Canadian Players Develop Own Social Media Policy

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Canadian players develop own social media policy

BANFF, Alta. — Don Hay admits he’s not exactly a Twitter aficionado.

In fact, the coach of the Canadian world junior hockey team doesn’t tweet, period.

Texts, yes. Tweets, no.

Still, social media plays a part in today’s hockey world, and Hay has some definite opinions on how the 22 Canadian players should conduct themselves over the next two weeks in the Twitterverse.

“Really think before you do anything that you might regret,” Hay said on a snowy Sunday afternoon in the Rocky Mountains. “They’re young adults. They’re learning as they go.

“Life is all about making good decisions, and obviously that’s a decision they really want to think about before they hit that send button.”

In the final months of Darryl Sutter’s tenure as general manager of the Calgary Flames last winter, he said: “Twitter is something that birds do.”

A year later, players at every level — including the NHL — use Twitter’s 140 characters to chirp at friends, chat with fans, and keep up with the news.

Take last week for example. On the day Team Canada announced the final roster, a group of nervous 18 and 19-year-olds glued themselves to Twitter feeds via iPhones, iPads and laptops to monitor the cuts.

“(Twitter) is great because a lot of people talk,” Canadian goalie Scott Wedgewood said. “You can see what other people are saying.

“Obviously, what you say is kind of important. You can’t make fun of other people. A lot of people will take things the wrong way. The context of your text isn’t always the way you think you’re portraying it. You have to be careful.”

Technology is an inevitable part of life for every teenager — and Hockey Canada gets it.

But how and where do they draw the line?

“I’m 65 years of age. Don is 57,” said Peter Jensen, Hockey Canada’s resident sport psychologist. “So we’re hardly going to come up with an effective policy for a group of 18 to 20-year-olds. To me, if someone said you have to give up your iPhone for the tournament, I would just hand them my phone, right?

“To an 18 to 20-year-old, that’s like saying ‘please give me your umbilical cord.’ It’s how they’re connected to the world.”

As such, Jensen asked the players to come up with their own policy.

“I facilitated it,” he said. “They dictated it. They laid it out. They have a very clear set of guidelines they follow of when they can use social media and when they can’t.

“I haven’t seen one violation. Not one.”

During last year’s world junior tournament in Buffalo, New York, American forward Emerson Etem had to explain himself and backpedal after Tweeting that the host city was a “ghost town” and “the worst city ever.” The social media platform erupted in objection.

This year’s edition of Team Canada took it upon them to police themselves when it comes to Twitter. Wedgewood said that with so many eyes on them, it is critical to use good judgment.

“At this age, you have to be mature about it,” said Wedgewood, who has a modest 672 Twitter followers. “We didn’t really say, ‘You can’t say this’ or ‘You can’t say that.’ Obviously, you can talk about your buddies back home, but when you talk about the team, you have to think twice. Put yourself in other people’s shoes when you read it before you hit that send button.

“If you don’t think it’s going to be taken the right way, don’t say it.”

Ryan Strome agreed.

“They reminded us to be smart,” said the New York Islanders prospect and forward with the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs who has 15,204 followers. “Especially the guys that do tweet a lot, just watch what you say. Especially a tournament in Canada, watch what you say because there’s a lot of media.

“Any negativity can be taken the wrong way. You have to take it with a grain of salt and you have to be saying the right things.”

Or else.

“The players have to be guarded at times,” Hay said. “There’s a lot of people following them. A lot of people reading.

“What is said in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room. Things about our team have to stay within our team.

“It’s not open knowledge to everyone.”

By Kristen Odland and Vicki Hall

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