In sports, a team lives and dies by its fan base.
A successful team can pile up wins, but if the fans don't care.. the team won't last. The struggles of Huntsville pro sports are well documented.
The Stars are usually near the bottom of the Southern League in attendance, despite tremendous efforts of a truly dedicated front office staff. Indoor football has struggled with ownership, league and even name changes in the last decade. And as far as basketball, the Huntsville Flight (remember them?).. flew out of town in 2005 with few folks noticing.
Entering their 9th season, the Huntsville Havoc are working hard to remain the most stable pro team in town. Since their first season in 2004, the team has performed consistently, and kept fans coming back for more. Last year, the team was second in attendance among Southern Professional Hockey League clubs, with more than 94,000 fans coming to see the 28 home games.
This year, they're giving fans a behind the scenes look at the game, hoping to connect on a personal level with the community and keep interest high. The team buys into the belief that if you Tweet them.. they will come.
"Social media is where everyone is accessible these days." says Clay Coleman, the Havoc's Business Development Manager. Coleman is heading up the experiment this year. "The guys will use Twitter to let the fans get a day to day look into the life of a minor league hockey player." Coleman told WAFF 48. "From their thoughts on games practices and events, to where they will be out in the community in efforts to help various Havoc sponsors and charities."
The Havoc have been active on social media for years, but they're taking things to a new level for the upcoming season. 14 of the team's 18 players have active Twitter accounts, and the team is encouraging fans the follow along. Anyone who knows anything about hockey players will tell you the potential for mischief and smack talking is high. And shenanigans make for good reading in the newsfeed.
Havoc fan favorite Dan McWhinney is no stranger to the world of social media. Throughout the summer, he tweeted pictures of his many angling and hunting adventures, and now can't wait to share his hockey experience with fans. "I think everybody going to be doing a ton of picture taking, already a few of the boys have been taking locker room action scenes." McWhinney told WAFF. Justin Fox has posted pictures of himself riding the Havoc's custom car.. And Colin Reddin gave us a 1st person point of view shot of his new red hockey pants. As for McWhinney, he's already brought the fans into the team's world, describing what it's like to ride from Huntsville to Lafayette, Louisiana in a bus with 20 other guys (use your imagination.. Or check out this tweet.)
"There's definitely going to be some fan interaction as well in terms of communication." McWinney said." It will give the fans a little more in-depth look into their life and the hockey life and hopefully bring more of a connection emotionally for the fan and player."
The social media interaction will peak during games. Head coach Glenn Detulleo, along with assistant coach Jordan Little and the mysterious in-arena host known as Freak Daddy will be tweeting before, during and after games with videos, pictures and comments for fans. The Havoc even have the hashtag #GoHavoc painted on the ice this year for fans to tweet back and forth with each other.
But, is there a risk of bruised egos in the locker room? Will it turn into a big popularity contest? "We haven't come up with any competition out loud, but behind closed doors, I'm sure there a few guys gunning for the title of most followers." McWhinney says with a laugh "But remember.. its not quantity, its quality."