Blogger Beat: New York Islanders
“For the Love of the Game.” That’s why I do it. Blogging that is, and it’s not actually easy. It is work in the truest sense of the word.
The skates I laced up as a child were pale blue with grey fur and silver laces. There was no pond for me to skate on, only a frozen-over depression from our aboveground pool. I’ve never set twig to frozen rubber, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t destined to be a devotee at the Hockey altar. Certainly, in my youth, I idolized the icons of figure skating, but by the late ‘90s, my steel-on-ice addiction had switched to hockey due in part to the acquisition of a dynasty-era, die-hard husband. He had no idea I would become the devout hockey enthusiast I am today.
There were some good years, and many years that tested my ‘faith,’ but I never faltered. Years ago, being a devoted Islander fan was somehow akin to being in a secret society. You didn’t discuss your loyalty for fear of reprisal. By 2001, I found there was an entire new world of likeminded individuals on the Internet. I was NOT alone. Message boards, the new generation’s answer to the old ‘party line,’ cropped up daily, giving the most devoted fan a place to speak their mind and gather information.
The “blog” was born in the late ‘90s. Created as a “Web Log” for individuals to disseminate facts and opinion to a worldwide audience, the phenomenon naturally caught on quickly. As of 2007, there were more than 100 million blogs on the Internet. How can so many people have so much to say? Think of blogs as the street corner soapbox for the computer age. Anyone can be a “blogger.” The only requirements are a computer, an opinion that can be conveyed to keep a reader’s interest, and the ability to type. More blogs, on every subject, are created every day in the seemingly endless available space on the Net. But blogs exist in a community of other bloggers; the “blogosphere” as it is called. Those who blog develop their own audience and try to attract readership by linking to more likeminded individuals and associated websites.
Not everyone who has a blog has illusions of a career in creative writing. Although professional writing may have been my aspiration during my senior year of high school, I learned early on that “unemployed writer” was as common as “unemployed actor,” which was another term for waiter. I opted for a far more stable (albeit non-creative) career in accounting, so I write mostly for myself. I won’t say there isn’t a book writing itself in my head, and every day in my life on the fringe of Islanders hockey is just another developing chapter.
It was the dark days just before the lockout of ’04 when my hockey devotion came spilling out onto the keyboard. I wrote letters and emails to anyone that would listen. I wasn’t just looking for information on the impending work stoppage. I was trying to show interest and support for the sport the mainstream media had deemed all but dead in the U.S. I knew there was a fan base out there, but we were not being heard LOUD enough. We were merely a squeak while the major four sports were a roar. I couldn’t let go without a fight. Every journalist that would quip that no one cared about the lock-out heard from me. If a character on a prime time sitcom made a joke about the NHL, their network became a target for my keyboard. And pity the 11 o’clock news sports announcer who made disparaging jokes about the NHL. They heard it the loudest. I just couldn’t believe that there weren’t others in North America that felt the same way I did. I couldn’t have possibly been the ONLY true hockey fan south of the Canadian border. I quickly found out -- I wasn’t.
The fateful shutdown of the league spawned a virtual tidal wave of hockey bloggers, the most notable being “Eklund – The Anonymous Hockey Blogger.” Part rumor mill, part creative writer, part self-created celebrity host of a world wide hockey community, Eklund brought hockey blogging to the masses while developing his own community of die hard fans. Even some of the mainstream media hockey writers, having nothing to cover and no one to talk to, began blogging themselves under secret identities. It was an underground movement to keep hockey on life-support while we waited for a newly ratified CBA.
I looked forward to Eklund’s insider emails daily, even if the rumor didn’t come to fruition; it was still NHL news while I was feeding my ice addiction with AHL and IIHF competitions. I began blogging to put my personal hockey misadventures on the Net to keep people thinking (and hopefully laughing) about the sport I hold dear. Besides, my entries were taking up far too much room on the NYIslandersCountry.com message board. Eklund’s Hockeybuzz may have been one of the most visited message board communities on the Net, but NYIC was my Internet home, so Webb20 (the main administrator of the site), set up a web journal for me.
As Commissioner Bettman always says, “Hockey fans are the most passionate fans in all sports.” With that passion comes an insatiable craving for information, which is what keeps the blogosphere alive and thriving. What we cannot get from standard sources, we find on the web and the countless blog articles that are only a Google search away.
The NYI Blog Box, experimental brainchild of Islander V.P. and part-time blogger Chris Botta, made its debut this season with the sponsorship of none other than Eklund himself. A select number of bloggers were chosen to have unprecedented access to the team. On one of Eklund’s recent blogcasts, he called the Islanders PR staff “progressive anarchists.” To date, there haven’t been any problems of note, only success stories. For me, being part of the Blog Box has been a great experience, and one for which I am truly grateful. It has awarded me an opportunity to be closer to the inner workings of the team so that I can better understand what it takes to make it work. And the work itself is hard. I’ve never seen a group of people work harder or longer hours in my life. They do it to bring an entertaining product to the ice, and a beneficial presence to the Long Island community.
While blogging opens up a lot of opportunities, it also exposes certain vulnerabilities. As a blogger, you reap not only praise, but also criticism and scorn, and the occasional Net threat. Although they are few and far between, you have to be mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with it. You also have to be on your toes to put forth information that is factual to the best of your knowledge because there is always someone there to dispute it, and any misinformation will spread through the Internet like a California wild fire. There are days the “entertainment” factor of this adventure isn’t so “entertaining.”
When you look at the long table in Sec 201, in front of the big blue Blog Box sign, you’ll see individuals as different as their writing styles. Certainly we have a common bond: it’s blue and orange. We see the same things from different perspectives. While there are exceptionally talented writers on this inaugural panel, I look at myself as somewhat of an accoutrement in orange high-tops. I’m there as a side-dish to the meat and potatoes of the Islander games. We all have our niche, and I have to say, we have about the best time together you can possibly imagine. The “experiment” has developed into a kinship of diverse fans with a common goal. Spread the word to the masses -- and the word is “We’re all Islanders!” I hope you all enjoy it.
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