The Next Face of the NHL?


Tuesday the hockey world learned that Washington’s captain and superstar Alexander Ovechkin would not be attending the All-Star Game or its associated festivities. In what I viewed as nothing more than a temper-tantrum, Ovi claimed that he should not be there because he is currently suspended. Like the rest of the world, I took to the Twitter to express my thoughts.

"@Esbee92 I swear this is my last tweet about Ovi. If you want to be the face of the NHL you have to actually BE THE FACE OF THE NHL."

This tiny tweet generated a really great conversation with Calgary’s Flame for Thought’s Cait Platt about the “face of the NHL.” This was her response.

"@_CaitMonster But is he really? I feel like they’ve given up on him lately"

Before he was plagued with head injuries, Sidney Crosby was the wholesome face of the league with Ovechkin playing the role of his arch nemesis. Ovi appeared on an endless loop of commercials for all sorts of hockey and sports related things. But little by little the promotion of Ovi as the other top dog has dwindled.

Cait and I began pondering if we had to pick a new “face of the NHL” whom would we go with. But wait there’s a catch! What if you had to pick an American? I scanned my mental hockey roster for someone that would make a good NHL poster boy. The most “all-American” guy I could come up with was Jeff Skinner. Oh Canada, that’s really not going to work is it?

The player would need to be young (twenty-five or under), exciting and likeable. My second choice was Matt Duchene. Shoot. He’s Canadian. (That whole Colorado thing threw me off for a minute.) Patrick Kane inspires kids all over North America to practice their dekes. Unfortunately he has some issues in the role model department. Just because he has a hotline to “Peggy” doesn’t mean you want him teaching your kids. How about Bobby Ryan of the Ducks? There is nothing apple pie about his back-story, but could he rise as a phoenix? Ryan Kesler? He plays for a Canadian team, and besides, no one likes the Canucks but Canucks fans. He is also long in the tooth at a whopping twenty-seven years old.

My choice was New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise. But could Americans relate to him? He has a French-Canadian background. His name is exotic. His father, J.P., is legendary for his role in the 1972 Summit Series with Team Canada. That’s not an easy sell to the red, white and blue.

I can think of plenty of solid American players. We have three homegrown defensemen in our backyard with Tim Gleason, Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain. But I am talking about the “marketing” of a player and these guys are not out seeking the spotlight. Maybe it will find Justin in the All-Star Rookie events.

When it was all said and done, I didn’t really have a solid answer after this exercise . My top pick, if I had to make one, would probably be Parise. Who will Gary Bettman and company pick as the next guy to represent the brand? Will they try to expand the American market and create a dynamic duo? Will they go with raw skill and likability and a Jeff Skinner type? While I want hockey to grow in the States, I don’t want to see the sport “Americanized” for the sake of marketing. Having players from all over the world is part of what makes hockey special and different. And sometimes different is good.

Who would you choose if you had follow the constraints and pick an American “face of the NHL?” Leave us a comment and back up your case! Be sure to hop on over to Flame for Thought for Cait’s take from our conversation and follow her on Twitter.

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