TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Hockey players need to put together an illustrious career on the ice to get into the Hall of Fame. Fans just need to send a good tweet.
The NHL and Twitter on Monday are inviting fans to tweet about what it would mean for their team to win the Stanley Cup. The top 52 will be etched into a silver plate and go into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“The thought was really finding a way to give fans recognition for their commitment the same way that we would with the players themselves,” NHL executive vice president and chief marketing officer Heidi Browning said.
The social media endeavor launches on the day of Game 1 of the final between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Lightning are trying to win back to back, the Canadiens are looking for their first championship since 1993.
“Back in ’93, you’d go, ‘How is this going to work?’” Cup keeper Phil Pritchard from the Hockey Hall of Fame said. “Because of the way social media influences everything now and the way fans have become instrumental in teams’ social media sites and cheering on their favorite players and teams, it’s a natural now."
After the hockey season started with no fans in most arenas, Twitter head of sports partnerships Will Exline said this is an extension of fan warmup videos and other things meant to keep everyone engaged during the pandemic.
The goal is to pick 52 tweets — in multiple languages — to correspond to the 52 names the winning team gets on the Cup each season. NHL social media director Sean Dennison said the hope is for tweets that evoke emotion and sentimentality with some humor mixed in.
“We want this to be as symbolic of the Cup as possible and since 52 names get put on the Cup, let’s recognize 52 fans,” he said. “The modern day fan experience really does take place on social media and especially on Twitter. It captures what people are saying, and I think that’s an important part of the story for our sport and for a Stanley Cup win.”
The biggest lingering question going into Game 1 Monday night is the status of Canadiens forward Joel Armia, who went into the league's COVID protocol Sunday. While Armia didn't travel with the team that day, he wasn't ruled out for the game because he could fly privately if he's cleared and still be in the lineup.
STATUS QUO LIGHTNING
Tampa Bay is expected to use the same lineup for the series opener against Montreal as it did in the semifinal clincher against the New York Islanders on Friday night. That means winger Nikita Kucherov playing after he missed almost all of Game 6 Wednesday with an undisclosed injury he's now saying never happened.
“There was no injury," Kucherov said Sunday. "I don’t know what you’re talking about. I feel good. All good.”
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press