Something no professional sports league wants to tell you is the fact that they have their favorites. These players are generally exposed to the masses as poster boys during telecasts and as players who represent their sport with various endorsement deals. Each league has their favorites, FIFA loves Messi and neglects Ronaldo, the NBA loves LeBron dearly and the NHL holds "Sid the Kid" very closely to their hearts.
We’ve seen lots of examples of others the NHL refuses to hype or support. One of the most obvious examples, which exposed the league, was the NHL’s handling of John Scott. The league tried their very best to keep Scott from the All-Star Game but at the end of the day, the fans spoke, while the NHL was baffled at the sight of Scott joining the league’s elite.
This article will take a look at players far better than John Scott who still don’t get the proper treatment and recognition they deserve. Reasons vary from their wild off-ice life to playing in the West Coast.
We’ll also shed a light on those the NHL really wants us to like. These are the poster boys for the league and the faces you typically see get endorsed by other companies.
So without further ado, let’s find out who made this list; here are eight players the NHL really wants us to like and seven they don’t.
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15 Do: Connor McDavid
When you score 120 points in 47 games in your final OHL season, chances are that you’re going to get a bit of exposure once you make it to the NHL.
Drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, the spotlight has been on Connor McDavid ever since. In recent years, the Oilers were a laughing stock to the media, but since Connor’s arrival all that has changed. From TSN to Sportsnet to CBC, all the major NHL media channels are hyping up the kid every chance they get and, rightfully so, as he really is a once in a lifetime talent.
The NHL doesn’t mind the exposure either. Companies like CCM gave McDavid a million dollar deal before he stepped foot on an NHL rink. Even the likes of Adidas, who haven’t been keen on sponsoring NHLers, reached out to the future star. It’s pretty clear that number 97 will make the NHL a boat load of money and the league will help him do the same, exposing his talents anytime they possibly can.
14 Don’t: Jamie Benn & Tyler Seguin
It’s pretty clear when watching NHL programming, nowadays, that the league is a young man’s game. With that being said, the NHL does its best to expose some of the best role models in the league like Jonathan Toews (who we’ll discuss later), to allow the younger generations to look up to such clean-cut stars.
A duo the league isn’t so keen on exposing resides in Dallas with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Despite their offense exploits over the last couple of seasons, you don’t really hear all that much about the dynamic duo. Part of the reason is because they play out West and the league generally spends more time showcasing the Eastern teams. In addition to that, Benn and Seguin don't live 'role model' lives outside of the rink. The two are often out and about, living the life of single bachelors out in Dallas. Of course, the NHL would rather not showcase that side of these two, which is why you rarely hear about them.
13 Do: Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews is like that perfect sibling your parents display proudly as you walk into your house, while a small picture of yourself remains in the shadows. In all seriousness, Toews is a model human being and one the NHL proudly displays time and time again. Aside from his three Stanley Cup victories over the course of six seasons, Toews is the supreme leader that every team desires. He goes out every night and puts his heart into every shift, while keeping a cool head about everything he has accomplished thus far.
Along with his incredible on-ice resume, Toews is a great guy away from the rink as well. Toews is one of the most charitable players in the league and is often spotted at local hospitals brightening up the day of a child in need. In terms of poster buys to represent the league, it’s truly hard to find one better than number 19.
12 Don’t: Patrick Kane
This equally talented first overall pick is seen in a different light compared to his humble teammate Jonathan Toews. Just to give you an idea at how bad things got publicly for Patrick Kane, rumors indicated that the Blackhawks actually considered shipping him away for how much bad press he had bestowed on the team.
His skills are certainly something the NHL wants to proudly display, but it’s away from the rink that the league strongly wants to avoid. Since his sexual assault incident, the league has gone pretty quiet with things related to Kane. Even his recent MVP award pretty much flew under the radar. Ultimately, the case was dropped due to tampering with the evidence. Despite the outcome, the situation certainly hurt Kane and his status as a role model in the NHL.
