On October 29, 2015 when Pascal Dupuis scored his first goal since returning from blood clots, Consol Energy Center erupted in raucous jubilation. The soundtrack to their long overdue celebration for a city staple and team favorite was brand new though. For the first time, Andrew W.K.’s Party Hard was pumped through the arena’s speakers as the goal song at Pittsburgh’s home rink thanks to one of the most impressive grass roots Twitter pushes of the last few years. The #PartyHard movement, which gained momentum and strength this past summer, is an example of how fans are making their voices heard in 2015. It’s also an example of using social media for something more than complaining about professional sports, to make it fun again.
This story starts with a man named Nick known as twitter user @psamp, a Pittsburgher now living in New York, and a song he’s loved for more than 14 years. This song, Andrew WK’s Party Hard, is one he always thought would be a great fit for the Penguins goal song. It’s a thought he’s held on to for years. One he’s shared with friends though he admits, “only a few ever really took to it the way Pens fans took to Party Hard,” but it has also come with some fear. Fear that Nick would have to sit and listen to another team use the song. The last thing he wanted was for the Philadelphia Flyers to scoop the song up, to have technicolor images of goals against playing in his head when one of his favorite songs came on. So this summer, he did something about it. In a post on his blog posted April 20, 2015 he unleashed his vision and his reasons behind it in full.
Add a few thousand of his closest friends, Andrew W.K. fans, and people who just liked the idea of a new goal song and you have one of the most infamous NHL Twitter campaigns of recent memory. Thousands of Penguins fans from Blawnox to Finland (no, really there was an avid supporter from Finland) took part in pushing for Pittsburgh’s local NHL team to adopt the track. The Penguins’ social team was inundated with tweets carrying the hashtag #PartyHard starting almost immediately after their first round exit from the 2015 playoffs. The push, it seemed, grew even stronger when the team acquired high scoring winger Phil Kessel.
What most don’t realize though is that #PartyHard was never just about the goal song. As Nick himself explained to me in an email it was always about so much more. “The thing about the entire movement is that getting the song changed was such a minimal part of the entire end game. It was really a scam to get everyone to work together on one positive change that they could maybe make in the organization.”
Now, the song itself isn’t about the kind of partying you think of just by its title, in fact it’s far from that. From Nick’s blog post: “Party Hard is not a mantra of getting drunk and high…Party Hard is a vehicle of letting your true emotions flow out of you unrestrained so you can use all of that energy to make your life better simply by making the lives around you better.”
Nick wanted Party Hard to be the goal song, sure. But really he wanted to make things better. He wanted to take social media, which people so often use as a vehicle to complain, and take all of that energy to make a positive change.
He succeeded massively in this goal from the beginning. He got thousands of people who speak different languages and live in different places to bond together positively. He got people to get behind the idea of #PartyHard for your favorite team so much that it spread beyond the ice at Consol Energy Center. Halloween weekend 2015, the Penguins ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers spun the track for their fans and the Pittsburgh Steelers even played the song during their 38-35 triumph over the Raiders at Heinz Field on November 8, 2015.
Of course, I had to ask Nick if he ever imagined the campaign getting this big. If he imagined the #PartyHard tweets to reach songwriter Andrew W.K. himself and include retweets from the man. He said, “I had a goal and was gonna do anything possible to see it through, so I needed it to be as big as it got.” And that’s why it worked. Because if it hadn’t blown up to thousands of tweets and mentions and hashtags maybe the Penguins never notice, maybe they never realize how serious these people are, but most importantly maybe the message never gets sent.
The message has been sent though, that supporting and being behind your team is where the real fun is. That positivity is better than negativity. In the end that’s what really mattered.
But what about the song? How did the man who started a movement feel when he did it? “Overwhelmed was a pretty fitting word choice,” he said regarding his first few tweets after finding out his campaign had succeeded which included one that read, “I’m a bit overwhelmed right now. Sorry.”
Really, the moment was also kind of perfect. Nick goes on to explain that, “actually hearing it, having literally every inbox flooded with absolute joy from the entirety of Pittsburgh and beyond was perfect. The team scored a bunch, the Pens won and the song sounded about as well as it did in my mind all those years. But my joy was for everyone that took my obsession and ran with it…these are the things I never foresaw when I’d imagine Party Hard as a celebration anthem this past decade and a half.”
The change, it would seem, is at least somewhat permanent too. The first game of the #PartyHard era was the last home game before more than a week of the team playing on the road. But when someone asked, the Penguins social media team said that Party Hard as the new goal song was “the plan”.