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Aw, Sidney. You're A Good Boy.

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I figured it out Canada.  I know why hockey isn’t being embraced by the rest of the world (read: the United States).  Personality.  Thank God Ovechkin showed up, he’s given our game a chance.  The problem started with great ambassadors to the game like Gretzky.  Sure, the Gretzky trade to L.A. was probably the single biggest influence in bringing the game to Americans, but it wasn’t his playing or his personality that damped enthusiasm.  It was his level of class.  

It didn’t do harm in his era, because there was still a volume of loud mouth entertainers playing at the same time (Tiger Williams used to ride his stick.  Actually.  That happened).  The  problem became that kids grew up idolizing Wayne and in turn were speaking with respect about their opponent and modestly about their own contributions. I respect Gretzky’s public persona, and wish we could sell that game to the US without a little unnecessary flair, but I’m not sure it’s possible.  They love that stuff. 

Kids wanted to be Gretter.  And our parents wanted the same.  Whaaattt a wonnnderful example he set.  Cordial, polite and professional, he simply achieved the highest goal:  Win.  Facts and polite smiles at every turn.  Other leagues have their biggest stars saying the most obscene things and creating sub-plots fit for theatre (Slapshot reference: how about the implied storyline that never develops any farther then “He’s been living in semi-seclusion in Northern Quebec, Andre “The Poodle” Lessard…”).  These sub-plots are everywhere in hockey, but they exist behind closed doors.  Frankly, the media isn’t savvy enough to dig them up.  I think the guys covering the NFL wiretap the room or something.

But take Sidney Crosby, Gretzky’s protege.  What a player.  Whether you think he’s the best, or a baby, or whatever, you can’t deny that he’s good.  But he’s the last thing the NHL needed.  A superstar saying the right thing.  Sean Avery wasn’t a fair representation of the NHL (though he was of himself), but, man.  ESPN couldn’t get enough of this guy.  I literally didn’t know Mats Sundin played for the Canucks until I got home on the weekend.  But I knew how many pinstripes were on the suit Avery was wearing at his internship for Vogue.  I knew his dating history, his slightly effeminate manner for an agitator, and could have diagnosed him with a psychological condition. 

If Mike Comrie would say”I could care less that we lost, I’m going to Hannah Montana, er, Hillary Duffs birthday party tonight”, like he’s actually thinking, people might follow our game a bit closer.  Everyone in America cannot wait to hear what Terrell Owens says after he finishes a game with 1 catch for 8 yards.  It’s a soap opera.

(I enjoy both the hat, and that the clip helps my case at the start, in the middle, and to finish)

And thats whats lacking in our game.  We don’t need constant rule fixes, highlighted pucks or outdoor games (but those are great, keep those going).  The teams and the league need to stop worrying so much about bulletin board material.  You know, those apparently motivating comments like “The Islanders defence sucks” before you play the Islanders.  You know what?  The Islanders defence does suck.  Just because they know that you think it, doesn’t mean they can stop anything. 

This black-balling of flair from the game may be the NHL’s biggest turn-off, including Gary Bettman.  Coaches love to warn their team about the evils of disrespecting your opponent in the media and how it’s going to give them fuel.  It’s just not true.  Plus, you can respect your opponent and still say something interesting and relevant into the microphone can’t you?  Hockey definitely leads major sports in regurgitated answers.  Phrases like “gut check” are nauseasting.  I used to think it was because hockey players aren’t that smart (they aren’t), but I reeeeeaaalllly don’t think basketball or football players finished with higher GPA’s.  But it’s just not necessary to be so wary of what we say.  Never once in my career have a I thought “I can’t believe Steve Defenceman doesn’t think our team can score.  I’m gonna score so many more goals now to prove him wrong”.  I was already trying to score. 

Please, coaches, Gary Bettman, team captains… loosen up.  Let the fans see a little of that passion,  and a few of those storylines that stay buried.  I promise it will be more fun if they notice that right from the drop of the puck #17 has been clipping #22 in the mouth with his elbow everytime they line up for a face off.  I promise if will be more fun if more people notice your game.  Enough Sidney.  You’re a good boy.  You’re a good boy.

     Okay, maybe we could use a liiiittle censorship. 

I haven’t seen an NHL highlight in the US since that clip.  Loosen up boys.

Comments

13 Responses to “Aw, Sidney. You're A Good Boy.”
  1. P. Deezy F. Baby says:

    The thing that gets me with the last clip of Sean Avery (who is fucking sweet btw) is how he takes a deep breath after like 5 words! Isn’t he a highly in shape athlete? He sounds like me after running across the ice to fix a skate during a game! Lastly I lost alot of respect for ole Syd the Kyd when he jumped that duster 4th line center a few weeks ago off the draw to try to “jump start his team and send a message.” Fucking unclassy move from The Next One.

  2. SDC says:

    Hockey is the last safe haven from the ever blurring line between sports and entertainment. Hockey purists will always love the classiest players would give the cookie cutter interviews and go out and play solid hockey. If Avery was the player Crosby was, plus his showmanship, then we’d be in business. But as long as he’s not, and Bettman is in charge, Avery’s schtick is “not what (the NHL) is selling.” See clip, at the 1:00 mark : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V5LFTLfOqM

  3. Neil C. says:

    Personally, I find the idea of rewarding stupidity or ignorance to be inherently bad, even when it sells tickets, but different cultures have different attitudes about what consitutes obnoxiousness, class, sportsmanship, etc.

