The National Hockey League may offer the fastest action of all professional team sports, but it was slowest among the major four in crafting a social media policy. That said, the policy issued Wednesday by the NHL appears to be the strictest.
The NHL policy describes a "blackout period" for player use of Twitter, Facebook and the like that extends from two hours before face-off until players have completed their post-game media availability obligations. For hockey operations staff, the blackout begins at 11 a.m. the day of a game. The policy also points out that social media communication will be treated like any other, with discipline possible for statements that have the intended or unintended effect of dipsaraging the league, a member club, officials or the game of hockey itself.
By comparison, the National Football League has had a policy in place since August 2009. It forbids social media use 90 minutes before kick-off until players have fulfilled their post-game media obligations. The National Basketball Association's policy came a month later, banning social media use 45 minutes prior to tip-off and until players are through with the media. However, the NBA's policy allows players to engage in social networking during a pregame media access period that begins 90 minutes before tip-off and lasts 45 minutes.
Major League Baseball's undated policy, meanwhile, allows social media use in the clubhouse or other player areas up until 30 minutes before first pitch and immediately after the conclusion of the game.