It’s one of those topics that come up every now and then: What would famous moments in history have been like if Twitter had been around?
Usually people talk about things like the first Wright brothers flight or the invention of the light bulb, but I’d rather focus on something important, like hockey. So I put together a list of nine notable moments from hockey history that I think would have been way more fun if we’d had Twitter back then.
But first, here are three moments you might expect to find on the list that didn’t make the cut because Twitter would have actually made them worse.
The Miracle on Ice: Remember, the game was played hours before it aired on television in the United States. In the days before the Internet, that wasn’t the end of the world. But if Twitter had been around, we’d have spent the entire day dealing with the anti-spoiler police. And those people are just unbearably awful human beings.
Pretty much anything that resulted in a massive suspension: We're looking at you, Todd Bertuzzi and Dale Hunter and Marty McSorley. Let’s face it, between the overdramatic moralists, the knuckle-draggers, and the overdramatic moralists intentionally searching for moronic tweets by knuckle-draggers to get angry about, Twitter is completely intolerable in the wake of any act of hockey violence.
The Gretzky trade: When this trade was announced, it hit most hockey fans like a sucker-punch. Wayne Gretzky was traded? Impossible! But the reality is that there had been whispers of a deal in hockey circles for weeks — it’s just that most hockey fans didn’t get to hear about them. In the Internet's race-to-be-first era, everyone would have already been expecting the trade by the time it was finally announced, diluting the sense of shock that made this such a “where were you when you first heard?” moment.
OK, now let’s move on to the real list
January 4, 1987: The Punch-up in Piestany
What happened: The final game of the 1987 World Junior Championships pitted Canada against the Soviet Union. While the Soviets had already been eliminated from medal contention, Canada had a chance at capturing the gold. As was typical for a matchup between these two rivals, the game was intense — bordering on dirty.
With six minutes left in the second period, a series of altercations escalated into a wild brawl that saw both benches empty. Fighting was virtually unheard-of in international play and the situation quickly overwhelmed the officials, who left the ice. At one point, organizers even tried to calm the situation by shutting off the lights. Shockingly, that didn’t work out so well.
What your feed would have looked like: An alternating stream of increasingly bloodthirsty fans interspersed with media guys competing to see who could be the most outraged. The two groups quickly turn on each other, and Twitter collapses under the weight of thin-skinned reporters announcing how many people they’ve blocked for disagreeing with them. Meanwhile, Soviet hockey fans are also tweeting madly but nobody notices because you can’t see Russian characters in TweetDeck.
Oh, and Don Cherry goes on a rant that lasts until the intern who types out his tweets is hospitalized for exhaustion.
Sample tweet: “Wow, this 17-year-old Shanahan kid is out of control, he obviously has no regard for player safety!”
August 9, 1988: The Wayne Gretzky press conference
What happened: OK, so the trade itself would have been a lousy Twitter moment. But the press conference that confirmed the deal was practically made for live-tweeting. It includes all the key elements: It was a major news event, it played out live on national television, and it involved a famous person sobbing inconsolably.
And most important, it would have been great to watch Oilers fans as their world crumbled around them in real time. You think they were fun to watch during the Tambellini announcement? Imagine how they’d have reacted to the Gretzky deal.
What your feed would have looked like: Peter Pocklington’s opening remarks would have resulted in the only known instance of all 10 of Twitter’s trending topics being synonyms for “douche bag." There would have been an in-depth discussion on the merits of Gretzky’s striped shirt. We would have awkwardly paused for a moment to try to figure out if we could make fun of Gretzky’s crying before realizing that yes, of course we could. And then we could have all settled in and enjoyed Glen Sather’s epic “I need you to know that I hate this trade and desperately want to strangle my boss but I can’t say that out loud” performance as one big global family.
Also, “I promised Mess I wouldn’t do this” would have been turned into a hilarious meme within six minutes (and completely beaten into the ground within eight).
Sample tweet: “You know, TMZ’s latest Paulina Gretzky ultrasound photos are pretty hot.”
June 21, 1992: The Nordiques trade Eric Lindros to both the Flyers and Rangers
What happened: Almost one year to the day after drafting him with the first-overall pick, the Nordiques finally accepted reality: Eric Lindros was not going to back down on his vow to never play for Quebec. So they traded him. Twice. As it turns out, that was kind of a problem.
The Nordiques initially made a deal with the Flyers. But after shaking hands on the trade (but before signing the paperwork), they agreed to what they felt was a better offer from the Rangers. That left the NHL in an embarrassing and unprecedented mess, which would ultimately have to be decided by an independent arbitrator (who sided with the Flyers).
What your feed would have looked like: With a Lindros trade rumored for weeks, every hockey reporter would be scrambling to break the story. Suddenly, we’d have a flood of “confirmed” reports of Lindros going to two different teams at the same time. Imagine all the fun from the recent Jarome Iginla debacle, except involving the biggest trade in league history (and playing out during the draft instead of in the middle of the night).
The mass confusion, backpedaling, and finger-pointing would be off the charts. If we were lucky, this would be the moment that finally caused all the various insiders from Canada’s major sports networks to brawl in the nearest parking lot, Anchorman-style.
Sample tweet: “Lindros to the Whalers (e5)”
May 27, 1993: Fraser’s missed call
What happened: With the Leafs just one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, referee Kerry Fraser misses an overtime high-sticking call on Wayne Gretzky. Moments later, Gretzky scores the winning goal.
