Folks who have a voracious appetite for Sabres news have all the traditional news sources bookmarked. Now the players are giving you somewhere else to go.
Check out what Derek Roy, who goes by @Roy9ner on the social networking site Twitter, had to say when he arrived Sunday in Germany: "First practice in Manheim under our belts after a long night #goodsweat then got on the Autobahn but rode a bus #slowerthanmolasses"
Roy joined Twitter during the offseason and has quickly become a fan favorite on the site, with nearly 22,000 people following his tweets.
"I think it's great to be able to interact with the fans like that," Roy said during training camp. "They want to know so much about hockey and what's going on behind the scenes, how you get prepared, tips for kids.
"I try to answer questions here and there but you get so many you can't answer them all. But I get some positive feedback and it's been fun."
For those needing a quick get-up-to-speed lesson on Twitter, the site allows users to post tweets, which are limited to 140 characters, that anyone can read (called "following"). Businesses (like @TheBuffaloNews and @TBNSports for instance), government agencies and celebrities have all jumped into Twitter, and so have common folk.
Pop star Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) has more than 14 million followers, the most on Twitter. The most-followed sports related account belongs to Shaquille O'Neal (@shaq) with more than 4.3 million.
Drew Stafford and former Sabre Chris Butler have been on Twitter in the past, but no Sabres were on last season. Team president Ted Black, among others, has said there was no rule banning them and that the players had made a collective decision simply not to tweet.
But Twitter has become so mainstream, especially with the under-30 crowd, that it was inevitable some players would take the plunge. Center Luke Adam (@lukejadam) was one of the first, during offseason workouts in Buffalo with Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian.
"It's just something that kind of happened when we were hanging out," Adam said. "I got Marcus on there, but we still haven't got Zack. He's not much for words at times so I don't know what we'd get out of him.
"It's been a good way to connect with the fans. And you learn a lot of news following people's feeds and links."
> @Roy9ner is first stop
Roy has become the Sabres' Twitter king, showing a wacky sense of humor and an ability to talk about a wide variety of topics. It starts with his bio at the top of his page: "Went from working at a strawberry patch to living my dream in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres Always pursue your dreams!!!"
What's the deal? It dates to his junior hockey days.
"When I went home [to Ottawa] in the summer, there was a strawberry patch around the corner from my house," Roy said. "So I'd bike over there. We didn't have a lot of money. You had to make your own, and I worked in the patch.
"I'd bike every morning at about 6 a.m., do my work and go train afterward. It was a fun experience when you were 18. They didn't pay much, whatever minimum wage, not more than about six bucks [an hour]. But it was a sweet, little old lady you worked for and it made for an interesting summer."
Roy's account specializes in comical use of hashtags, the words following the "#" sign that are used to search tweets. Some recent Roy hashtags included #sikswag (when he got some new equipment), #keeprollingboys (when offering congratulations to the Bills), and #dropthebeat (on his pregame music choices).
"He's classic, so funny," Adam said. "His Twitter is 'Roysie' in a nutshell. It's not overboard. That's him. That's who he is."
"I like waking up and seeing some of the things he puts up," added winger Nathan Gerbe (@NathanGerbe42). "It's all good. He does it for all the same reasons of getting the fans involved. It's a pretty good thing if you use it the right way."
Roy often puts pictures on his account and also linked his Twitter to a pair of YouTube videos he did with Gong Show Gear, a hockey apparel company that did a sort of "Cribs" episode with Roy's sprawling summer home in Muskoka, Ont.
The videos spotlighted Roy's workout gym and kitchen, his cars, boat dock and the master bedroom he had built for his parents in the house.
"I got a lot of feedback on Twitter about being a family guy because of the bedrooms, so that's good," said a smiling Roy. "I thank everybody for that."
The Sabres' current Twitter list includes Roy, Gerbe (roughly 7,300 followers), Adam (5,100) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (who has 4,600 at @Grags17). In addition to Foligno (@marcusfoligno), several Sabres prospects have Twitter accounts.
Adam is a proud Newfoundlander and has that point at the top of his profile. But a lot of his tweets center on the playoff fortunes of the Detroit Tigers and the surprising 4-0 start of the Detroit Lions.
"My dad is from Windsor, Ont. [across the international bridge and tunnel from Detroit], so I spent my entire summers there," Adam said. "So I'm kind of brainwashed with Detroit everything."
Gerbe used his Twitter feed last month to get suggestions on what kind of dog he should buy.
"I got hundreds of suggestions, hundreds," he said. "We'll see. I'm not worried about it until a little later in life but it was something I thought would be fun to get the fans involved with and to see what they think I should be walking around with.
"I wanted to go on Twitter to give the fans updates, to show them I'm excited to be part of their community in Buffalo."
> Twitter trouble
Stafford was a fan favorite on Twitter a couple of years ago, often espousing his love of music and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
But he let the cat out of the bag about a tough day saying goodbye to a teammate in 2009. Media and fans following quickly figured out a trade had gone down, and Stafford deleted his account shortly after Daniel Paille went to Boston. He isn't rejoining the pack.
"I was one of the originals, but it's just getting a little too big and out of control for me," said a laughing Stafford. "I enjoy reading some other guys' stuff and getting some up-to-date news. But I don't really have much to say anymore."
The Stafford situation shows some of the pitfalls athletes have run into on Twitter.
In 2009, Kevin Love of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves (@KevinLove) tweeted that Kevin McHale was out as the team's coach. Problem was the team had not announced it yet. During the current baseball season, Florida Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) -- who calls himself a "Twittaholic" in his bio -- was sent to Triple-A despite 17 home runs.
Morrison has grieved the demotion. Most observers believe it was partly related to some lewd tweets on his account, which has more than 70,000 followers.
> League-wide craze
In the NHL, general managers Scott Howsom of Columbus (@GMScottHowsom) and Mike Gillis of Vancouver (@GMMikeGillis) have Twitter accounts. Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson (@coachrw63) just opened an account last weekend, and his first tweets were to advocate for hybrid icing.
The most-followed NHL twitter account belongs to Washington star Alexander Ovechkin (@ovi8) with more than 212,000 followers. By far the most popular, however, is @BizNasty2point0, which belongs to a fringe player, Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette. It's an irreverent view into an athlete's life with constant chatter with fans. He has more than 140,000 followers.
Capgeek.com, the site known mostly for salary information, maintains a nearly definitive list of NHL players, executives and media on Twitter.
So many people are listed, the league announced a social media policy last month. Coaches, GMs and other front office staff are banned from tweeting on game days, starting at 11 a.m. and continuing through postgame media obligations. Players are banned from two hours before the game.
The policy also warned that any use of Twitter critical of the sport, league, another club or game officials could subject users to discipline.
> Who's next?
A informal Twitter poll run by The News last week saw fans cast a landslide in favor of Patrick Kaleta as the Sabre they'd most like to see join Twitter.
The Angola native, however, has no such plans. He doesn't even have a Facebook account, and that's pretty rare for a 20-something these days.
"I mostly stay away from that stuff," Kaleta said. "I know my buddies have it and tell me the funny stuff, but I stay away.
"When we got the paper on it [from the league], I read the top part of it and it didn't apply to me. My foundation [HITS] has Facebook."
"To each is own," Roy said. "If you want to do it, you can. It can be fun. It's something I like. It may not be for everybody."
So expect to learn more about life on the road and life in the game from those players who do take part. As for the dog question, Adam had an answer for the 5-foot-5 Gerbe.
Said Adam: "My answer was get one that was hopefully not bigger than him."