NHL Hosts Tweetups for Hockey Fans

League Has Been One of Sports' Most Aggressive Users of Twitter and Other Digital Media

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Continuing its aggressive use of Twitter, the National Hockey League is hosting 21 "tweetups" -- real-world get-togethers of Twitter users -- to mark the start of its playoffs tomorrow.

The events will take place in cities across the U.S. and Canada, and at least some of them will be backed by the league's sponsors. McDonald's, for instance, is providing food for the New York tweetup.

The NHL began using Twitter in January, when it deployed the social microblogging site to promote its New Year's Day "Winter Classic" game at Chicago's Wrigley Field, as well as the season premiere of the NHL on NBC a few weeks later. In March, it tweeted to stir buzz about the league's trade deadline and to promote sales of New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur's jersey after he became the all-time leader in wins.

An NHL spokesman said the league does not have any hard numbers to document the return on its investment in Twitter, but he said the league has a "strong hunch" that it has paid off. The Winter Classic and NBC premiere were the two highest-rated games of the season for the league, and Mr. Brodeur's jersey sales soared.

More digital offerings
The NHL has generally been among the most aggressive sports leagues in terms of its digital offerings and efforts, including an online subscription service that offers live broadcasts of every NHL game. The league said its fan base tends to be younger and more digitally inclined than those of the other big leagues and, as such, more likely to be dialed in to Twitter and other social media.

"It's mostly anecdotal at this point," the spokesman said of Twitter's benefits. "But we've seen indicators that suggest it's been worthwhile."

The league is weighing adding staff or dedicating an existing employee to expand its use of the platform.

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