  4. jtbourne says:

    Totally agree. I really wasn’t trying to make the case for being a donkey, those are the idiots you want to keep out. I’m really just making the case that if the game really wants a wider market, it wouldn’t hurt to allow the players a little more leeway in terms of what they say. It’s like fining guys for excessive celebration in the NFL. Who didn’t want to see what group dance some team would come up with? Gotta let the fans have some fun.

  5. Neil C. says:

    Yeah, the NHL needs to loosen up. Players in interviews are terrified to talk, I can list the guys worth listening to on one hand (not sure where to go after Jeremy Roenick… Biron…Semin, cuz he’s a huge diva). Ovechkin gets it. Bettman doesn’t. But it’s a slippery slope and values are different; I think the TD dances are bad because allowing and supporting them encourages kids to rub their victories in other people’s faces. But, if all the people I played sports with did that a lot, I’d maybe think of it the same way I think of yelling and putting my arms in the air after a goal (maybe that’s really obnoxioius in Taiwanese culture…?). Obviously Americans don’t think it’s good to be obnoxious, but they have their own idea about what constitutes obnoxious behaviour.

    You’re a valuable resource as a vetern double-agent, you tell me: why did Americans like hockey 15 year ago, and why don’t they like it now? Personality, as you said, but what was it about the game that gave it personality? I mean, you have to admit, the skill level has sky-rocketed, the speed is way up, the hits are harder.. the game seems to be great and getting better, no?

  6. jtbourne says:

    I think it has something to do with the clash of cultures. You know, the game had two types of players when it was popular, North Americans and Euros. We hit and grinded, they did fancy figure skater stuff. But their style was more effective, and it won out. The game is a lot more of a speed and talent game than the blue-collar grit-it-out style that so many blue collar Americans used to love (and relate to). As much as meat-heads that play hockey don’t deserve this comment, there’s almost something artsy about the game now. Americans love to compare football to war. What would you compare an NHL game to?

  7. Neil C. says:

    Hmmm good question…. Air Combat in fighter planes?(seriously).

    The hockey from even just 15 years ago looks so much like rugby, it’s scary, I can see what you mean about work ethic and “blue collar” hockey. So without returning to that, and without signing Sean Avery as head of Public Relations, what can the NHL do to market themselves and their players better?

    I’ll start… they should get rid of the idea that doing a fancy move on a guy is “disrespectful”: one of the greatest things about basketball is that the skilled guys pull stupid stuff out and make it look great, but if Getzlaf tries something fancy in a game and it doesn’t work, everyone from his coach to Don Cherry are on his back like he’s disrespected the Crown. Remember Bure scoring breakaway goals at full speed with moves off his skate???

  8. jtbourne says:

    Haha, yeah that goal was pretty sick. I took down the other article, I didn’t realize it was to be an exclusive thingy. But you make a great point. The worst part about it is, this generation of head coaches is from the rugby era, and they don’t realize how many times out of ten I could flip up puck and catch it on my stick, for example. When you get to the bench after a failed move you know you’re about to get abused. A lot of talented young kids get the creativity beat out of the them until they dump and chase every shift (I fought this for yeaaaaars, my junior coach being the biggest offender). A lot of the Europeans do do that stuff, and thats why the top scorers/best players list reads something like Malkin, Ovechkin, Datsyuk, Zetterburg… and Sid.
    I feel like people still use the lockout as their breakup from hockey, and like a dumped lover, never want to hear about them, see them, know about them. Ovechkin is a guy who’s making them take a second look (penguins/caps highlights make ESPN). If we can get the ball rolling, I think it’d feed on itself, more media coverage, more interest. Bettman has to go like Bush did, so that new ideas (for better or worse) can be tried. We’re in a long relationship with Gary and things are stale.

  9. 7th Woman says:

    Hi there. Tom Liodice pointed me to your blog. First, Good Luck.

    I wish I didn’t read this right before I was headed to bed because I can’t even comment on everything. You have so much here!

    Uh… Sidney isn’t the great one’s protege, he’s Mario’s. And he does have a winning personality in front of the cameras… when he’s not punching an opponent in the nuts. Okay, that still bothers me, even though I love the kid.

    You want hockey highlight reels? Get both sides to agree players should remove the buckets for shoot outs. And don’t complain when they celebrate.

    Lastly, yes… Thank God for Alexander the Gr8.

  10. jtbourne says:

    Hi there! Glad you checked it out.
    Fine, I’ll give you the Mario thing, but ol 66 was kind of setting a good example too. Which I love, but doesn’t sell the game to a large market (magazines like US Weekly make a killing on a wide scale not because of their inherent goodness, but entertainment value).
    I like the no bucket idea. It’s way more personal. Do you like the guys on the bench wearing their lids backwards and calling them ‘rally caps’? Those are the guys who know they have zero chance of being selected to shoot!

  11. Breezy says:

    maaarrrioooooo <3 ;)

  12. 7th Woman says:

    Rally caps are for fans, not players. If they have no confidence… what are they doing on the bench in the first place. They should be begging “Put me in coach!”

  13. jtbourne says:

    Haha, you commented! You’re involved! Why won’t you love me Marioooooo!?!

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