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The Dallas Stars Social Network

Tweets like this from Brad Richards have kept people entertained off the ice as well as helped develop a connection between athlete and fan.
Tweets like this from Brad Richards have kept people entertained off the ice as well as helped develop a connection between athlete and fan.

As a full blown Twitter addict, one of the first things I do when I get up in the morning and get to my computer is check my Twitter feed to catch up on various friends, fellow sports fans, personalities and even pro atheletes who all impart their wisdom 140 characters at a time. One such morning early last week a few random 'tweets' to appear in my feed featured either a #TeamBrad or #TeamBarch hashtag.

Had Twilight fans finally lost it? Not really, it was just the latest take by some fans on a budding Twitter war (all in good fun of course) between Krys Barch (@KrysBarch) and the latest Dallas Star to get on the Twitter bandwagon Brad Richards (@BRichards_1991) who had joined the site shortly after the NHL trade deadline had passed on February 28th apparently - at least in Richard's words - at the behest of Bob Strum (@BobAndDan) who himself has been a fairly prolific tweeter for some time now.

Much like many of their games this season, the Dallas Stars didn't come out very strong to embrace social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but this season the organization and it's players are starting to make their voices heard and the Brad vs Barch Twitter war of 2011 has allowed Dallas Stars fans to see a side of their favorite players that even five years ago felt like a secret, secluded world.

"It's great that people out there enjoy it and are having fun with it too," said Krys Barch to Defending Big D when we had a chance to catch up with him recently and ask about his involvement with Twitter. "I think up in Canada there's so much attention to hockey that they know the personalities of the players but I think it's good to show that down here and that we don't take ourselves too seriously."

The players and fans alike are having fun with it and it's all thanks to a Dallas Stars PR department that has fully embraced the challenge of social media and is looking for new ways to utilize it every day...

New Ways to Sell The Game

As Brandon Worley outlined back in early December of last year, a once quite large fan base has slowly eroded away and wasn't looking any better with the team having come off two non-playoff seasons, seeing a summer departure of three of the biggest players associated with the Stars and in an ownership crisis that had virtually handcuffed not just front office staff in terms of what they could do for the product on the ice, but off the ice as well.

Don't blame the people working for the Dallas Stars. If you spend any time with those that work for the team then you instantly feel the frustration that exists as they look out and see thousands of empty seats on any given night at home  ...  You feel the angst when there is uncertainly amongst the organization on what may happen in the near future; not only with the team itself but with their jobs. While the Stars are in a state of limbo waiting on a new owner the whole organization itself is just standing still.

But movement has been made to at least engage fans and in some ways bring people closer to the team than they had ever been and really it started with their own website back during the NHL Draft this past summer when they introduced "Dallas Stars Raw" which were also featured on the Stars official Twitter feed (@DallasStars) - clips of behind-the-scenes stuff that regular fans don't have access too.  The un-edited and at times seemingly as-of-this-moment look was met with rave reviews from fans.

In the previous season, the Stars had started to become more proactive in terms of social media establishing their official Facebook page as well as Twitter feed, but there was some whispers that both were slightly underused.  It wasn't towards mid to late 2010 that pictures or players in the locker room and inside info was starting to be shared with the public.  In lieu of no traditional marketing plan and with buzz over the team at what we considered an all-time low, it was the first signs that the Stars were going forward as using networking sites as a tool to keep current fans interested and attract possible new fans.

Barch Checks (Tweets) In

At around the same time as the draft and the Stars push with Twitter, the first active member of the Dallas Stars roster found his way on to Twitter in the form of Krys Barch.

"I did it a little in the summer, my agent was kind of pushing me at that time, and then that thing with Cam Janssen..." said Barch when talking about his first dip into the world of tweets.

Oh yes, that 'thing' with Cam Janssen of the St. Louis Blues which ended up getting some prime attention nation wise as fans got to see first hand two NHL enforcers making a play-date for October that the league never officially commented on but behind the scenes might have been less than happy to see play out.  Barch's Twitter feed shortly after went strangely silent as many assumed that either the league or the team itself had stepped in and gave Krys a hush order.  The tweets posted in his first engagement with Janssen as well as Janssen's responses are no where to be found now.

Luckily, Mr. Barch's vibrant personality has made a triumphant return to the Tweet-waves.

"Recently the front office kind of said 'Hey, why don't you try it again?'  I like talking in here [the locker room] so they were kind of like 'since you like talking in here all you have to do is throw a couple of thoughts a day on there.'"

Since that time, Barch has made sure to check in almost daily with his thoughts on everything from the cooked meals he was getting, to his thoughts on the UFC and NFLwork around the rink as well as his favorite Dallas Stars blogs.

While the entertaining battle with Brad Richards has garnered the attention, Barch's desire to get back on Twitter came from a personal place and a desire to pull the curtain back.

"I just said that if I do it I would like almost to give an inside look to people who don't get that opportunity. I remember when I was a kid I used to watch TSN up in Canada and guys would be doing interviews and I'd be trying to look to see what kind of equipment they had behind them or what the dressing room looked like or things you always wonder about as a kid. That's what I was starting out to do [with Twitter] but it's kind of turned into this [back and forth with Richards] so I try to keep up with him and do some of that other stuff at the same time."

While fans on Twitter had grown to appreciate the likes of Stars in-arena host Jeff K (@JeffK_Stars) and play-by-play man Ralph Strangis (@RalphStrangis) posting their thoughts and insights into the Stars, there is nothing quite like getting a viewpoint from an actual NHLer and Barch has provided that and at the same time used his personal touch to allow fans to feel as though they are experiencing life in the league along side him.

(This is just part one of a two part series we'll have featuring the Dallas Stars and their ever growing and impressive work with social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.  Check in Friday morning as we'll have more on Brad Richards joining Barch on Twitter,  The Stars goal of getting 100,000 'likes' on Facebook,  The start of @StarsPR and one loquacious former goaltender turn all-world color man who is pretty much on top of everyone's 'wish he was on Twitter' list and if that man has in fact dropped a hint that we may see him on the site)