What your feed would have looked like: Every Maple Leafs fan goes apoplectic. Every fan of any other team trolls Leafs fans mercilessly, just for the entertainment value. Somebody immediately posts an hour-long YouTube video called Loose Puck that details why the whole thing is obviously a Gary Bettman–ordered conspiracy.
Eventually, the official L.A. Kings account tweets a harmless joke that triggers a full-scale Canadian military invasion.
Sample tweet: “Let it go, DGB, it’s been over an hour. Are you really planning to go on and on about this forever?”
December 2, 1992: Domi vs. Probert, the rematch
What happened: Bob Probert had been the league’s undisputed heavyweight champion for years, but he’d lost a decision to Tie Domi the previous season. Domi reacted to that win with all the quiet dignity you’d expect from him, which is to say that he skated around the ice making the “title belt” gesture.
Fast-forward to the next meeting between the two, and you had the most anticipated rematch in NHL history. Despite warnings from the league, nobody even bothered pretending that Domi and Probert wouldn’t be squaring off. They didn’t waste any time, dropping the gloves just seconds into the game in front of a roaring crowd. Probert won a unanimous decision to reclaim his title.
What your feed would have looked like: This was in 1992, so for the sake of argument let’s assume that you wouldn’t immediately have to sift through an avalanche of cookie-cutter “staged fight” outrage like you would today.
Instead, it would have been all the hype and excitement of a heavyweight boxing or UFC fight, condensed into roughly 50 seconds. Plus it would have been fun to watch Rangers fans try to convince everyone that Domi won.
Sample tweet: “I hate that Domi kid. If he ever plays in Philadelphia, I bet it would be a great idea to pound on the penalty box glass and tell him that.”
May 24, 1988: The power goes out in Boston
What happened: The Oilers are leading the Stanley Cup finals 3-0 and looking to wrap up their fourth title in five years. Moments after Glenn Anderson had scored to tie the game in the second period, the lights went out at Boston Garden. After realizing that power couldn’t be restored, the league sent the fans home and canceled the game. The Oilers would go on to win the Cup at home two days later, accomplishing the rare feat of winning three home games during a four-game sweep.
What your feed would have looked like: A million blackout jokes, most of which are terrible. Dozens of parody accounts, all of which are terrible. Every corporate brand races to create instant blackout-themed ads that will get retweeted even though they don’t actually make any sense. Wait, that all sounds familiar
Sample tweet: “What kind of amateur-hour league lets the power go out during their championship? This would never happen in the NFL!”
June 3, 1993: McSorley’s stick
What happened: With the Kings having already won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals and leading 2-1 late in Game 2, the Montreal Canadiens looked like they’d need a miracle to avoid going back to L.A. down two games. That’s when Habs coach Jacques Demers called for a measurement on Marty McSorley’s stick curve. It was a move that’s spelled out clearly in the pages of the rule book, but is almost never seen in real life.
Referee Kerry Fraser confirmed that McSorley’s stick was illegal, giving Montreal a late power play. The Canadiens scored to tie the game, went on to win in overtime, and swept the rest of the series for their 24th Stanley Cup. To this day, rumors swirl that Demers knew McSorley’s stick was illegal because the Canadiens had secretly measured it before the game.
What your feed would have looked like: Initial confusion over what Demers was talking to the officials about. The wave of sudden understanding once Fraser took the stick over to the timekeeper’s area. Total chaos once Fraser called the penalty. And then a spirited debate over whether Demers had violated some sort of vaguely understood rule of sportsmanship.
Habs fans would be overjoyed. Kings fans would be irate. Fans of other teams would pick a side based on who they felt like annoying more. And Leafs fans wouldn’t notice because they're still carrying on about the missed high-sticking call from the week before.
Sample tweet: “Guys, guys, let's not lose sight of the really important question here: Why is Tony Robbins sitting in Bruce McNall’s luxury box?”
December 2, 1995: Roy tells Corey he’s done
What happened: Finally pulled from the game after allowing nine goals to the Red Wings, a humiliated Patrick Roy stomps by coach Mario Tremblay and says something directly to team president Ronald Corey, who was sitting behind the bench. At the time, nobody’s sure exactly what was said, but it’s clear that it’s not good — Roy is absolutely fuming, and Corey’s stone-faced reaction doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Later we’d find out that Roy had told Corey he’d played his last game in Montreal. He was right. Days later, he was traded to the Avalanche, a team he’d help lead to that year’s Stanley Cup.
What your feed would have looked like: It’s the uncertainty that would make this one so much fun. You’d have the schadenfreude of watching the Canadiens get shelled, followed immediately by rampant speculation about what Roy had just said. Everyone would naturally be assuming that something franchise-altering had just gone down, which would bring out the “Guys, don’t worry, it’s probably no big deal” reassurance brigade that inevitably shows up whenever there’s any possibility that something bad has happened. Some guy claiming to be a professional lip-reader would get 8,000 retweets before we all realized that you couldn’t actually see Roy’s lips. And then we’d all spend the next three days making up trade scenarios.
Sample tweet: “Hey, look on the bright side, fellow Habs fans — if we do trade Roy, we’ll definitely get plenty of great players for him! Right? Um, right?”
December 23, 1979: Mike Milbury goes into the stands and beats a fan with his own shoe
What happened: That’s it. Mike Milbury went into the stands and beat a fan with his own shoe. I don’t really have a joke for this. It actually happened.
What your feed would have looked like: Every hockey fans in the world is united in a never-ending stream of jokes about how incredibly poor Mike Milbury’s judgment is. So, not all that different from today, actually.
Sample tweet: “I’m really getting a good vibe from that guy. I am 6 years old and my name is Alexei Yashin.”