What’s in a goal? How NHL sides celebrate on social media

Once upon a time, National Hockey League Twitter accounts were strictly business. They announced events, released important information and live-tweeted events with little regard for humour. It simply wasn’t the arena for it. Then, one day in early April 2012, the LA Kings tweeted this:

The Kings had just beaten the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs. They took sports Twitter to a new area, leading the transition to more engaging, fun content on the platform, where all teams could interact with each other, respond wittily to fans, and celebrate their achievements unabashedly.

Since then, hockey Twitter has come a long way. Teams have developed their own voices, for better or worse. The same news and information is shared in 30—soon to be 31—unique ways. Goals are the perfect example of this, so let’s take a look at how each NHL Twitter account celebrates them.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks go for it when a goal is scored—there’s a lot going on here. They’re one of the teams that create personalized GIFs for each player, and this one is fun. It combines the goal horn, the logo, multiple pictures of the player and a clever personalized hashtag in the tweet.

They follow it up with two more informative tweets, giving the primary and secondary assists and a video from the goal. It’s a solid, eye-catching display from a team that walks a good line between fun and professional.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes tend to go a different route when celebrating goals. They go for the instant, emotive reaction, rather than the thought-out, informative tweet. They make great use of the siren emoji, a reminder of the light blaring in the arena. As far as the name, “The Captain” is all Coyotes fans need to know who scored.

This kind of tweet isn’t for entry-level fans—it’s for supporters who know the team and follow them on Twitter. They don’t give any excess information, just an instant update on what’s happening. They’ll follow it up later with more formal information, but for now, this is all that’s needed. This is a style they use heavily in their in-game coverage: casual, fast updates on the action as it happens.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins also go for casual, speedy updates. But this time, it’s visual. These types of prepared graphics are very common among sports teams, but they’re common for a reason. It’s a way to get engaging content out quickly without having to compose a long tweet in a rush to react.

The graphic is visually appealing, placing Brad Marchand in front of the city of Boston and a very faint Bruins logo, all while keeping with the black, white and gold colour scheme of the team.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres combine information with visual content. They update fans on the state of the game, including the score and time of the goal. The siren emoji makes another appearance, along with a player-specific hashtag.

As for the GIF, it’s unclear whether Jack Eichel is imitating a goal celebration or just reacting after being told to act. It’s a little lacking in enthusiasm, but then again, professional athletes – besides some Premier League footballers – aren’t known for their acting skills. Either way, it’s nice personal touch.

Calgary Flames

There are plenty of average, good, and even great goal tweets. But this? This is art. Let’s take this piece by piece. First, you get a reference to The Shining, made even funnier by the fact that Johnny Gaudreau barely looks old enough to have his license. And this isn’t a spur-of-the-moment piece of genius. Every time Johnny Gaudreau scores, the phrase reappears.

Then, he looks up at the camera dramatically—a quintessential sports shot, and the first of many. But then comes the best part: each letter of his last name burned in fire over his face. Intense. Iconic. Incredible.

But the flame motifs aren’t done yet. Fire burns behind a tiny Gaudreau, with burning transitions to more dramatic footage of him looking up at the camera from different positions. This artistic venture is an unmitigated success. This is as good as it gets.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes go for a less dramatic approach. This tweet tells you everything you need to know, whether you’re watching the game live or not. With an immediate follow-up tweet to state the assist, there’s no question left unanswered here. And while they’re at it, they throw in another GIF of 12-year-old Jeff Skinner doing his best to look menacing.

Chicago Blackhawks

When Patrick Kane scores, it was probably assisted by Artemi Panarin. When Panarin puts one in, it’s probably off a pass from Kane. And the Blackhawks social media reflects that. When Panarin scored against Detroit, the Hawks went for the immediate reaction. This simple tweet tells you all you need to know—they’re at it again, and it’s good.

The tweet is immediately followed by a second, this one to tell you the score. Interestingly enough, neither tweet lets you know who actually scored the goal. But with those two, it doesn’t matter.

The Blackhawks are one of the most popular teams in the NHL due to their dominance in the salary cap era. Their tweets show that. Chicago doesn’t need to explain exactly what happened in an effort to draw in new fans. They know their demographic, and they’re ready to hype them up.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are the first team to add real-time images. It’s a live update on the goal with a matching picture of the players celebrating as the dejected New Jersey Devils looks on, conveying just how crushing it is to be scored on by Nate MacKinnon.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are hands-down the most social media savvy team in the NHL. They’re funnier, faster, and more up on Twitter jokes than any other team, and it’s not really that close. So there are high expectations for their goal celebrations on social media.

