As I groggily dump Fruit Loops into my bowl, I rub my eyes and flick on Sports Center. The voice of Steve Levy explodes from the television, as he rambles about the greatness of LeBron James. While the likes of the James, Johnny Manziel and Mike Trout appear to be constantly touched upon, an episode passes without any mention of the NHL. Superstars such as the names I have referenced (while Manziel has not played a regular season snap, he certainly impressed while at Texas A&M) drive the media into a frenzy, analyzing the athletes’ every move and thus sparking more interest. Let’s dig into whether the NHL currently possesses such a megastar, and whether the sport actually requires one.
Does the NHL Currently Have A Superstar?
Controversial as it might be, I do not believe that the NHL has a superstar. Sidney Crosby is an unbelievable talent who can put up points at a pace one might only think of while playing a video game, but I don’t consider him to be a megastar. No disrespect to Crosby, but he has been injured too frequently in recent years. Although he cannot control these injuries and clearly does not want to be sidelined, Crosby has only played 61% of the 294 total games over the past four years. Another possible knock on Crosby is that he is not known for a fiery attitude. Crosby is a clean player, one who doesn’t drop the gloves frequently and is not known for his antics. Players such as Yasiel Puig grab headlines not only for his outstanding plays, but for his shenanigans on and off of the diamond. Comments made by superstars that aren’t afraid to stir the pot only increases conversation between media and fans alike. Crosby isn’t known for creating controversy, on the ice or while talking to the media. Despite being a skating definition of the word “playmaker”, Crosby’s personality keeps him away from the lofty megastar since he doesn’t create headlines.
Another possible inclusion on the list of the NHL’s biggest names is Alexander Ovechkin. His wrist shot appears as if it were fired out of a cannon, not off of a hockey stick. After the Russian averaged 53.8 goals through his first five seasons in the league, it appeared destined that Ovechkin was a legend in the making. However, Ovechkin’s goal scoring has dipped as he has entered his mid-to-late twenties, and he became a major liability on the defensive end. He owned an atrocious 0.3 defensive point shares and his -35 rating would make any coach cringe. Defensive shortcomings and lazy hockey are holding Ovechkin back from become a household name.
Is A Megastar A Necessity?
From Michael Phelps to Usain Bolt, top athletes drive a sport’s popularity and peaks interest in fans everywhere. Everyone knows who Derek Jeter is because of his outstanding leadership and consistency on the diamond, but I doubt that most people outside of hockey can recall the accomplishments of Jaromir Jagr or Teemu Selanne. Although cornerstones of the fastest game on earth, Selanne and Jagr are not household names. While the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Martin Brodeur are names that everyone should be familiar with, the NHL doesn’t have a long list of true Superstars.
The league could use a Kardashian. Seriously.
Okay, let me back up. A player that constantly is caught up in media coverage would be welcomed, as the extra popularity is nothing but good for the league. Loads of revenue could be gained from the likes of SportsCenter, TSN, and others drooling over the superstar. Increased youth participation and higher television ratings are both awesome for a continually growing league. An immortal star is what the NHL needs to continue to flex its muscles and become a powerhouse league.
During the World Cup this summer, the entire country got behind the United States Men’s National Team. Once Tim Howard emerged as a star, the entire nation was tripping head over heels. While the popularity soccer during the World Cup exploded during the World Cup, the same could be said for hockey during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Following T.J. Oshie putting on a clinic versus Sergei Bobrovsky, Americans fell in love with Oshie just as teenage girls melt for Justin Bieber. Hockey fever had the fifty states sizzling, and Team USA players transformed into idols.
Just as Olympic hockey’s reach stretched like a rubber band, the NHL’s could do the same. Is the NHL being held back by their lack of a hero on the ice? Oshie filled the shoes on the world stage, but the NHL’s reach is being hurt by the fact that no one has filled the domestic void. As fans flocked to televisions to watch the games and clamored to read more about Team USA, the same would occur in the NHL. New fans would hop onto the bandwagon, the NHL would take flight.
What do you think, does the NHL need a new Mega Star ?