11 Do: Nathan MacKinnon
Place of birth: Nova Scotia. Ring a bell? Well, that happens to be the same birth place of the great number 87, Sidney Crosby. For that very reason, Nathan MacKinnon has managed to score some huge endorsement deals along with reaching a level of popularity higher than most of his peers.
Nathan scored big time, landing a sponsorship deal alongside Sid Crosby with the Canadian giant, Tim Hortons. The two have appeared in several commercials together and Nathan has certainly profited big time from all his fame, making him a huge favorite in the NHL ranks.
The guy deserves the recognition, as he’s talented, but what’s the difference between himself and a guy like Taylor Hall? Both are incredible speedsters and first overall picks, so why does Nathan get so much more recognition? His place of birth...
10 Don’t: Anze Kopitar
This unlikely selection might raise a couple of eyebrows, but let us explain. Whether you see it or not, the NHL and its television channels tend to show a bias towards Eastern teams while leaving those Westerners out in the cold or, in LA’s case, the beautiful warm heat.
This has caused the league to overlook several special talents, which includes arguably one of the best players in the game, Anze Kopitar. Playing at the prime of his career at the age of 29, Kopitar has dominated the league quietly, winning two Stanley Cup Championships with the Kings. In addition to that, Anze, last year, won the Selke and Lady Byng trophies. Though, chances are you didn’t know that cause the league really didn’t shed any light on it.
9 Do: Auston Matthews
Drafted into the Mecca of hockey, Auston Matthews instantly rose to superstardom as the NHL instantly glorified the young Leafs' prospect. The forward instantly cashed in on his popularity by inking a deal with Bauer. Even before he stepped foot on the ice, he was already richer than most players.
The media around Canada would continue to showcase the young stud, as Sportsnet would go as far as to do an entire photoshoot with Matthews. After all, the hype is pretty warranted and it has been years since the Leafs enjoyed the presence of a franchise player. Following his four goal opening night, the hockey world was buzzing, placing the 19 year old on an even higher pedestal.
Although he is off to a brilliant start, the media is sweating a little bit seeing the breakout performance by the second overall pick, Patrik Laine. If the NHL gets their way, Matthews somehow wins the Calder over Laine. As of right now, however, that doesn’t seem like it will go down.
8 Don’t: Phil Kessel
Let’s face reality here, Phil Kessel isn’t the sexiest player to promote, as he looks like he just woke up every time you get a glimpse of him in the locker room or outside of the rink. In addition to that, he’s a pretty awkward guy and not the most social butterfly.
For that very reason, the league chooses to undermine Phil’s accomplishments. Just take a look at his playoff run, the guy was the best player with the Pens, but Crosby still managed to win the MVP honors. Shocking? Not really.
The mass media in Toronto would also like to forget about number 81, given his failed stint with the team. The joke is on them however, with Kessel wearing his Stanley Cup ring, along with receiving a special mention from the former President of the United States Barack Obama, something not many players can say.
7 Do: Carey Price
There's no real surprise here, as not only is Carey Price the best goalie in the world at the moment, but he is also one of the most beloved faces in the entire league. Seriously though, how could you dislike the guy? Not only is he the best in the world, but his demeanor is so calm and cool. From his movements on the ice to his interviews after, Price always looks like nothing is bothering him. Nothing can throw him off his game and a bunch of players around the league can attest to that.
Rightfully so, the media and the NHL have fully embraced Carey’s excellence. The fact that he plays for the most historic team in the NHL has also solidified his popularity, as he rules one of the hottest hockey markets in the entire world.
Aside from being an NHL poster boy, Price is also a sponsor for Under Armour.
6 Don’t: Max Pacioretty
Being the captain of a beloved franchise like the Montreal Canadiens does not ensure popularity. Particularly in Montreal, as wearing the “C” can prove to be a burden more so than anything else.
As opposed to most of the other franchises around the league, everything you do in Montreal is magnified and one of those things is being captain. Past leaders went through the same things, as Saku Koivu was scrutinized for not speaking French, while Brian Gionta was bashed for his lack of production during the end of his run with the team.
