The NHL has been very lucky in that right as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin—the faces of the league for more than a decade—have entered their 30s and will soon likely see a decline in their level of play, two new, marketable young stars have emerged to fit their places. There's no doubt at this point that Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are both bona fide stars who will be among the league leaders in goals and points for years to come. They also represent the hockey rivalry between the United States and Canada effectively. Hopefully, the players association sorts themselves out soon so that we can see McDavid and Matthews facing off in future olympic hockey events.
While McDavid and Matthews are already superstars with seemingly unlimited potential, that isn't to say they don't have their issues. Matthews is only twenty years old, and McDavid just turned twenty-one recently. Because they're so young, they often make mistakes, embarrass themselves, and make the league look silly. That is the price that you pay for marketing the league's youngest stars so heavily. Yes, it's exciting to see them dominate the league at an age when most of us were farting around, unsure of what to do with our lives. But it would be pretty much impossible to imagine anyone being so young, having such success and making giant amounts of money and not blowing it once in a while. As the photos below will show, there have been times when the new faces of the NHL have made the NHL look bad. Here are fifteen pictures of Matthews and McDavid that the league would rather you didn't see:
15 McDavid: Controversial Trump Costume
This is a weird one, and it is probably the biggest personal controversy that Connor McDavid has faced so far in his young career. It's telling of the intense political climate that we currently find ourselves in that something like a Halloween costume can stir up such trouble, but that's just how the way the world works now. Some people thought that McDavid, in playfully dressing up as Trump, was normalizing a president that many people see as being racist, or hateful, or manipulative. In the same way that people were angry when Jimmy Fallon playfully patted Trump on the head, critics of McDavid's costume thought making fun of the president was unfair to people who suffer under a Trump administration. Others thought "it's a Halloween costume, who cares."
14 Matthews: Looking Ridiculous On Ice
Have you noticed how Auston Matthews doesn't really seem to have a sense of humour or like to have fun? He has made a point of always being the most serious guy on the ice, rarely celebrating after goals, instead usually making an angry, motivated face. That's a part of the Matthews brand: he's a fierce competitor who will never be satisfied with anything less than being the best. This is at odds with a guy like Alex Ovechkin, who is obviously also very motivated but also knows how to laugh at himself and make a joke, like recently in a post-game interview when he repeatedly mixed up the word "shot" and "s**t". Because Matthews is so serious and doesn't really like to joke around, he looks especially ridiculous in a photo like the one above that would probably embarrass him if he were to see it.
13 McDavid: Wearing Some Embarrassing Glasses
This photo is only public because of a pretty funny move by Arizona Coyotes player Dylan Strome. Trying to get McDavid—who is his friend—onto the cover of NHL 17, Strome said that if enough fans retweeted him, he would release an embarrassing photo of McDavid in return. The fans quickly delivered, and Strome did as promised, tweeting out a photo of McDavid wearing what appear to be tanning glasses, captioned with "Versace if ur wondering." It's not the most embarrassing photo in the world, of course, but it is a strange reminder that the best player in the world, as he's called, is also still just a kid who likes horsing around on his phone with his friends while he's not lighting up the league.
12 Matthews: Being Overshadowed By Brock Boeser
Because the NHL and especially the Toronto sports media have made such a coordinated effort to market Auston Matthews as the future of the game and the best young American player in the world, things have been getting complicated lately as it has emerged that Brock Boeser—nowhere near as lauded of a draft pick—may actually be a better goal scorer than his countryman. Boeser has more goals and points than Matthews does this year, and he has also played fewer games and plays on a far worse team. There's nowhere near as much offensive help for Boeser as there is for Matthews. At this point, nobody would claim that Boeser is a better player than Matthews overall, but if Matthews isn't careful he may find himself playing second fiddle, which would be bad for the league's promotion.
11 McDavid: Looking Like A Complete Dork
This is him? The future of the NHL, the face of the league? Yes, he's young and was much younger here, but it's hard to believe that one of the NHL's most impactful and dynamic players is barely old enough to drive, barely old enough to drink, and could not rent a car. In other major sports, the star players do not look this small and nerdy. Compare this image to LeBron James on draft day. How about Aaron Judge at this age, or literally any NFL player? Hockey, of course, is a different kind of sport, and the fact that its top athletes often don't really look like the kind of burly guys we see in other top North American pro sports leagues may have something to do with the NHL being less popular than other leagues. Do you really want to root for a guy you could beat up? I don't know.
10 Matthews: With An Absolute Babe, While Holding A Fidget Spinner
When this photo first emerged on Twitter, the initial response was "wow" or "nice!" Auston Matthews' whole getup here is pretty funny: the ultra-serious face, the tight leopard print shorts, and the incredibly hot woman around his arm. Who wouldn't want to be in Matthews' position, is what the photo seems to imply. But then people started looking at his right hand. What is holding there? That's right: a fidget spinner. The ridiculous toy that became a fad among young people seemingly for no reason. And you remember: oh yeah, this dude is 20-years-old. He's super talented and has everything going for him, but he is still, at the bottom of it, essentially a kid who has been blessed with supernatural athletic ability but not maturity, as much as he tries to make it seem like he's the most serious guy in the world.
