The NHL Players Media Tour has rolled through New York City this week. It’s a chance for players to go one-on-one with reporters and answer goofy questions or, if they’re extraordinarily lucky, play ping-pong with Jeremy Roenick.
Which is to say that the players can be laidback and exhibit some modicum of personality, which is something they don’t normally do during the course of the season, especially on the ice.
Now, why is that? Why aren’t there more Roenicks? Why aren’t there more P.K. Subbans?
The NHL is usually the one that gets the blame for not marketing the players properly; and while they should be criticized for some of their marketing choices (insert your obligatory Blackhawks outdoor game joke here), it’s not like they’re the ones who, for example, killed the trick-shot competition at the NHL All-Star Game.
No, that would be the players who killed it. And it’s the players who, by and large, are the ones that put a damper on personalities.
From Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated, here’s Eichel:
“Hockey’s such a team game. Everyone’s so conservative that you don’t see players or people becoming he type of icons that you see in basketball or football or even baseball, where people’s personalities are shown more and they’re able to market themselves and their personality away from the sport they play. I think our game’s so conservative – and rightfully so – that everyone’s so worried about what the next guy’s going to think instead of being themselves and letting their personalities show.”
Now, the “team game” aspect of the NHL does restrict some star power. It’s not baseball or the NBA, where individual efforts are obvious and celebrated. But the rest of Eichel’s take is valid, which he expanded on:
“I think it’s on the players, but the problem with it is that everyone is so conservative. Hockey players, we’re conservative people. We’re worries about what the next guy is going to think and obviously you don’t want to do anything to make yourself look bad in the locker room, to your coaches, to your general manager. With that being said, I think guys take the high road and hide themselves a little bit better. There are some guys who are doing it. I think P.K. Subban does a good job of self-marketing himself. People know him, they see his personality more than just the type of guy he is on the ice.”
Yeah, and then what happens: People question whether a guy making a mouthwash joke on during the playoffs is costing his team the Stanley Cup.
Again, we come back to his salient point: The personalities are there, but the culture restricts them. And who get blame for the culture? Coaches? General managers? Sure, to a point. But like Eichel said, the “next guy” is the real issue – the locker room killjoys that pressure guys to stay in line and play for the logo and not the nameplate. And we’re never getting more Subbans until that changes, if it ever does.