Source: Wikimedia Commons
While NHL owners and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) work towards a new collective bargaining agreement, a fan, Janne Makkonen of Finland, created and published a short video, entitled “Together We Can”, imploring hockey fans to work together to stop the impending lockout. The video serves as an excellent example of the participatory culture fan communities are immersed within, allowing creators such as this one to share their message to a massive audience. A collection of hockey highlights, mashed up with other cultural artifacts delivers the message that fans are significant to the game and the need to stop the lockout.
As of this writing, the video has received over 750,000 views on YouTube, with over 4,300 comments. The video has received press coverage and has been shared using various social media applications by fans as well as NHL players. Makkonen has even collected over 23,000 signatures for a petition posted on Change.org to stop the lockout. As great as the response has been to the idea of fans playing a role in stopping the lockout, it’s difficult to remain optimistic.
Harrison Mooney of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog, cites fan participation as a barrier to have an impact on the lockout in his recent blog post entitled “Hockey fans: There is nothing you can do to prevent a lockout”.
“Of course, the issue all of these movements and videos and public protests have — on top of treating our right to NHL hockey like it’s inalienable — is they belie their own threat of action by showing how desperately fans care. When you care that much, you’re not going to follow through on a promise to walk away from the NHL cold turkey should they fail to reach an agreement in two weeks.
Don’t be ridiculous. You’re crackheads threatening to quit crack unless the price of crack comes down.”
Fans are clearly in a position of weakness, as there are limits to what they can do to make a difference. A number of websites (NHL Fan Association, You Have Two Weeks) and social media movements have emerged urging fans to sign petitions and boycott NHL products, the services of NHL sponsors and partners, as well as the other companies owned by NHL owners. New media is a great foundation for group action as communication technology can serve as a foundation for discussion and collaboration. But the websites and social media applications being used require more thought and effort to really make the impact that fans like Makkonen are hoping for.
Fellow Hockey in Society contributor E Martin Nolan summarized a common sentiment among fans in his recent article, “The Fans are Assumed”.
“Shit, when they bring the game back, I’ll watch. Because I’m a fan, because I’m assumed. But let’s recognize that that assumed status also makes us into, to use Bobby Orr’s phrase following the last lockout, “collateral damage.” And ain’t shit we can do about it but make spirited montage video clips and fill the comment sections with vitriol until they explode into a big flame of nothingness. And wait, we can wait.”
But there is always hope. In his book “Here Comes Everybody”, Clay Shirky (2008) uses various case studies to outline the critical components of any large scale project, including how to get people involved and how to leverage communication tools such as social media to drive change. The section about Promise, Tool, Bargain (Shirky, p. 260) serves as a model that can serve as a guide to any group, such as fans looking to prevent the NHL lockout. This concept can explain how communities of various sizes have cooperated and collaborated to break down barriers and achieve collective goals, such as the Arab Spring, the Ushahidi application and the infamous Vancouver Riot of 2011, (including the clean-up and the reporting of rioters to authorities). I would argue that although the fan movement to ensure there is hockey this fall may not equal the significance of overthrowing a tyrant in Egypt, similar characteristics and opportunities exist across various large scale movements.
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