Hockey’s Dark Subculture: Key “Board” Warriors

They are key board warriors. It doesn’t matter if they have played the game or not.

It’s their platform.

It’s their podium.

It’s where they will be heard.

Some hide cryptic accounts, while others show transparency and have their real names attached to their handles.

Some are there for all the right reasons while others are there to create havoc, conspiracy, spread negativity and hate.

That’s life on the boards.

If you don’t like it, f$&@ you.

In many cases that’s the mentality.

Life on the boards is unfamiliar territory for me, but one of my first endeavours in what you could say was sports journalism was commenting on Bruins articles published on NESN.com in 2008.

I quickly learned how ruthless some people could be with their comments and analysis.

I will never forget reading those comments, I wanted to to reply.

I wanted to challenge them, but what good would it do.

I will never forget reading those replies to my analysis and opinion.

It was a very brief foray into early sports writing and analysis, but I quickly discovered that avenue clearly wasn’t for me.

It was just too abrasive, too negative.

I know you’re probably saying toughen up or my God, it’s the internet and social media what do you expect.

When I first ventured into the broadcast world covering the QMJHL, a broadcast colleague of mine shared some of the board posts directed toward the broadcast.

I couldn’t believe it.

I couldn’t believe what they were saying about me.

I laughed most of them off, but some of the comments stopped me in my tracks.

You can’t change or control people’s perception, yet it’s one of the hardest things to overcome.

Rogers TV had just bought the rights to the NHL and it was announced that our local station would be broadcasting New Brunswick based Q team’s games.

We would cover eighteen games and the playoffs.

The QMJHL was finally going to be back on community television, clearly that wasn’t good enough for some.

It was a dream come true to broadcast major junior hockey, but I learned very quickly to ignore the boards.

I understand the boards are an online presence for many fans to air their grievances or concerns.

For them it’s a safe place, they feel comfortable sharing because in many cases they feel validated.

You can always count on someone being there to support their analysis, or their negativity or hate.

Quite simply the boards are an outlet for good or evil when it comes to the game of hockey.

An information highway or a highway to hockey hell.

That’s life on the boards.

Unfortunately most commentary frequently crosses the line and turns into on line bullying and harassment.

In some cases fans and observers discuss their favourite team, player and league which is all in good fun, while others take it to the extreme.

I’ll never forget arriving home late one night after a game on January 11, 2017.

I thought the broadcast went very well that night, I guess I was wrong.

I had just sat down after sneaking into the the house as not to wake up my young family when I received a private message on Facebook which I still happen to have to this day.

“why do you feel the need to make everything sound so friggin technical or use absurd words while supposedly being a play by play person for the Wildcats,like listen to other’s do you hear them always saying half boards or umbrella an why always say Coach Rumble rather than addressing them as the Wildcats teamJust keep it simple its hockey,we all know how to play the game.I could go on but after watching for 2 or 3 yrs I have learned to turn down/off the sound while watching any games in Moncton.I am not saying I could do better and I know some need more practice than others,but gezzz man listen to yourself then watch a game or two on tv,wether it be NHL or a game from Bathurst or elsewhere in the Q an hopefully you will see what I am talking about.I am sorry for criticizeing or stateing my opinion,but just needed to vent this eveningSome glad no games will be in Moncton after the reg season this year,an as for Saint John we are always in the seats.Have a good one,an just like a hockey player you need to take criticism with the good an the bad.,an giv the guy beside you a calm me down pill as when Moncton scores kinda sounds like he is having a spell hahaha.”

It’s one thing to receive criticism on the boards you come to expect that, it’s another to get a private message like that.

I really couldn’t believe it.

I guess you have to consider the source or like one of my best friends say, “why try to reason with people that have none.”

I read that message three times that night.

There’s constructive criticism and then there’s that.

Could you imagine if someone sent a message like that to a sixteen year rookie via their person Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account.

Oh that would never happen right?

Think again.

It probably happens more times than not.

“It comes with the territory, they should be able to handle it, that will toughen them up.”

“They need to have thick skin if they want to play pro hockey.”

Hockey’s keyboard warriors have all the excuses and answers for that matter.

You see in many cases the boards become a safe haven for negativity and hate.

Some people on the boards just want to be informed on the latest news, gossip or trade rumours around the league.

Nonetheless, it can take on an entirely dark complexion very quickly.

The boards become addictive, an escape from hockey reality.

Conflict and criticism is welcomed, in many ways it’s celebrated.

Many keyboard warriors cross the line and personally attack players, coaches, referees and front office staff at a torrid pace.

They use their platform or podium to spread negativity at every turn.

With their identity hidden behind anonymity the onslaught continues.

Some hide from reality while brutally criticizing young athletes trying to find their way in the league.

Young players don’t understand the pressure or expectations of the league let alone the constant bombardment of incoming comments.

Hockey’s dark subculture isn’t getting any better, if anything it might be worse.

Sure the boards have their officials that monitor and remove comments, but let’s face it there’s always ways around that.

Hockey’s key board warriors are pests and some would say you can’t win in today’s era of the game without a highly skilled pest in your lineup.

That certainly doesn’t apply to the boards.

I wonder if they know how devastating their comments can be for young players?

I wonder if they ever realize the potential damage that they are causing with their comments directed toward players in the league?

Life on the boards is unfamiliar territory for me.

It’s one thing to be informed, it’s another to harass and spread negativity.

Life on the boards isn’t for every fan. I guess you have to consider the source.

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