Instead of relying on hockey players looking at a static camera, the Blue Jackets ratchet up the intensity by putting the players on set that wouldn’t be out of place in a blockbuster movie trailer.

Zach Werenski’s face is cast into shadow as lights flash around him, celebrating his equalising goal. The Blue Jackets don’t need a background of the city or a montage of team colours—they don’t even include very much information in the tweet. But that’s okay, because this GIF is going to tell you just how good the goal was.

Dallas Stars

The Stars are another team that combine visuals and information to create a strong tweet. It’s now become clear that this is a common format, because it works.

The text gives fans the details of the goal, while the GIF puts Jason Spezza in front of the green-tinged skyline of downtown Dallas. Spezza stares deep into your soul, reminding you that he scored this goal for Big D, and they’re going to win theis game for the city.

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit’s style of tweet fits the team perfectly. The Red Wings are a serious, hardworking team from a blue-collar town. They don’t fancy infographics or funny GIFs, because that’s not who they are.

That’s not to say the tweet is totally dull—they add a little personality. They use a nickname, celebrating Gustav Nyquist in a more personal way. They also bring a new emoji into play: the apple. It’s a fun way to announce assists, adding a visual element to an otherwise lacklustre tweet.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers go for a pure live-tweet experience. They don’t take time to add visuals, because they’re excited that this goal just happened, and they want you to know about it. To be fair, Oilers leads have been rare over the last few—well, 10 years — so the caps lock excitement is justified.

And this works for the Oilers. Like the Blackhawks, they’re a team with a well-established base. They’ve got Alberta on lock, and they cater to that base. Their social media doesn’t draw in as many fans as other teams? Who cares—Connor McDavid draws in all the new fans they need.

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers’ social media is a fun thing to look at. As an up-and-coming team in a non-traditional market, the Panthers have to get a little more creative to attract new fans. As a result, their Twitter gets casual and creative.

The Panthers often change up their goal celebrations. Some are a classic style of GIF—the player stands with their arms crossed as a gold signature appears over a giant number. Some tweets are GIFs of players celebrating from previous games. And some are…none of the above.

The tweet may not tell you the score of the game, time of the goal, or who assisted, but what does that matter when you’re looking at a middle-aged man celebrating joyfully with a giant Aaron Ekblad head. Sometimes it’s better to be fun than informative.

LA Kings

The LA Kings bring us back to the player-specific GIF, but don’t despair—it’s a good one. Dustin Brown scored in the third period to keep the Kings from being shutout by the St. Louis Blues, and the Kings celebrated with one of the best player GIFs yet.

Even though this GIF has the same elements as previous ones, this is somehow classier. Maybe it’s the Kings’ black, white, and silver colour scheme. Maybe it’s the clean lines of the text and transitions. Either way, the tweet perfectly conveys the message to the team’s 1 million plus followers.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are another team that take a serious approach to social media. But that’s the personality of the team. In Montreal, fun content doesn’t matter as much—the success of the team trumps everything in a way that few other markets experience.

This tweet reflects that. They simply state what happened in the game, no frills. Since they’re the only NHL team currently located in Quebec, the tweet is bilingual. It’s not the most awe-inspiring goal celebration on Twitter, but it’s well tailored to their audience.

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild’s social media has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. The Wild have gone from a generic team account used for standard updates to a team Twitter that turns out solid video content, funny tweets, and engaging news.

This tweet is a perfect example. It includes information about the goal, but it also uses a funny GIF – Eric Staal sips tea, mimicking a popular meme of Kermit the Frog. And you have to applaud any team that includes a sponsor this subtly.

Nashville Predators

The Predators employ a formal live-tweet style to celebrate their goals. The tweet lacks a graphic and the goalscorer, subsequently receiving less engagement.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils take a unique approach to their tweets. They use the information and GIF format, but it’s not footage of the team or specific players. Instead, they use funny and applicable GIFs that fit the situation, just like a fan would.

This type of GIF is surprisingly underutilised in the NHL. While player-specific visuals are a great way to inform an audience about a goal, this content gives a better feeling of the emotion behind it, whilst the copy provides fans with context.

