Oilers4Life

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Derek Zona of Copper and Blue posted an interesting question for Edmonton hockey fans: Why haven’t you quit the Oilers?

It’s a fair question that I’m sure most Oiler fans have thought about. The team last won the Cup in 1990. It’s been eight years since the team made the playoffs. And since Daryl Katz took ownership of the club, the Oilers have been the worst team in the entire NHL.

For an outsider who may not value sports fandom, this may seem like a bizarre scenario: sports team keeps losing, yet the fans keep coming back for more. So here’s my response to Derek’s question.

Being a fan doesn’t follow the same traditional model of consumption that other products rely upon. It really functions in a unique ecosystem that has all sorts of weird norms and values. It’s tough to rationalize a lot of what happens in a cartel like the NHL and compare it to other consumable products.

A key element of being a fan of sports teams is continuously extending the product, before, during and after any game. Think of the conversations you’ve had about the Oilers with others, the articles you read, the stats you’ve glazed over, the digital artifacts you may have created (i.e., blogging, Youtube, etc). I don’t think there’s any other product for humans to consume that involves so much time and effort.

All of this continuous extension really engrains the fans deeper into their team. Quitting the team means you leave behind the continuous extension, a lot of which is spins off some extremely positive stuff that probably gives fans some relief from the losing. A lot of the positive relationships built, whether it’s at the game or online, keep fans following the shared product. And having a shared product like the Oilers also gives us a vehicle to connect with others and share our own ideas and values….all the stuff that’s critical for community building.

Trying to calculate your sunk costs like they do in the Freakonomics podcast (“The Upside of Quitting”) Derek links to is tougher for sports fans who consider quitting their teams. It’s tough to put a number on the emotional and intellectual investment you put into following the game and extending the content.

So good luck to the Oiler fans who want to quit now. Especially the bloggers and hockey analytic folks who have made valuable contributions to the game. Your creativity and intellectual contributions have you got you all in too deep. 😉

Related: Hockey Gossip and Blogs (2012, February 1)

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Hockey Analytics: The new wave of information and the online fan community that is driving the field

In case you missed it, the Communications and Technology graduate program at the University of Alberta hosted a public lecture on hockey analytics this afternoon in Edmonton.

        Link to full lecture on Livestream

        Event details including speaker bios

We had a great turnout in the classroom with people of various backgrounds in attendance. Along with hockey fans, there were members of the U of A faculty, students, bloggers and even employees of the Edmonton Oilers in the classroom.

I want to thank Michael Parkatti for his in-depth presentation of hockey analytics. Michael’s contributions to the field of hockey analytics have been extremely valuable and he continues to track game stats on his blog, Boys on the Bus. I really hope people left the session with not only a better understanding of hockey analytics, but also an appreciation for the work fans have done online.

My main motivation for putting this session together was to promote the field of hockey analytics and really showcase the kind of work hockey fans are doing online. Hockey analytics is still many years behind other sports in terms of tracking and collecting data. But there really is a lot of potential for continued growth and development of hockey information.

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Transmedia Storytelling in a Convergence Culture

What happens when your favorite hockey team is headed for another losing season? When you get sick of following your hockey team’s on-iceperformance, the best thing to do is follow their off-ice activities. When the narrative of the game is getting old, repetitive and boring, it’s time to follow another story.

It’s time to follow the Twitter account of S Horcov.

S Horcov (@SHorcov) is the captain of the Edmonton Oilers. He has experience fighting Chechens, loves bragging about his intimate relationship with his wife Olga, and has some explicit descriptions of his teammates. A true Komrade who enjoys his life as a hockey player.

But alas, S Horcov is not real. He’s a Russian version of Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff but has become more than just a spoof account. Instead, Komrade Horcov has merged himself with the transmedia storytelling the Edmonton Oilers hockey club has used to provide content to their fans. Through the game itself, newspaper articles, their official website and social media, the Oilers create and spread narratives surrounding the team. But now, we have S Horcov who creates a fictional persona for current players who then go through all sorts of experiences and adventures.

On a recent road trip in Ottawa, for example, the Oilers kidnapped the PM.

Update: Backhand Shelf interviews @SHorcov here.

Aside from the narratives created using the Twitter account, it’s the convergence culture that draws attention. Our culture is dispersed across different platforms in the form of content, but merges together to create a unique experience for fans. But here we see the production of that content put in the hands of an outsider who quickly remixes what’s available to them. S Horcov creates characters based on the actual hockey players and uses current events (i.e., trade rumours) and the hockey schedule to extend the narrative.

Jenkins, H. (2007, March 22). Transmedia Storytelling 101. Retrieved from http://www.henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html

Hockey Gossip and Blogs

Saw a documentary called Teenage Paparazzo, which follows the adventures of a 14 year old paparazzo and explores the relationship between celebrities, paparazzis and fans. Adrian Grenier interviews different paparazzos, celebrities and academics, including Dr. Henry Jenkins of MIT, and highlights the celebrity-obsessed culture across different mediums.

In a conversation with Adrian Grenier, Dr. Jenkins had this to say regarding celebrity gossip:

Going from a society of small towns where people gossiped about the town drunk to an era of the internet, who do we choose to talk about? We can’t talk about our aunt and our uncle or the guy down the street because we don’t share that in common.

But we share you in common.

So I would say one of your jobs as a celebrity is to be the subject of gossip. When we gossip about someone, the person we’re gossiping about is actually less important than the exchange that takes place between us. We’re using that other person, the celebrity, the town whore, whatever, as a vehicle for us to sort of share values with each other to sort through central issues that are…

Ironically enough, Dr. Jenkins was interrupted by a fan asking to take a picture with Grenier.

There’s definitely a lot of similarities between those who follow celebrities and those who follow hockey. Aside from both being groups of fans who express their fandom using different outlets, they both engage in gossip.

I remarked last year at the amount of speculation that is prevalent throughout the game of hockey and what causes its generation. Dr. Jenkins’ remarks add another element to the rumor/gossip activity, which is the fan desire to exchange values and ideas with one another. The game itself is the common object to discuss and it’s through the interaction with other fans that allows them to express their own values and ideas.

This opportunity to share is what makes blogging the ideal platform for hockey fans. It’s easy to set up a blog, publish content and discuss with other fans. Blogs also offer a way to keep a running log of fan values and ideas, and have made it possible to link the content across a massive network. Values and ideas are able to develop and evolve over time, which is then used to fuel more gossip and speculation.

Grenier, A. et al. (Producers), & Grenier, A. (Director). (2010). Teenage Paparazzo [Motion picture]. United States: Reckless Productions.

Creativity

Henry Jenkins interviewed David Gauntlett, author of Making is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Full interview can be found here.

Regarding the importance of the internet to creativity:

Having easy access to people who share their passions means that individuals can be inspired by each other’s work and ideas – which can lead to a positive spiral of people doing better and better things and inspiring more and more activity by others. This could happen before the internet, in clubs and societies, but it would tend to be slower, and the inspiring inputs would most likely be fewer, and less diverse.

Vancouver Canucks Fans & Punjabi Boliyan

Not a Canucks fan but appreciate sports fans and convergence culture.

After the Canucks won game 5 of the conference final against the Sharks, celebrations broke out across the west coast. Around Scott Road, where there’s a huge Punjabi population, a Canucks fan broke out into boliyan, a Punjabi folk verse to celebrate.

Boliyan are prominent around celebrations, such as weddings. Here, the fan decided to blend his culture with hockey and came out with this medley.

Translation of what he said…..

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