Creating an Instagram, Seth Baylis never thought his work on social media would lead him to Fenway Park.
Baylis, junior in accounting and former member of Auburn University’s hockey team, began an Instagram account years ago that he dedicated to hockey, which has led him to many opportunities as a popular influencer in the hockey world.
He is considered a major influencer and was recently invited to Boston for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Red Bull Crashed Ice 2019 event in Fenway Park that took place Feb. 8 and 9.
Baylis said he considers this Red Bull-sponsored trip to be the most rewarding opportunity he has experienced. This trip comes as a result of his growing Instagram page, @hockeytonky that is solely dedicated to hockey with a following of over a quarter of one million Instagram users.
The technical name of the sport being played at the event in Fenway Park is “ice cross downhill,” which is an extreme winter sport involving downhill ice skating on a walled track, featuring sharp turns and high vertical drops.
Baylis, along with four other popular social media hockey influencers, got to experience that track for himself and the video of them doing so accumulated over 5 million views in one week.
That group of five is part of a larger group of hockey influencers called “welive.hockey,” which was founded by Baylis’ close friend Lee Elias. Between all of them, they have a social media following of 2.5 million users.
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Red Bull had invited the group to film behind-the-scenes footage of the Crashed Ice event and demonstrate to the hockey audience what ice cross downhill is.
The group of influencers that Baylis attended the event alongside flew in from Birmingham; Philidelphia; Nashville; Cambridge, United Kingdom and Chicago.
“The welive.hockey network has been something really fun to work with,” Baylis said. “We are working on developing unique, new content for our followers, and we are able to interview relevant hockey people who range from business owners to National Hockey League players. We interact as a group of influencers to help further the game of hockey and even help NHL players build their brand and following online.”
Baylis said it is a special experience being part of a community that has many diverse backgrounds and hometowns but who all share the same love for hockey.
The event at Fenway Park brought hockey fanatics together from many different cities and countries, and Baylis said it was extremely rewarding and well worth the effort he put in over the years to grow his Instagram account.
Baylis became interested in hockey during the 2000s when his grandfather would take Baylis and his brother to East Coast Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League games in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“I started playing hockey in eighth grade, and I played goalie until 12th grade in Pelham, Alabama,” Baylis said. “For my freshman and sophomore years at Auburn, I switched to the position of forward and scored three goals and three assists over the course of 26 games.”
Baylis did not know anyone at his small, private high school who knew much about hockey, so he started his hockey Instagram account in October 2012 as a way to connect with more people who shared his interest in hockey.
“It started out as a meme and video highlight page, and I got up to more than 300,000 (followers) about two years ago,” Baylis said. “Instagram started changing how things worked and introduced new algorithms, and it completely halted the growth of my channel.”
Baylis said he realized the future of social media was in the person behind the screen and not the memes, videos and other “share page” content, so he archived about 5,000 posts and switched to a more personalized brand of himself.
Baylis now uses his Instagram account to document his personal hockey pictures and experiences of hockey.
“I have done a lot of work this past season with Adidas since they took over making the NHL jerseys from Reebok,” Baylis said. “They started their hockey department from scratch, and I have been a key influencer in working alongside their marketing team to create ideas and present Adidas merchandise to the hockey community.”
“I get free stuff all the time from shirts, sweatshirts and jerseys to all the free hockey gear and equipment you can think of,” Baylis said. “I probably won’t ever have to buy a hockey stick for the rest of my life, I have so many.”
Baylis has also made some money by posting sponsored advertisements on his Instagram accounts for various companies and brands, but it was not until summer 2018 that Baylis went on a trip because of his Instagram account.
For that trip, Vincent Stellato, creator of The Original Hockey Sauce Kit flew Baylis up to Chicago to spend the weekend meeting other hockey influencers and filming content.
“We sauced on the beaches, went rollerblading on the boardwalk and went to MB Arena where the Blackhawks practice,” Baylis said. “We also spent some time with former Blackhawk and two-time Stanley Cup champion, Daniel Carcillo.”
Baylis’ most recent cross-country hockey adventure took place this year on March 8 and 9 when he was flown to the Let’s Play Hockey Expo in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to play a pickup game with the top influencers and business owners in the hockey world, represent the businesses Hockey Wraparound and Bladeshades and attend the Single A State championship game.
“It was crazy seeing two high schools pack out an NHL stadium and have cheerleaders and bands at the game,” Baylis said. “It reminded me of the hype scene that one might experience at a high school football game in Alabama or Texas, and that was such a unique thing to experience.”
Baylis has also met and interacted with many NHL players because of his Instagram account, including Dominik Kahun of the Chicago Blackhawks, who Baylis considers a close friend.
His large following consists of many big names in the NHL, including Marcus Pettersson and Niclas Almari of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nico Hischier of the New Jersey Devils, Carter Hutton of the Buffalo Sabres, Canada women’s hockey gold and silver medalist Natalie Spooner and Akil Thomas, one of multiple younger NHL prospects that follow Baylis’ account.
Baylis has connected with many former NHL players, as well, including Chris Mason and Hal Gill of the Nashville Predators and Daniel Carcillo of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Baylis said that as a member of welive.hockey, he is able to work with Bryce Salvador, former captain of the New Jersey Devils.
“My favorite NHL team is the Nashville Predators,” Baylis said. “But because of my diverse following of hockey fans, players and influencers, it is important that I try to keep my posts as unbiased as possible, so I have learned to be simply a fan of the game in general.”
Baylis said since the South is a not considered a traditional hockey market, he considers his participation with the sport to be an especially rare experience for him, enabling him to brand himself as a voice of hockey in the South.
Baylis plans to move to Nashville, Tennessee, after completing a master’s degree in accountancy at Auburn University, while maintaining his involvement in the hockey world.
“There is so much hockey in Nashville, and it is still growing like crazy,” Baylis said. “I plan on keeping up with my Instagram account in my spare time and continuing to have fun with it, which is what is most important to me. Hockey is fun for me, and my Instagram account is just a way for people to follow me along in this awesome journey.”
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