I was covering Game 1 of the Wild-Blues series and with the late start – thanks a ton NHL for those 8:40 p.m. puck drops – I missed a replay of an important play because my head was buried in my laptop writing a column.
A few seconds later, I noticed that someone I follow on twitter happened to retweet a GIF of that particular play, which brought great deadline joy to me.
I mentioned something to our inimitable hockey writer Michael Russo, who told me about Stephanie Vail, who goes by @myregularface on Twitter and spends a remarkable amount of time making GIFs for all things hockey during the season and playoffs.
I decided to contact Vail to find out more about her passion for GIF-making.
Vail is a 28-year-old college student and free-lance contributor to the Boston Bruins blog on Boston.com.
She started making GIFs – short video clips sent out on twitter – last year after she got a MacBook for Christmas. A few friends told her about a GIF-making App and she became hooked.
She’s now sent more than 166,000 tweets and no, that’s not a misprint.
“Well, I had twitter for a long time and I only started doing GIFs last year,” she said. “For the first four years I would just tweet random stuff. That’s what the first 100,000 tweets were.”
Vail’s interest in GIFs – and her twitter following – took off during the Sochi Olympics. She learned that her GIFs became popular with fans and media, and she began doing them for all NHL games, not just Bruins, although that is her job and primary focus.
Vail puts together a GIF recap of Bruins games on Boston.com after every game. Now, she does GIFs for all the playoff games, meaning she sends GIFs all night long.
“The other Saturday it was like 3 p.m. until 1 o’clock in the morning,” she said. “I would be watching hockey anyway so I like doing it because it forces me to pay better attention.”
Vail doesn’t get paid for her time and passion – except when she’s working on Bruins games – but her followers occasionally send her money through a PayPal account.
“Other than that,” she said, “doing it for fun.”
Vail grew up in New Hampshire surrounded by hockey. She didn’t play the sport but she has an older brother who played competitively. She followed the Bruins her entire life.
“I’ve been a hockey fan forever,” she said.
When she first got her MacBook, Vail said it took about 10 minutes for her to make on GIF of a certain play. Now, her GIFs hit twitter about 30 seconds after the play happens.
She has her cable TV hooked up to her MacBook so she’s able to watch games on her computer. She actually has two computers going at one time.
She also uses her parents’ computer and watches one game live and a second game on NHL GameCenter Live.
She monitors both for possible GIFs. What is she looking for?
“Anything that’s interesting,” she said. “Anything worth seeing. Sometimes it’s things that people will want to use in the future like a reaction – a player getting really angry on the bench or celebrating a goal.”
Vail’s GIFs have become popular. She started the season with 3,000 twitter followers, which grew to 8,000 by the end of the regular season and has now reached nearly 13,000.
Many of her followers are media members who consider her a valuable resource because she provides instant replays of key moments that can be cataloged.
Vail said she often gets requests from fans or reporters asking for GIFs of particular plays.
“People will specifically ask if this happened at 5:01 in the first period, can you make a GIF of it,” she said. “I get a lot of requests throughout the night.”
Vail said she angers a team’s fans occasionally with her captions that she attaches to the GIFs.
“I do get a lot of people telling me that I don’t know what I’m talking about,” she said. “I try and stay neutral during playoffs so I don’t make people angry.”
Vail said her most popular GIF in terms of retweets was a video clip of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson winking. Once TV captured the wink, Vail’s twitter account was bombarded by requests for a GIF.
A number of Wild fans sent her a request for a GIF of Zach Parise’s goal celebration in the Game 6 clincher against the Blues.
Vail said her career goal is to find a job that allows her to make GIFs of the entire league.
I asked if her friends think she’s crazy for spending so much time on the computer watching hockey and making GIFs, especially on nights when the Bruins aren’t playing.
“I’m a college student so I don’t have a lot of money, I don’t go out a lot,” she said. “I love watching hockey. I usually do it anyway. So on Bruins’ off-nights I’m always making GIFs.”