Editor's note: This article was updated with additional details at 8:00 p.m. If you know anything about sports, you know that people are obsessed with their favorite teams. If you know anything about hockey, that level of passion is exponentially increased. Of the four major sports, the NHL has definitely done the best job of engaging with their fans in the social media world. Their Twitter and Facebook accounts are more active than the oil spill in the Gulf. The face behind the National Hockey League's social media presence is Steph Bagley, from Vaynermedia in New York. When I spoke with her today, she said "I can't go to the party, I have to watch the game tonight." Tough job huh? While the Flyers and Blackhawks fight for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Bagley will be focused on Twitter and Facebook, replying to messages and sharing fan's thoughts. When Vaynermedia took over the NHL's Twitter account they had just 5,000 followers. At the time of this article, they have 384,244. On Facebook, NHL did not have an official page, but when they merged a community-operated page into the official NHL page, they started with 134,000 fans. Current likes on NHL Facebook page: 458,898. The NHL not only gets followers, but they make them feel like the NHL is listening. The hashtag #stanleycup has trended in the US for part of the first five games of the Stanley Cup Finals. On April 1st, the NHL started a new campaign on Facebook called Like/Dislike, which basically poses a question to fans and gets them to respond with either a positive or negative comment. It has caused a significant increase in engagement with the NHL Facebook wall. For tonight's game, @NHL is giving away a jersey signed by Vince Vaughn. They will tweet a question during the game that can only be answered if you are watching to drive tune in to the game and also to make the experience more fun for fans. First to answer right will win the jersey.
This morning, the NHL hosted a "blogger only" conference call. @NHL live tweeted from the call with @NHLShanny, hockey legend Brendan Shanahan, and asked fans to submit questions for Brendan over Twitter. She posted two user-submitted questions that were tweeted in and then answered the questions for the fans from @NHL. The fact that they are answering questions, retweeting fans, and creating contests on the social web makes the NHL's brand that much more valuable. Businesses need to take a lesson out of this league's bag of tricks.