Logging Out: The Decline of British Hockey Forums

TCW columinst Paul Balm writes his own personal view on what he feels is the declining state of online British hockey forums. (For the record, I agree with every word he’s written)

I’d probably better warn you from the outset that there are probably going to be a lot of people who will not agree with what I’m about to write. It’s also worth saying that the opinions I’m going to express in this article are mine and mine alone and that I have no idea how they compare to Jono’s or anyone else’s. If you still want to read this article it’s entirely possible that at some point you’ll disagree with me, accuse me of biting the hand that feeds or even trying to make out that I’m better than I am and that’s all fine because, in a way, that’s the point I’m going to try to make.

The thing is that over the last few months I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the state of the internet forums that serve the British ice hockey community. I’m growing tired of the in-fighting and backbiting, the intransigence of some and what seems to be an almost deliberate idiocy shown by others. Tired enough to the point where I’ve almost stopped using them entirely.

Now I know that a large percentage of the people who will read this will have reached this page via a link on a forum and I’m fully aware of the function that these sites provide and that they can, at times, be very useful. The problem, I believe, can be summed up in that old proverb about the empty vessels making the most noise. The internet has given everyone the opportunity to air their opinions in one way or another (it’s what I’m doing now) but just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should. I can walk in to work tomorrow morning and tell my boss what I think of him but should I?

I’ve been posting on forums for years and by and large they’ve been places that encouraged decent debates about the sport we all love. I think, though, that in recent times that has changed. All forums have had trolls or people who seem to want to take a deliberately contradictory stance, but that seems to have been on the increase for a while. I know I’m not always going to agree with some/most people when I post somewhere but that’s part of the fun. If someone doesn’t agree with me that’s fine, as long as they are willing to explain why, to counter my arguments with their own, but these days it seems that you’re more likely to be abused for not wanting a team full to the gunnels with knuckle-dragging goons. If you want to see blood on the ice every week that’s fine, that’s your opinion but I’m not wrong because I don’t, we disagree that’s all.

There are other problems with forums that, to be honest, have always been there. Chief amongst them is the individuals who pop-up at all too predictable moments to gloat or try and continue increasingly personal vendettas and then try and justify what they’ve said as being “banter” (possibly the most abused word in the English language) or fact. Anyone who has used a forum will know an example of someone like this, the person who appears when their team have beaten yours and tries to hide their comments behind a thin veneer of reason or, and this is probably worse, an emoticon – “I know I said every player on your team was a steaming pile of rubbish but I put a smiley at the end so I couldn’t possibly have meant it personally could I?” You see what I mean? I know earlier in the article I said people should be allowed to say what they like but there’s a cowardice in these types of people and remarks that has no place in considered debate.

Of course there are forums out there who will tell you that they are the place to be for considered debate, but like all the forums their membership try to deride and distance themselves for they contain, at times, the same prejudices and easy targeting as anywhere else. I guess this is going to sound like I’m whining but there’s one forum where there’s no point posting as a Panthers fan because no matter what you say you’ll be shot down for being a Panthers fan (and I’m not talking about Steeltalk here, not least because it’s broken, if you’re a Panthers fan on there you’re bound to get shot down, but that’s as it should be.) Nothing we do or say has any worth to its membership, every trophy we win is worthless, if we sign the best player they’re only good on the ice and not on paper and we should be signing the right player not the best player and if we do that they’ll revel in the fact that someone else (and it doesn’t seem to matter to some whether they support the signing team or not) has signed a better player. They also shoot down everything the team says but then again they may have a point there.

To be fair they’ve got a point with some of the things the fans say as well, and this goes back to my point about empty vessels and noise levels. There seems to be a direct correlation between the number of posts you make on a forum and how much fans of other teams associate you with your team. If you use forums think about that for a minute, think about how fans from other teams treat the frequent posters for your team. They seem to become a de facto ambassador for that team and, more importantly, their fans. That’s great if they make sense but if they’re an irritating little wind up merchant they get the rest of the fellow fans tarred with the same brush.

