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How I Used A Hockey Game To Explain Twitter To My Father

Posted: March 31st, 2012 | Author: | 2 Comments »

Last night, at a hockey game, my father leaned over to me and asked if I was on Twitter.

He knows I’m on Twitter. Er, at least, I’ve told him before. But social media to him is like reading tarot cards to me: it just doesn’t show up in my world. Tell the truth, I’m actually a little impressed he got the name right. So I wasn’t surprised by the question.

I tried to describe why I enjoy Twitter so much to a man who doesn’t own a cell phone while we were watching a hockey game.

I told him that, earlier in the week, before coming home to visit, I had sat in at an ad agency, filling in for a copywriter who had gone on vacation. The agency had called me because I had struck up a relationship with one of the partners on Twitter.

On Thursday, after my three days of playing copywriter, I had a phone call with a strategist at an agency in the City. I had the ear of someone who plays major league baseball, and he wanted to help me find a job. How did I land the phone call?

We knew each other on Twitter, of course.

Two tangible, concrete examples of how Twitter was working for me, right there, explained at a hockey game.

At one point during the game, Dad looked at the out-of-town scoreboard, which showed updates from all the other games in the league. One read: “Checkers 3, Griffins 2.”

“Who the heck are the Checkers?” he asked.

Well, I happened to know, even though they were a new minor league team that hadn’t been around for more than a few years and I hadn’t followed minor league hockey for longer than that. About a year ago, after attending another minor league hockey game, I wrote about an experience I had as a kid. We were down standing by the glass watching the teams warm up, and a goalie from the visiting Hershey Bears broke his stick. He skated over to the glass where we were standing, pointed to me, and handed the shattered stick to someone on the bench. They tossed the stick my way, and an honorary Hershey Bears fan was born.

Seventeen or so years later, I was reminded of that moment again. I left the hockey game that night and went home to write about it. Then I thought I’d try to find the goalie who had made my night (my life!), and send it to him. Just a little token of my appreciation for a small gesture he’d probably not thought twice about.

Thank God for the Internet. I started looking for his stats, seeing where he had played after Hershey, and where he might be coaching today. It was inconclusive, so I moved to Wikipedia. The trail went cold after he started coaching a team called the Charlotte Checkers, a team that eventually became the minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

I followed the head of the Hurricane’s PR on Twitter, so I sent him a message asking if he’d ever heard of the man I was looking for. He hadn’t, but he’d make some phone calls to see what he could find.

Enter Mike Lappan, head of PR for the Checkers. A few Twitter conversations later, he passed my piece along to the goaltender I was trying to reach. I got an email back a few days later from Scott LaGrand, thanking me for thinking of him, and promising that he was going to show the story to his kids, a story about their dad they’d appreciate.

A long way around the block to say that the Checkers, this newish team that my father didn’t know existed, had already played a small role in my life. Because of Twitter.

As I was telling my stories, a message popped up on my phone. A photo I had taken earlier in the game had been chosen as the Amerks’ “Fan Photo of the Game!” and would I come down to the guest services desk to collect my prize. I handed the phone to dad.

“See? Twitter!”

He urged me to go find out what I’d won, but it was the third period of a tied game. I hesitated. Over the next few minutes, after the Amerks had retweeted my photo, a few responses came in. The first came from Mike Lappan.

The next came from Tom Chiarella, a writer for Esquire, one of my favorites and a Rochester native: “nice shot Pete!”

Well, fine, then, I’d go pick up my prize. It was a nice little package, the highlight of which was a signed Thomas Vanek poster. Vanek, if you’re unfamiliar, plays hockey for the Buffalo Sabres, a team beloved by two of my cousins (the young daughters of the aunt and uncle who took me to see the Hershey Bears). They’re going to enjoy that Thomas Vanek poster.

Because of Twitter.

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2 Comments on “How I Used A Hockey Game To Explain Twitter To My Father”

  1. 1 jason said at 7:35 pm on March 31st, 2012:

    I remember seeing that LaGrand stick in the corner of the garage for years. It’s probably still there.

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