Making the move: On being a bicoastal hockey fan

To be perfectly honest, hockey has not been at the top of the brain for the last month. I moved from San Francisco to Philadelphia over the weekend and the cross-country switch has been preoccupying, to put it mildly. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I got home (my parents’ home — still apartment hunting) from my first day at a new job, sunk onto the couch in what my dad affectionately calls “The Doghouse,” and was completely dumbfounded to realize that I kind of forgot what it is like to watch hockey on TV.

It’s pretty fantastic, in case you were wondering.

two screens

Two screens are better than one

The last game I followed anywhere besides Twitter was — I say this both sheepishly and proudly — the Winter Classic. Other than that, it seems that for the last month my entire hockey universe existed on Twitter. But on Tuesday, as I watched the Flyers tie the Islanders in regulation, keep it scoreless in overtime, then lose in a shoot out (Ilya Bryzgalov just cannot do shoot outs) it dawned on me that really my entire hockey experience over the last two and a half years has existed, predominantly, on Twitter.

How is that possible?

One reason is definitely the time difference. It’s probably fair to say that the majority of the NHL season does not take place in Pacific Standard Time. For me, that meant most games I care about took place while I was still at work on weekdays or just getting my day going on weekends.

And, as I’ve mentioned already, San Francisco is not the most vibrant hockey city. Part of this cultural failure may have something to do with the fact that hockey coincides with some of the best weather in the Bay Area. If hockey was a summer sport I bet San Franciscans would gladly spend an afternoon cheering on the San Jose Sharks to escape the fog monster. But in the fall and most of the winter and spring it’s clear and crisp and oh-so-sunny. Who wants to sit inside a dark apartment and watch an ice hockey game during some of the sunniest hours of the year?

I guess DVR might have solved my particular problem, but I’m being candid when I say the chances of me watching a recorded, regular season game that happened five to ten hours ago are close to nil.

So why Twitter?

To start, Twitter seems to have changed the way fans relate to both athletes and reporters. I’d like to write more about this strange dynamic some other time, but suffice it to say that Twitter offers a whole new dimension in which to relate to a player on what feels like a more insider-y (if you’ll allow me make up a word) level.

Not to pick on Bryzgalov (@bryzgoalie30), but the oddball Russian Flyers’ goalie already has a short, but colorful record of insane tweets that confirms three things for a fan like me

1. He wasn’t acting out of the ordinary on HBO’s 24/7 series when he achieved national fame for expounding on the hugeness of space
2. Goalies are out of their minds
3. He likes sturgeon.

Like celebrities, not all athletes tweet interesting commentary. Some of them are downright lame. But those players that are particularly clever, creative, or even incendiary are that much more compelling.

Then there’s the pre-game and post-game analysis from sports reporters on Twitter. Having all of that in one place means I can skim as much of the aggregated mess of content as I want while barely looking up from whatever else I am diligently (I swear) working on.

In the beginning of my Bay Area tenure, it was a slick and slippery slope from TV, to Ice Tracker, to Twitter. What eventually transformed me into an addicted Twitter hockey fan, though, was the ability to follow the record of the entire game as it happened and still get work done. At 4 pm PST on a weekday, when the Flyers were likely as not taking the ice, Twitter allowed me to commit that most cliched of sins: killing two birds with one stone. That has been the ultimate key.

But now that I’m back on the east coast, and (for a limited time) back at home, I’m sort of surprised at what I’ve missed. My Twitter hockey days aren’t over — note the comment about addiction. But despite nearly three years of experience harnessing social media to keep track of the NHL, I am relearning that in the end the only multitasking I really need to do during a hockey game includes drinking a beer and yelling at the good old TV.

Yael Borofsky is a writer, editor, and Philadelphia sports fan. Follow her on Twitter @yaelborofsky.

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