It’s a simple game that has become a Twitter sensation during the @NHL playoffs, driving thousands of entries, trending topics and most importantly, excitement and conversation during the games. For instance, during the June 13 game, fans used the hashtag 40,300 times.
@SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross (@Buccigross) launched the #bucciovertimechallenge on Twitter in 2011 after years of playing the game with fellow hosts on ESPN’s hockey highlight show, NHL 2Night.
To play the #bucciovertimechallenge, when an @NHL playoff game is tied after three periods of regulation and goes into overtime, users tweet the name of the one player from each team who they think will score the sudden-death goal. @Buccigross announces how many winners he will pick that night via Tweet:
We asked Buccigross via email to share the #bucciovertimechallenge story with us. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you get the idea to start the #bucciovertimechallenge?
When I hosted NHL 2night and a game went to overtime, Barry Melrose, Ray Ferraro, and I used to pick a player from each team to score and it helped pass the time before the show began. The #bucciovertimechallenge was a way to bring that game to the fans, and was the reason we started doing it in 2011. I’ve always been an advocate for the entertainment value and life lessons mined from hockey, and I like to do what I can to inform and entertain the hockey fan. The #bucciovertimechallenge really took off. I was surprised at the volume and fervor at which people played and how much they craved a simple Retweet.
Why do you think it’s grown so quickly?
There is no better sports TV than overtime hockey. None. Having a game tied adds to the drama and the fun. It also adds to the viewing experience. I had T-shirts made up for the 2012 playoffs as an additional prize to the Retweet. The T-shirt has become a badge of honor and the Twitter hashtag #bucciovertimechallenge on the front makes it current and thus has traction and an edge to it. Twitter certainly helps the game go viral in real time and connect us. The sport and the medium are both very social as well.
Why did you choose Twitter as the platform to run the game?
Hockey is fast and agile, just like Twitter. The game is successful on Twitter because, like Twitter, the power is in its simplicity. Look at the Twitter message box: it resembles a hockey rink.
Hockey is fast and agile, just like Twitter
What’s been the most surprising response from fans?
The most interesting, or really hilarious thing to me, is when the game trends worldwide between things like #Kanyebabynames and #IwonderwhatBeyonceisdoing. I howl when it’s sandwiched between hashtags like that. I am shocked how the game has taken off and has become such a big part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lots of college and NHL players who are not in the playoffs play the game. Fans know that NHL players are in the game, which adds buzz and makes the fans and the players become peers for a while.
What’s your favorite part about the #bucciovertimechallenge?
I like the intimacy of the whole process. A person chooses to follow me. They take the time to pick two players of an overtime hockey game. Their player scores. I begin choosing from a large pool of winners. But only five will get picked. I somehow pick a person who lives in Minnesota. I get a T-shirt from my basement, put it in a mailer, and I write down the persons address with a marker. I drive to the post office and I mail it to their home. That is a very intimate and human set of circumstances. I like that. The #bucciovertimechallenge is my way of saying thanks to sports fans who give so much of their time and money to owners, athletes, and networks. To give something back, even if it’s just a T-shirt, is something. And the hockey fan, the fan with the biggest heart, gets that. Twitter makes that connection happen. It’s the conduit to this intimacy and fun. Twitter is the thank you note.