Trolls have certainly evolved over the years… From mythological creatures in Scandinavian folklore that inhabited the underside of bridges, to small dolls with outrageously bright hair, the word has always meant something different depending on the context in which it is being used.Frankly I myself prefer either of the aforementioned variations, but for the purpose of today’s column, while these trolls could quite possibly still live under bridges or have vividly colored hair, they are more so known for the following:

“Troll” – a person who posts to an Internet discussion group or chat room with the sole purpose of disrupting it.

Working in social media myself this week’s topic holds a special place in my heart. Anyone who has ever managed a Facebook page or Twitter account, whether it is for personal use or business, has undoubtedly encountered one of these trolls. Of course the larger the following and the more prominent in the public’s eye the account is, the more likely you are to receive negative attention. The Buffalo Sabres and more specifically, Drew Stafford found this out first hand over the weekend.

In case you missed it or don’t follow the Sabres on Facebook, the team posted a message to their winger Drew Stafford congratulating him on his recent wedding. Now if you know trolls, you know the perfect time to strike is in the midst of too much positivity, aka well wishes following tying the knot. I think it’s safe to assume you can gather what happened next…

While fans populated the post with kind-hearted notes of their own, many began to let their frustration and sadistic humor fly. From comments like “Hope hes a better husband than hockey player!” to “Great! Now he'll suck even more now just like Miller!!!!” and finally “Well hopefully he can score on his honeymoon. He sure as hell can't do it on the ice! ; \” You can see how this began to get out of hand quickly. While a few undesirable remarks are always expected when an account of the Sabres magnitude posts something, especially something so personal, the amount of trolling on this specific post didn’t sit well with many. These comments were just the tip of the iceberg and soon others began defending Stafford, calling out those making the malicious comments and thus we had a full-fledged social media battle on our hands.

Drew Stafford must have been paying extra close attention during his Psychology classes at the University of North Dakota, because he was quick to silence the critics by “killing them with kindness.”

As you can see the NHL vet not only responded from his personal account, but did so in a way the showed both extreme patience and class, something trolls know very little about. This may seem like an easy and even logical way to respond, but the truth is most athletes wouldn’t even bother. Especially when you take into account the fact the guy was married less than 24-hours before and probably had a few other, mildly important things to do. Drew Stafford, perhaps unknowingly, has provided the perfect case study on how to handle these types of situations… Simply out troll the trolls.

What’s my take on all of this you may be thinking? (It is the name of my column after-all.) I think trolling is a way of life when fame comes along with the profession you choose. Professional athletes, just like movie and music stars, get paid a lot of money and receive just as much love & admiration for doing what they do. Unfortunately those circumstances tend to also bring out the worst in others. Having “haters” is just part and parcel of it all.

I do however see this as being a real opportunity for Drew. This sort of situation can provide at least temporary solace from what has become the harsh criticism that is Drew Stafford’s life as a Buffalo Sabre. Most of the criticism is well warranted due to Drew’s ghost-like numbers in recent seasons in addition to what appears to have been a less than stellar effort on his part. However, manning up and owning his poor play, on his wedding night no less, is the first step in as he put it “getting the ship back on course.” In the end words are only words and his play will have to back it up, or I can only imagine what some fans will say when the team posts about his first child being born.

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