MONTREAL — Former Canadien Mathieu Darche signed up for Twitter in 2010 just as the team was about to fly to Boston for a playoff game against the Bruins.
He didn’t disable the Twitter feature that alerts users when someone new is following them.
When the plane landed in Boston, Darche learned from his wife that they had received 4,000 emails.
“Literally, 4,000” messages arrived during the 50-minute flight, Darche said.
About 268 active National Hockey League players out of about 740 are now on Twitter. As the social media has grown since its 2006 launch, it has given hockey fans access to players in a way they’ve never had before.
It’s access is at arm’s length, but still offers a glimpse of whatever players are musing about online.
Fans also have a front-row seat to occasional “ribbing” among players, such as when Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges tweeted about letting 20-year-old rookie Brendan Gallagher live with him this season.
“I can’t believe my first son is gonna be a 20-year old who eats more than I do,” Gorges wrote, using the hash tag “grocerybillsgonnabehuge.”
“Will I be getting an allowance?” Gallagher tweeted back.
Montreal chef Danny Smiles is a big NHL fan and follows several players on Twitter.
“I think the funniest one has to be BizNasty, which is Paul Bissonnette. He’s the best Twitter account yet,” Smiles said of the Phoenix Coyotes forward who has more than 390,000 followers.
“For me, it’s the humour,” Smiles said of what he enjoys about the players’ Twitter feeds.
“I guess for a lot of hockey fans ... being able to get a re-tweet it’s almost like the hockey player acknowledging that you even exist,” Smiles said.
“Instead of just getting an autographed stick or whatnot, (for) people right now it’s a lot easier with the re-tweet, I guess.”
While he’s never going to ask for a re-tweet, Smiles said: “If they re-tweet something that I write it’s cool because they acknowledge it.”
Former Canadiens defenceman Hal Gill tweets under the handle "Skillsy75". "Has anyone ever seen an ‘A’ battery or a ‘B’ battery? What’s the deal? #why,” Gill tweeted this month.
Now playing for the Nashville Predators, Gill says he got on Twitter to obtain more information, like a news feed. If a trade happens, you usually find out on Twitter, he said.
“The whole re-tweeting thing sometimes drives me crazy,” Gill said mildly in a telephone interview last week.
That’s because there are a lot of good causes, but some you’re not familiar with, he said.
“It’s hard to put your stamp of approval on something you haven’t heard about,” said Gill, adding he has re-tweeted things that people later told him didn’t exist.
A downside to Twitter is there’s a lot of negativity, he said.
And if you have a bad game “there’s fans that let you know.”
Everyone can be heard on Twitter, which is the good and the bad part about it, Gill said.
Darche chose Twitter to announce his retirement from hockey on Tuesday and posted a picture of his skates hanging from hooks.
“I figured I might as well be original,” Darche said later in the day.
Popular with Canadiens’ fans and media, Darche received thousands of replies. There was also an outpouring from fans last summer when it became apparent he wasn’t re-signing with the Habs. In both instances, Darche thanked fans on Twitter for their comments.
Good manners and the Internet don’t always go hand in hand. During the NHL lockout, Darche received some rude messages.
“I ended up blocking a bunch of people,” said Darche, who was active on the players’ side during the contract negotiations.
Darche said he can’t answer everybody, but when he responds on Twitter he usually picks people who are respectful.
Canadiens forward Colby Armstrong has more than 147,000 followers.
“You definitely get a lot of negative stuff and some harsh things said,” Armstrong acknowledged last month before the start of training camp. “I don’t know if it’s the best thing all the time.”
But he also alluded to the positive aspects of Twitter, reaching out to fans.
Armstrong also hears from fans with re-tweet requests.
“Oh yeah, lots of stuff,” he said. “It’s a nice way to reach out to the fans, little jokes here and there or let them know what the guys are doing or little things like that.”
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette