Hockey is often treated as a second-class sport in the United States. Whether it's the lack of highlights on SportsCenter or the lack of coverage in the newspaper, there's a mentality that the NHL is far behind baseball, football and basketball in this country.
If you use Twitter, then you probably already are aware of "Trends". If you don’t use Twitter, it’s the top ten words or tags (usually preceded by a numbers symbol / pound sign) that are used the most within a given area. You can set the city or area you wish to see trends about within your profile.
Sometimes it’s interesting, and other times it’s simply predictable. When it comes to hockey, this past week and a half, it’s been rather interesting. Particularly if your area location setting is the entire United States, like mine.
The reason that it’s been interesting is this: any major hockey news that has broken in the past week or so has been trending on Twitter nationally in the U.S. That means that player or team names for trades, or for suspensions, have been popping up in the top ten most used words or phrases.
Stop and think about that for a second. Hockey player names and teams have been one of the top ten terms on Twitter in America. Crazy, isn’t it? Perhaps there’s hope for hockey in the US after all. (Seriously, why isn't there a dedicated sarcasm font?)
Of course, there is hope -- more than hope, actually.
Hockey is alive and well in most areas of the country, even if those areas don’t happen to have an NHL team nearby. Major junior leagues are scattered across Canada, but a few teams in those leagues have manage to infiltrate into parts of the US. And there are junior hockey leagues of all tiers and divisions scattered everywhere. There’s even one in the NHL's Southeast Division, and that’s the Southeast Junior Hockey League (SEJHL) which currently has five teams in the states of Florida, Georgia, and Virginia.
And we can’t forget US college hockey. But even college hockey goes so far beyond the NCAA that it’s almost a national league in and of itself. If you’ve never heard of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), then perhaps it’s time to look into it. Sure, it’s club level hockey, but that doesn’t mean it’s not competitive. Would you believe that the NCAA Pac-10 Conference has eight schools that are in ACHA Div. II?
Yes, hockey is alive and well in the US. Twitter, with its word tracking, is just another way to illustrate that. The overall popularity of hockey is so much more than just NHL arena tickets sold versus people in the seats.
Personally, I can’t decide if it’s a case of people who are on Twitter that like hockey just chit chat a lot, or if there really are that many hockey fans saying a little bit here and there. Frankly, it's probably a little bit of both. Either way, hockey still getting some added exposure via Twitter at the national level. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
If you're on Twitter, you can follow a list with most of the writers for SB Nation Hockey. You can even subscribe via RSS if Twitter isn't your thing.