New York Islanders

The Islanders go part informative, part casual. They include the gut reaction—a nickname and emojis—and the details of the goal. They also tag player accounts in the copy. This is something many teams now include in their social media content. Tagging players promotes the brand of the team. By giving the fans closer access to the players, it builds deeper relationships in a way that wasn’t available ten years ago.


New York Rangers

The New York Rangers tweet in the style that’s become characteristic of the Original Six—the business-like, more formal style. The Rangers provide a welcome change in the language they use—they vary their phrasing to make it more interesting to read, effectively communicating information to fans without the use of graphics.

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators are interesting. As a team, their identity on social media is not as clear as many other teams. It’s taken a big step up in the last year, but their final form remains to be seen.

In the meantime, they’re using a pure live-tweet style of goal celebration. The Senators are excited that Ryan Dzingel scored, and honestly, I would be too if it meant I got to type the word “Dzingel”. It’s the kind of tweet that reads easily in the middle of a newsfeed, which is exactly what a goal tweet should do.

Philadelphia Flyers

It’s been a while since we’ve seen one of these. We return to the personalised GIF with a strong example by the Flyers. They announce each goal with a style of graphic comparable to superhero movies.

Orange lightning crackles off Claude Giroux as the 50th anniversary logo flashes across the screen. It’s an excellent graphic. The players have been altered to look almost computer-animated—a style that really fits with the orange lightning. Coupled with some exclamation points and a score update, it creates a great snapshot of what is happening in the game.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins are another top-notch social media team. In celebrating Nick Bonino’s hat trick, they go for a slightly more laid back version than the Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi call that went viral last season.

The Penguins give all the information a fan would need, but with a nice addition. They include a high quality photo from the game, made possible by the fact that Bonino had already scored two goals that night. It adds an excellent visual element, making the tweet more appealing and current.

San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are a lucky team. They have a few players on their team that are real characters—they don’t have to play it up for social media. Brent Burns is one of them.

The Sharks keep it simple in their goal celebration. You get a reference to a name, a score update, and a GIF. The GIF is fairly simple, with just two parts. But the Sharks change it up a little, with their players actually “shooting” in the GIF. It’s a nice touch that doesn’t overload the message.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues keep it fairly formal, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Instead, they present one of the best photo-tweet combinations yet. The text is simple, but highly informative. It’s paired with an excellent graphic. It uses a great photo of Vladimir Tarasenko in a clean, interesting template. It’s quality work that’s become characteristic of the St. Louis Blues social media.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa goes with a two-prong approach to goal tweets. They have the immediate reaction, then follow it up with the details, like time, score, and assists. They use GIFs of the players, but not personalised ones. Instead, they pick GIFs of a goal celebration from a previous game.

This works well for the Bolts. They’re an excellent team with a solid fan base. They assume that their fans know hockey, and they don’t try to oversimplify information in their tweets.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Before this season, the Leafs suffered on ice for many, many years. But do you know what never suffered? Their production quality. Toronto is the biggest market in the NHL, and the quality of their social media reflects that.

And this GIF? It’s just awesome. From the spy movie graphics to the dramatic lighting to the empty ice rink, this is content of the highest quality. The Leafs did the players a favour and let the setting convey the intensity, rather than their dead-eyed stares. The text of the tweet doesn’t even matter—I’m too busy watching this GIF.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks bring it back to the casual live-tweet. Quick, easy, and enthusiastic. In another market where the team is a giant, they don’t need to rely on social media for new fans. They can do their own thing.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals go classic. After a snappy, casual description of the goal, they use a sponsored graphic. But it’s a subtle sponsorship, and a solid graphic. It’s static without being dull, sticking with the color scheme of the team in front of a scratched-up ice surface, personalised by the signature of the goalscorer.

Winnipeg Jets

And as the finale, we have one of the greatest graphics ever created by a sports team. Everything about this GIF is superb. It incorporates a Winnipeg landmark, the city’s freezing weather, and a player feature reminiscent of an old hockey card.

The vintage feeling of the GIF is so well done that it doesn’t feel like too much—it just feels like a great creative decision. The color scheme, player, and logo fit together perfectly. The nickname in the copy tells fans who scored, and the GIF reflects it in the coolest way possible.

About author

Ellen Larson
Ellen Larson 22 posts

Ellen is an intern for Snack Media and contributor to Digital Sport. Follow her on Twitter @Ellen_Larson.

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