Fast-forward to now and the team is still undergoing some image problems with their leader. Coach Michel Therrien was (allegedly) quoted as saying that Max was the worst captain in Habs history, while others in the media have also questioned his leadership skills. Looking at how the league portrays Montreal, it’s quite obvious, that it’s Price’s team and not Pacioretty’s.
5 Do: Jaromir Jagr
Picking up hat tricks at the age of 44, Jaromir Jagr is an ageless wonder who just keeps pushing along, defying the word “time.” Last season was another brilliant year for the right-winger, as he finished off with 27 goals and 39 assists. Wow.
For obvious reasons, the NHL loves to expose Jagr to the mainstream media and rightfully so, as he's a joy to be around and has a great sense of humor. The league makes it a focal point to showcase Jagr any chance they get. One of those platforms happens to be the NHL All-Star game. Last season was his first appearance in more than a decade and it’s safe to say he stole the show as the cameras where constantly locked on the 44 year old.
4 Don’t: Evgeni Malkin
Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a player as good as Evgeni Malkin in the last decade. The Penguins forward has done it all, winning two Art Ross Trophies, a Calder Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, Hart Trophy and two Stanley Cup rings. His contributions against the Wings in the 2009 final helped to secure the team’s cup victory.
With all these accomplishments, you’d figure he’d have various endorsement deals and become a poster boy for the NHL right? That unfortunately hasn’t been the case, particularly in the last couple of years. Not only does Malkin have no sponsorship deals but he’s rarely talked about, usually taking a back seat to Sid the Kid. So why all the hate? Is it because he plays with Crosby? His nationality? His lack of English? Probably all of the above...
3 Do: Steven Stamkos
Coming out of Markham, Ontario, the NHL did a terrific job of hyping up Steven Stamkos before he was even drafted. Number 91 had an epic run with the Sarnia Sting, as his final OHL season saw the sniper score 58 goals in 61 games. NHL scouts drooled over his numbers and the name Brett Hull was instantly linked to the power forward.
Despite putting up some average numbers in the last couple of seasons for a guy of his capabilities, the media and NHL continue to place Stamkos on a platform. Just this summer, the league emphasized his free agency and proceeded to praise the forward for taking a “pay cut” to stay on board with the Lightning. What the league failed to mention, however, was the fact that it wasn’t really a pay cut considering how much he saves in taxes by playing in Florida.
Along with his massive contract, Steven has profited nicely with the likes of Bauer. He even appeared as a shampoo spokesperson for Garnier Fructis. Odd, but true.
2 Don’t: Alex Ovechkin
Although the NHL doesn’t want to admit it, they most certainly would rather see Sidney Crosby as the face of the NHL as opposed to Alex Ovechkin. Aside from Stanley Cup wins, the two are pretty much neck and neck in terms of stats and awards. The Great Eight is a three time winner of the Hart Trophy and six-time winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard award. So why is he exposed less than Sid?
For one, he lives a different lifestyle away from the rink. Like Benn and Seguin, who Ovie actually partied with in Vegas during the off-season, Alex can be wild behind the scenes, something the league might believe does not mesh well with younger audiences. In addition, Ovechkin is more of a loose cannon, as he says whatever’s on his mind, whether it be telling the league he’s playing in the Olympics no matter what or pulling out his phone during the NHL All-Star Draft. Ovie simply walks to the beat of his own drum.
1 Do: Sidney Crosby
Look at that great big smile from Gary Bettman as he watches his poster boy talk to the media during the team’s White House appearance to showcase their Stanley Cup Championship.
Since his days as a toddler, it was obvious Sid was going to be something special. In his last year of junior hockey, Crosby netted 168 points in 62 games. The league knew they had a major star on the horizon.
Ever since, Crosby has been shoved to the forefront of the league, becoming the face of the NHL. Sid has various endorsement deals representing the NHL which includes signing the biggest endorsement deal in NHL history with Reebok worth $1.4 million. In addition, he signed a six-year deal with Adidas and holds other sponsorships with the likes of Gatorade, Tim Hortons and Bell Media. No doubt, Sid is the face of the game.
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