Hockey Fans and the Leviathan

While reading through Yochai Benkler’s “The Penguin and the Leviathan”, this crops up.

Blogger Tyler Dellow over at mc79hockey.com is looking for volunteers to track statistics from Oilers games. Instead of the standard goals and assists which are already offered by the league, Dellow proposes some advanced statistics tracking:

I divided the rink into 24 zones and recorded where each event started and ended. I did, I think, come up with some interesting stuff, even in only ten minutes. I was recording what happened with the puck when a player touched it and where he touched it.  

The collaborative effort of fans to collect and analyze data will be something to see if it can get off the ground. If there’s anyone interested in helping, you can contact Tyler (mc79hockey@gmail.com). The challenge will be to breakup the work so that it can be manageable and provide a high enough degree of satisfaction that participants come back to do more.

Once my research proposal is approved by the University of Alberta, I’ll start examining the online behavior of hockey fans. One thing I hope to uncover is how this level of fan participation isn’t surprising, considering how committed fans are to the game of hockey, the participatory culture that exists and the technology available. As I mentioned in my post NHL Needs to Provide More Data, the NHL can either start helping fans out and be part of the movement, or just watch the collective creativity take flight.

Benkler (2011) put it best:

For the commons has finally come into its own. Because in today’s knowledge economy, the most valuable resources – information and knowledge – are themselves a public good, and the best way to develop and maximize this good is through millions of networked people pooling that knowledge and working together to create new products, ideas, and solutions (pg. 153).

Benkler, Y. (2011). The Penguin and the Leviathan: The Triumph of Co-operation over Self-Interest. New York: Crown Business.

Social Media Manager in Professional Sports

Professional sports has really embraced social media to promote its product, connect with fans and release news and updates regarding teams and players. Of course there’s a trade-off to the information that they, being the league, teams, and players release online. Professional sports entities also use the online fan community to gather information about their clients and keep tabs on what’s being said and done.

Realizing how important it is to interact with fans and utilize the information available, professional sports teams want to maximixe the opportunity.

The Edmonton Oilers are looking for a manager of social media. Job description and requirements are below:

Continue reading

Sports Arenas and Social Capital

Source: Vancouver Sun

The City of Edmonton has published a paper to support its push for a new downtown arena. The arena district is expected to revitalize Edmonton’s downtown and is in the midst of sorting out who pays for what and how much.

This paper supports the idea of a downtown arena and uses the recent development in Los Angeles, Columbus and Indianapolis as example of successful projects. Dr. Rosentraub talks about the importance of sports to a city and why a downtown location can be beneficial to its residents and business community.

Dr. Rosentraub’s brings up the idea of social capital and how sports and sports facilities can play an integral role in its development. According to his paper:

Sports are..part of the social capital of society through their role as socializing institutions that increase stability and as tool to underscore the political values and strength of a society (Wilson, 1994; Rosentraub, 1997; Andrews, 2004). Lefebrve (1991, 1996) has concluded that places within a city the encourage identification with a group facilitate the ability of individuals to build relationships that enhance identities and reduce the stress of isolation that can be endemic in large urban societies.

He mentions the Oilers run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals as an example of the city coming together, but it had more to do with a winning team than anything else. So I’ll agree that professional sports does increase the social capital of a city. But how does an arena have a similar impact?

According to Nan Lin (2002), social capital is “capital captured through social relations” and is “seen as a social asset by virtue of actors’ connections and access to resources in the network or group of which they are members”. It’s developed by building and maintaining social ties to those within the group and those outside of the group.

According to Putnam (2000), there are two types of social capital. The first is bonding capital, which deals with strengthening the relationships in a specific group in a network. Fans, being the driving force behind professional sports, play a big part in the bonding capital. They engage with the game and other fans in online communities, as well as physical spaces other than the arena. Fans being what they are will find their own space to connect and develop social capital with one another regardless of the arena’s location. Oiler fans in Phoenix, for example, will not be impacted by the arena but will contribute to Edmonton’s social capital.

Bridging capital, the second type of social capital, pertains to the external entities and developing contact with them. This is where hockey meets the rest of the world in the form of industry, government and the rest of the community. A physical arena in downtown would enhance the bridging capital with a presence around the other entities, but there’s no guarantees it would have an impact, especially if the Oilers continue to lose every year.

I would argue that social capital generated by professional sports has more to do with the team’s success than the actual arena and its location. Both the bridging capital and bonding capital is influenced by a successful team rather than the arena location. Locating it in downtown would physically connect it to other groups in the city (ie. industry, education, government), but it’s a team success that will lead to connections. Professional sports itself, is made up of the teams, the managers/owners, sports media and fans, and will develop social capital on its own since it is fan driven.

If the Oilers are concerned with building social capital in Edmonton, they need to turn the franchise into a winner. The team has been awful for the past eighteen years with a history of bloated contracts, average scouting, poor player development and bad decisions by management. Claiming that they face the same challenges that forced the Jets and the Nordiques out of Winnipeg and Quebec City is a stretch, as explained by Tyler Dellow. I like the idea of a downtown arena, but disagree with these claims from both the City of Edmonton and the Katz Group.

For more discussion on the Edmonton arena, check out the Edmonton Journal’s Storify.

Lin, N. (2001). Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.