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How Social Media Doomed Darcy

Fan outrage sparks longtime GM’s ouster

It was a simple message published on Twitter, on November 13, the day after Sabres general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston were relieved of their duties by owner Terry Pegula.

“My itinerary has been cleared, suddenly. Anybody want to get some coffee? #LastTweet #GoodbyeBuffalo”

The author? None other than Fake Darcy. This famed denizen of the Twitterverse accumulated a following of more than 15,000 members, was widely regarded as the marker of Buffalo Sabres’ spoof twitter accounts, and to demonstrate the extent of this writer’s popularity, even managed to win the Artvoice “Best Local Twitter Feed” award at our publication’s 2012 Best of Buffalo event.

No one really knew who Fake Darcy was. Rumor has it he was someone closely connected to the team. Many of the tweets gave the impression that this individual had more access to the goings-on around the Sabres organization than the average fan.

As Sabres’ team fortunes became even more dire, during both the 2013 shortened season and this fall’s disastrous start, the posts became sharper, more caustic, and came to symbolize the fan outrage and frustration that was directed toward the long-time general manager.

Fake Darcy’s tweets, comparing Regier to the GM of basketball’s hapless Washington Generals, offering silly sighteseeing and foodie tips from the road, and sarcastically commending players following horrible gaffes or performances, were a must-read. Most importantly, all members of the Buffalo Sabres’ credentialed sports media corps, and most likely the entire roster of Sabres bloggers, many of whom also cover games in person and are given pressbox access, followed Fake Darcy. In fact, many journalists liberally engaged in dialogue, replies, and critiques of the posts, giving yet more notoriety and exposure to what undoubtedly began as nothing more than a satirical lark.

Over on Facebook, a fan page simply named “Fire Darcy Regier” exploded in size and readership this fall, just as the call for Regier’s ouster grew more shrill.

“My buddy and I started the site a couple years ago,” said Jeff Gauthier of South Buffalo, who co-administered the site. “We initially began this because a lot of us down here were outraged about the way Tim Kennedy was treated by Regier and the way his contract was handled. We said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and the site sort of sprang up from there.”

While maintaining a following of around 1,000 fans during most of its online presence, Fire Darcy Regier grew exponentially right around the time this season began, and eclipsed 6,000 “likes” toward the end of October. That number grew to 7,000 in the days preceding Regier’s firing. “We were getting feedback and postings from all over the world. It sort of became a huge chat room for fans everywhere who wanted change,” said Gauthier.

Professional sports franchises everywhere have made major strides to keep up with emerging social media and mobile application technology. This season the Sabres created and staffed the new position of social media manager, whose job is specifically to direct instant communications in real time both during games and when non-game breaking news occurs.

Despite these changes, many of the old guard general managers don’t understand the medium and are ill equipped to deal with it. At a league meeting a couple years back, Regier lamented, “Apparently I have a number of Twitter accounts, none of them my own.”

While many seasoned league executives still haven’t quite adapted or managed to stay ahead of the social media explosion, the Sabres went to great lengths to stifle free expression at home games throughout October and early November.

Homemade signs with negative messages were taken down by security or confiscated at the gate. Fans entering the arena at a game in early November hooted in disgust when a “Fire Darcy” message, scrawled on a bed sheet and draped from the second-story railing in the pavilion, was quickly removed. There were reports that fans attempting to wear paper bags over their heads were politely asked to remove them or face expulsion from the arena. But Sabres management couldn’t silence the “Fire Darcy” chants in the seating bowl, which became more and more frequent.

Fire Darcy Regier has now become “Fired Darcy Regier” on Facebook, and the administrators announced that the page will be retired come the end of this month. “We wish Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine the best in their new endeavors,” said Gauthier. “Mission accomplished.”

Taro Sez (Random Regier stuff)…

• July 1, 1997: Darcy Regier flies to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, specifically to tell coach of the year Ted Nolan that he is taking his one-year contract extension offer off the table. Many observers call the contract offer lowball and insulting.

• January 1, 2007: Ted Nolan returns to Buffalo, behind the bench as coach of the New York Islanders. Nolan receives no official acknowledgement by the team or video board salute. Fans unfurl a massive “Welcome Back Coach of the Year” banner in the 100s.

• October 14, 2013: Beloved former Sabre Jason Pominville comes to Buffalo with the Minnesota Wild. Again, no team acknowledgement, and reports that Regier specifically nixed the idea of any video tribute.

• November 13, 2013: LED billboards across the region proclaim the message, “Welcome back Pat and Ted,” space bought by the Sabres. The hockey gods got it right.

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