9 McDavid: With The Young Oilers, Looking Like A Boy Band
Between Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, McDavid has easily been the subject of more public ridicule so far. At the bottom of it, he's just less cool. He's a Canadian—which is really just a sillier version of an American—and he gives off the impression of someone who is shy and unsure of himself, whereas Matthews seems more self-assured. This photo has four young Canadians—Jordan Eberle, McDavid, Milan Lucic, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—and it was endlessly ridiculed when it was published because it looks like the album cover for a boy's band or something. Part of the problem is the poses. Part of the problem is the insecure facial expressions they're all making. The NHL is a young man's league, there's no doubt about it, but in this case the young men look ridiculous.
8 Matthews: Ken Bone Halloween Costume
Like the other North American professional sports leagues, the NHL is having a hard time with the current political situation in the United States. Whether it's Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors refusing to visit the White House after their championship last year, or the NFL players protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem, the players want to express their dissatisfaction with the current political climate, and the leagues don't want fans to be turned off by this rocking of the boat. Matthews' Halloween costume last year, Ken Bone, is to some hilarious and to others annoying or even offensive. Bone because a famous figure when participating in the Hillary Clinton town hall. People loved his name, and his red sweater, and his generally silly appearance. Then, days later, people realized that Bone was creepy, and possibly racist, and he was abandoned as a meme. While Matthews' costume isn't offensive, the league may have wished that he didn't get involved in political jokes whatsoever.
7 McDavid: Tailgating
It's safe to say that the Edmonton Oilers have essentially invested the team's entire future in Connor McDavid. They drafted him first-overall back in 2015, and going into this season, The Hockey News claimed that McDavid was the best player in the league going into this season, which hasn't been reflected by his point totals so far this season. In building their team almost entirely around McDavid, the Oilers have sacrificed a lot, trading away forwards like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who have gone on to prove themselves as very good hockey players in other markets. Nobody expects for Connor McDavid to be a robot who doesn't have any fun, but photos of him sitting on a cooler, drinking while below the United States' legal drinking age while his team fails to live up to expectations, don't look good.
6 Matthews: The Momma’s Boy
Alright, this one is admittedly a little bit of a cheap shot, but Matthews' mom looks to be around the same age as the wives of some of the players that Matthews plays with and against on a nightly basis. I guess the chirps on this one could go either way, then. Still, the most successful sports have marketed themselves using fan interest in WAGs: wives and girlfriends. Fans want to know who their favourite players are dating or married to, because it paints a fuller picture of their personal lives and allows us to feel like we know our favourite players better. Because of this, photos of Matthews and his mom kind of paint him as a little kid who is unable to be marketed in this way, which may be disappointing for the league, even though it's a sweet photo.
5 McDavid: His Many Illnesses
Just as important as skill and ambition to the success of an NHL player's career is good health and longevity. It doesn't matter how hard you train or how driven you are, if you're not able to stay healthy, your chances of a Hall of Fame-type career are severely impacted. Take Sidney Crosby, for example. He's likely still the all-around most talented player in the league, but he's one or two hits to the head away from having to retire at any time, and if his career were cut short at this point, he may not go down as one of the all-time greats. McDavid is still very young and resilient, but he has been getting sick a lot this year and has also already suffered injuries in his career. The league can't like the looks of a graphic like this, that seems to indicate that he's sickly.
4 Matthews: Buddying It Up With Erik Karlsson
After years of disappointing Canadian hockey teams, in which it seemed like no team from Canada had much of a shot of winning a cup on a year to year basis, we are slowly entering a period in which Canadian teams are competitive again. The last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was back in 1993, which is kind of remarkable. Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have a captain, but when they do name their next captain, it's likely it'll be Matthews, as he's set to be the leader of the team for years to come. It's good for the NHL when the battle of Ontario—Toronto vs. Ottawa—is strong, and the league would like to see Matthews and Erik Karlsson—likely the best defenceman in the world—develop a little animosity so that there'll be drama when they meet in future playoff series.
3 McDavid: With The Disappointing Oilers
Look at the looks on these guys' faces. Jordan Eberle in particular looks like he's about to break out into tears, and Taylor Hall looks like he just smelled the worst smell in the world. Of course, half of the players in this shot aren't on the team anymore, but the sentiment remains. The Edmonton Oilers are supposed to be good by now. They've had more high first round picks in recent years than anyone, and they've gotten lucky with the draft lottery too. Right now, they're well under .500, and have almost no chance of making the playoffs this year. If they can't turn around their fortunes soon, their young captain is going to get a reputation as being a loser, and the league will lose one of its most marketable stars.
2 Matthews: Giant New Tattoo
Isn't it strange how differently the various North American professional sports are marketed. If you look at the NBA or the NFL, you'd be hard pressed to find a player who wasn't heavily tattooed. It's just a part of basketball and football culture, and is an accepted and respected part of the league. However, when photos recently surfaced that Auston Matthews got a giant new tattoo of a lion that takes up essentially his entire right arm, his fans were distressed. The mascot of the L.A. Kings is a lion, and Leafs fans were wondering why their franchise player didn't get something related to his own team. Others felt like it was too large of a tattoo for such a young guy to get. I think in this case, people need to back off and let the guy live his life.
1 McDavid: Looking Extremely Awkward With Fans
In what must surely be very annoying to the NHL, which has spent considerable money and effort promoting Connor McDavid as the best young player in the world with perhaps the future potential to be one of the great forwards of all time in the league, this is maybe the most famous photo of him that exists on the internet. McDavid looks extremely uncomfortable, in an airport, being essentially groped by two overzealous fans. He looks uncomfortable with his position as a celebrity, and unaware of how to handle his fame. He may have been ready for the on-ice expectations that were placed on his shoulders, but as his list has shown, he often seems like he isn't ready for the off-ice expectations that are placed on the league's great young players.