I have to wonder about the future of forums. If I’m turning my back on them after all these years how many others are? The way we get knowledge is changing. Once upon a time I looked to the forum for score updates, news, rumours and the rest but now I can get all that from Facebook (and that’s starting to wear a bit thin) and Twitter (@paulba if you want to hurl abuse) in a lot less time. The only reason I’d go to a forum now would be to debate the news and issues but if the number of people who want to do that instead of stating their opinion as fact is dwindling why would I want to do that? I fervently hope that this change is temporary and we can get forums back to where they were, but I doubt it and I have to say that that saddens me.

Disagree with some/all that I’ve said? Use the comments field below this article or post on the forum where you clicked on this link but please be constructive, don’t just tell me I’m wrong, tell me why you think I’m wrong and why you’re right. Of course, if you agree then please do the same. I get the feeling I might need it!


15 Responses to “Logging Out: The Decline of British Hockey Forums”

  1. 1 Scott Campbell (@Scottc2511) July 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Interesting article, some of which I agree with! It doesn’t help when one of the oldest forums, thats meant for fans of all teams, is like a private members club that refuses to accept new members though…..

    • 2 Paul. July 3, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      Would the one that “refuses to accept new members” be the one that actually joined 13 new members on 1st July?

      Thought so.

  2. 3 Stuart July 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    ‘“banter” (possibly the most abused word in the English language)’ – ain’t that the truth…

    Good points, I think internet forums have in general been going south for quite a while, speaking a long-time inhabitant of both hockey and football forums going back to around 1997. Traffic appears less too, partly for sure due to the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter.

    The internet has lost its slight ‘exclusivity’ since the days we visited Kendra’s original Panthers forum et al. Anybody can jump on there and dish out abuse from a safe position behind their keyboard

    I suppose one minor point I’d disagree on Paul is that one should expect to be ‘shot down’ – simply for contributing fairly and moderately to an opposition team’s forum. What have we come to if we can’t have a chat any more? You are correct in saying that this is the case though most times. It’s playground stuff and forae suffer due to lack of an opposing view in my humble opinion.

    Sadly, it has to be said, you are 99% correct in your assertions in my view. Time moves on and things change I guess.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. 4 Chris July 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    A forum is for giving some form of feedback to a statement or a question asked. You either take that feedback and take it on board, or just ignore it.

    A well written article that gets your point across well, but while I still enjoy the forums I will keep using them.

    Thanks for your view

  4. 5 thepuckdrops July 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Agree with every word these forums are becoming so predictable and as a vehicle for information very tired and had their day! Facebook however creates more than enough trolls as well, Twitter is my preference for now,

  5. 6 Pete Walch July 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I think it would do many fans good to remember that most of our star performers are journeymen hockey pros who could just as easily be wearing our opponents colours had their agent received a better offer. Some fans are partisan to a slightly paranoid degree.

  6. 7 Phil Bennett July 2, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    An excellent article which pretty much sums up how I feel about hockey forums. As a Guildford Flames fan I have to face similar abuse because every victory we have, no matter how small, is down to the fact that we are a “rich” club. The truth is somewhat different of course but never let that get in the way of a good insult. However I feel we should persevere with forums; we need to keep the torch burning for reasoned, well informed argument. One day we may have a situation where the majority will reciprocate, and the thought of that will keep me logging on for the foreseeable future.

  7. 8 Nigel McFarlane July 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    The author makes valid points, although I feel the broader issues that he is highlighting can affect any online forum, not just those devoted to hockey.
    My own feeling is that any forum can become stale if there is not a degree of ‘churn’ amongst those who enjoy higher profiles within it. Positions become entrenched, leading to complacency in arguments and arrogance in tone, and this in turn means that newcomers often feel slightly intimidated about posting views that challenge the perceived orthodoxy of a small bunch of posters.
    But conversely, those forums can sometimes be a goldmine of insight and knowledge, so what’s to be done? Maybe a Fair Spoutage policy, whereby a member is allowed a maximum of five assertions of an opinion and five trashings of someone else’s opinion in any one month period…
    Seriously, I don’t have an answer. Freedom of speech may well be worth dying for, but reading the results can often make you wish you were dead.
    Interesting and insightful piece, though. Which is what we have come to expect from TCW.

