A labor of love: the world of hockey fancams

Pro Players
min - read
Silvia Leija
Pro Players
min - read
If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's what you should know:
Fancams are a staple in fandom culture and are making the jump to sports.
Fans are able to connect emotionally with the players, teams and other fans through the creation and sharing of fancams.
Fancams allow "non-traditonal" fans to build communities in a male-dominated space.

A new home for an internet classic 

Like any good Philadelphian, Megan (@defensemint) held sports in her periphery.

Sure, she watched the Eagles when they went to the Super Bowl one year and she watched the Phillies win the World Series. But, the Flyers hadn't done anything impactful in her lifetime, so hockey was something far removed.

That is, until the pandemic.

Megan was one of millions of first year college students who graduated from online high school and took their first college classes online.

"I needed the distraction, so I literally ended up turning on a game of hockey," Megan said. "I know nothing about hockey, but I'm here; it's fun, it's fast, it's a good distraction. And then I started tweeting about it."

Twitter became a chance for Megan to yell about the Flyers after they lost in Game 7 and meet people doing the same. She also found people engaging with the game in ways most traditional fans weren't, fancams.

"I thought it was the silliest thing of all time," Megan said. "I was like, 'people make little, like, videos of their players and edit them to music,' and I thought it was the funniest thing, but I still watched them all the way through either because it was a player I liked or a song I enjoyed."

For more traditional fans of the game, fancams may seem like something that came out of nowhere, but they have been a staple of the fan culture that is more often than not assigned to female fans.

Fancams, much like fan art and fanfiction, are crucial to the ecosystem of the internet fandom. For those unfamiliar, fancams are short videos that usually showcase artfully curated clips of a celebrity or character set to music and special effects. Fancams have been around for a while, but they have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of social media.

If you have ever scrolled through the replies of any trending tweet on Twitter, you may have passed one or two of these videos of pop stars, usually K-Pop singers, winking in slow motion or gazing sultrily at the camera.

Fan edits have transcended the pop spheres and into sports. And they are bringing their fans with them.

Evgeni Malkin celebrating
An image of Evgeni Malkin celebrating on a purple background. A quote with white text and black background is to the left of his body. There are three yellow four point stars behind him

It's all about the narratives

Before she stumbled on the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kath was also not into sports that weren't an international competition.

She spent most of her time in the One Direction fandom, a fandom dominated by fans who expressed their love for their favorite boybander through the arts.

When the band broke up in 2016, Kath was pulled into the hockey space by one of her friends, who introduced her to the two-headed monster of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"It was mostly the dynamic between Sidney and Geno," Kath said about what brought her to the sport. "There was a story there of two players who had grown up in the same sport, same team, together."

For Kath, creating fancams was about putting her feelings toward her favorite players and the situations they found themselves in into something tangible.

"It's like, I can put a few clips of Geno looking sad to a song, and it's all of the angst we were feeling this summer," Kath said.

During the 2022 offseason, fans were left in the dark about whether or not Evgeni Malkin would be returning to Pittsburgh, with several anonymous sources coming out of the woodwork to talk about how devastated he was about his seeming lack of a contract.

Kath's "You're On Your Own, Kid" fancam was set to Taylor Swift's song of the same name. With lyrics like "I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this" playing in the background of clips of Malkin at all points of his career looking melancholy, his reported quote of "They don't think I'm a good player—why?" took a whole different meaning for many fans who liked the tweet.

One reply even referred to Kath as the 'Penguin's propaganda queen,' demonstrating how much impact a good song and clip choice can have on people's thoughts about a particular player.

An image of Leon Draisaitl celebrating on a purple background with yellow four point stars behind him. A block of white text with black background is to his left

The community builders

Sanika (@oilygifs) joined the hockey side of Twitter with that specific goal in mind.

Sanika moved to Edmonton from India in 2006, just in time to see the Oilers make it to the Stanley Cup final and lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7. She has been a hockey fan for most of her life, and in 2019 became more active on Twitter to talk about her favorite hockey player, who she felt wasn't getting the attention he deserved.

"My account was just a place to post about Leon Draisaitl, but I started posting more about the Oilers in general," Sanika explained.

Before her big move to ‘Hockey Twitter,’ Sanika was a part of the figure skating fandom that formed during the 2018 Winter Olympics. There she would make fancams of her favorite skaters to show their skills and how beautiful their skating was.

She began making fancams for the Oilers because she didn't see many for her team like there were for other teams. That is how the Connor McDavid fancam was born.

"I wanted to make an intense one that showed how electrifying he is as a player," Sanika said.

Clips of McDavid's goals and celebrations are set to Kendrick Lamar repeating, "I got loyalty, got royalty, inside my DNA."  

The 43 seconds of fast-paced editing and heavy bass does what commentators and hockey stats fanatics do, but with a completely different set of hockey fans in mind.

"The creativity of fancams allows me to have a better experience because it allows me to carve out a niche," Sanika explained. "There are more 'dudebro' fans who like to dictate how we watch the sports, so I like posting something that other people enjoy too."

That aspect of fancam-making is something that Megan refers to as counter-cultural.

As a sport, hockey has been traditionally dominated by men on the ice, in the stands, and on the reporter beat. According to NHL research, only 37% of hockey fans are women, a 26% increase from 2016.

"When you're in a space that is dominated by men, and you're looked down upon as a new fan because you're queer or someone who is often perceived as a woman, you want to create that really safe space to enjoy the wonderful and beautiful sport of hockey," Megan explained.

But the fanbase isn't the only thing these new fans are changing. They are also revising the content sports publications share with their fans.

In 2021 Megan got a DM from Stephanie Driver, who was then the head of SB Nation and wanted a few fancams made for Broad Street Hockey. That DM kicked off Megan's fancam-making career for the Flyers-focused publication and her subsequent move from political science to film school.

"[The fancams] I was making allowed me to tell a story and be a part of like a moment for the city of Philadelphia," Megan said.

That moment? Former Flyers' captain Claude Giroux's trade to the Florida Panthers.

"Before I knew anything about the Flyers, I knew Giroux because he was the singular player that was on that team for so long," Megan said. "And the weeks leading up to that and the drama were absolute perfection of a storyline. It felt like poetry coming together."  

Giroux's trade inspired Megan's goodbye fancam to Giroux. The video, published on Broad Street Hockey's Twitter account, was set to Imagine Dragon's "It's Time" and featured highlights of Giroux's 16-year career with the Flyers, from his 2006 draft to his best goals and team celebrations.

"I cried over that multiple times while I was making it," Megan said. "It was such an emotional piece for me, which is so wild to think about, but it did on other people as well which is the most validating thing as an artist."

Megan said that is what makes the artistry of fancams and the communities it brings together so special.

"It's like a beautiful coagulation of all different types of people," she said. "You get people who have been very traditional hockey fans and get people who have-been-on-stan-Twitter-since-they-were-born fans, but in this specific moment, we are sad about this, and we can be free to be emotional about this together."  

It’s how the fancam is helping to bring hockey fans and communities together.

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