Team Canada Men’s accounts received the most retweet’s and likes on their witty content.
Because Twitter did not exist in 2004 when the last WCH tournament was held, it is difficult to compare any results. With over 313 million active monthly users today, Twitter is an online hub for sports fans to engage with their favourite teams and players, and most importantly, in real time. The seeming Twitter success during this year’s WCH tournament will be a very decent benchmark to compare against the next tournament.