  8. 9 roy July 3, 2012 at 8:24 am

    a lot of what you say is right, but my understanding of a forum is all the things you have pointed out, human nature is that people will dislike player’s, teams, and other people on the forum.
    but so what let everyone have there say, but don’t shy away from putting your point of view across and be driven out by a small minority.
    i support my posts with facts and i have found people either back off or question the fact i have missed a few comma’s out, and i should split my comments into paragraghs so as people can understand them.
    thats pathetic in my opinion and i’m not going to be put off by people who i consider are bordering on keyboard bullies, personally it would be a shame to see the more intelligent poster’s leaving the sites it would just mean the people who spout rubbish without any substance win.

  9. 10 Eric Green July 3, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Absolutely agree with your article Paul, as a Steeler who uses steeltalk, there are a few on there, that if I’m honest do exactly as you say.
    They have a detrimental effect on new users, basically because new users, want to get involved but are afraid as they just get ridiculed and lambasted by a certain few, one of which is the first to criticise or knock the new member, and to cap it all he hardly ever goes to games.
    No! I totally agree, I myself don’t post on the panthers forum, only made that mistake once!!! I was actually trying to debate but was not actually abused, but close. And I sure that works for Panthers fans on Steeltalk.
    Anyway I may follow you on twitter and keep posting on the forums bud.
    Take care. Eric Green (greenbunch).

  10. 11 Stuart July 3, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    As a heavy irony, the kind of reasoned and well-conceived views within the comments here are precisely what we tend to be a little sparse in the forums! It’s good to see that blogging, and the responses to such are still very much alive, coincidentally.

    Without wishing to seem patronising ‘nice one’ to all who have contributed to this thread and well done Paul on a thought provoking article. More please.

  11. 12 Shorty July 5, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I think the article is bang on the money, and its so sad to see the The Cage descend into a constant battle ground. There have been a number of constant posters who have had their own personal agenda’s against the club for a long time, but the number seems to be growing and added to by people who are on nothing but a wind up. Having been a regular poster on there since it began, I have now distanced myself from posting, and whilst I still read it, I have no desire what so ever to join in.

  12. 13 Mike July 6, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Hit the nail on the head.
    As a new fan of the sport, I have posted what I thought to be vaild debates on a forum only to be abused because of lack of knowge.
    it puts a black mark against a sport who needs a solid fan base to move it forward and make Joe public want to find out info and watch a game or two.

  13. 14 PaddyS July 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    As a member of the original IHUK mailing list back in 1998 and having supported panthers before that I feel that I am reasonably qualified to post on this subject.

    The original mailing list was a source for discussion but was open to fans of all teams. The majority of the posts in the early days were from genuine fans of the sport with most members being interested in seeing proper discussion, match reports, gossip and meeting up at games all over the country. The list did gain a few of the gloaters along the way (and sorry but most of them came from Squeelers fans to start with – before being joined by those from Manchester) but the group self-moderated (despite having official moderators too) and kicked the small minded to touch. I am still in touch with some of those I met through that list some 14 years later.

    Fast forward a few years and we have the launch of the UKhockeyForum and then later the launch of both club associated and public forums. Most of the clubs soon realised that without having a full time moderator forums were more of a liability than a publicity tool. One exception being Hull who seemed to keep theirs going longer than most (though it was a relatively low traffic forum).

    So now we are in the age of the public forum. Most of these are password protected and are therefore generally the province of fans of the individual clubs they are associated to. Certainly from my experience of ‘Cage’ there are some great people on there but we all generally come from the same point of view hence limiting the banter and interest as we’re all singing from the same sheet. The only visitors we normally get from elsewhere are generally the single minded idiots who either want to gloat or bitch…

    I can’t see a solution which is going to solve this one but I would hate to lose places like the Cage as they are an excellent source of information on the club I love…

  14. 15 Alan August 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    You make a lot of valid points, these days it seems very easy to flame someone if they post an opinion and you don’t agree with it. Another thing that seems to have increased is the amount of “abuse” posters get from a teams forum irrespective of whether your a fan of that particular team or a “guest” poster

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