Aw, Sidney. You're A Good Boy.ShareThis
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.