Is That A Hockey Player In My Living Room?

If the Washington Capitals walked unannounced into your living room, would you know they were the Caps or at least recognize anyone besides Alex Ovechkin and Jose Theodore? Maybe Brendan Morrison because he’s been in the league for awhile? Or Mike Green because the camera follows him?

Of course on the other hand, if Kyle Chipchura or Matt’ D’Agostini walked in to a Washington living room, the police would be called. Heck, I wouldn’t know Kyle Chipchura if he walked in to my living room.

That’s one of the problems with 30 teams in the NHL. They’re almost a faceless bunch. Only the chosen few, the ones in the limelight, the ones with the good quotes or big noses and numbers are familiar for the public. Probably 500 of the 600 players or so can walk around in cities and no one will bother them. Few will be asked for autographs, and groupies won’t invite them up to their hotel rooms because for all they know, these are just guys with tiny bankrolls like the rest of us.

You could say the same holds true for football players, but football has the big television contracts and money flowing like Niagara Falls. And we know many NFL players because we get to see their mug shots on police blotters and crime shows.

Before helmets in the NHL, we saw guys with red hair or no hair or Elvis hair. Now, so many have shaved their heads and look like they’ve done hard time at San Quentin so it doesn’t matter that they wear helmets. They all look the same whether it’s on the ice or off. Gone are the days of greasy black locks like Phil Esposito’s, or Bobby Hull’s flowing blond mane as he danced down the left side, and all the great and now extinct individual looks the players had.

But mostly, because of the all-important helmet, we just wouldn’t know a lot of players if they walked in to our living room, and that can’t be good  when they’re trying to make in-roads in the southern states. People down there need something to identify with. And I need to know who’s in my living room before I call 911 or not.

I was in a Keg restaurant in Calgary once and a bunch of Philadelphia Flyers were sitting just across from us and I didn’t know it until an excited waitress told me. It certainly wasn’t Bobby Clarke, Rick Macleish and Moose Dupont sitting there. Them I would’ve known.

If the Habs walked in to my living room, I think I’d figure it out. I’m fairly sure. Although I might have to concentrate a little for some of them. Not like, say, if Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt and Larry Robinson showed up. That’s a much different story.

And if it’s tough for someone who follows the sport closely, imagine what it’s like for those who don’t? The players are faceless creatures with only names and numbers on their jerseys to tell them. They’re like vanilla ice cream dropped in a snow bank.

Something should be done. What about painting their hair colour on their helmets? Or if they’re bald, just paint some on the sides. Or maybe the players could stand at the exit and thank all 20,000 for showing up? Or the NHL could pay for players’ faces on those little signs on top of New York and Las Vegas taxi cabs.

Alex Ovechkin wore a darkened visor, which is a bad idea. Sure, most hockey fans know this flashy Russian, but this type of visor must be restricted to him and him only. Imagine if the rest of them decided to do this? Then we’d never know what anyone looked like. It’d be like those futuristic space-age images we see of players with jet-propelled skates, playing to the death in headgear that hides the demon inside.. It would be the beginning of the end of hockey in the southern US if players wore darkened visors. These things would do more damage than Gary Bettman.

Of course there has to be helmets. Can’t be having anymore Rocket Richard/Hal Laycoe/Wayne Maki/Ted Green sticks smashed over heads. And there’s already too many head shots and concussions. Helmets and jock straps are vital pieces of equipment. It goes without saying.

But at least the guys could stop shaving their heads. It would be a start. Think of the fans.

14 thoughts on “Is That A Hockey Player In My Living Room?”

  1. Well Dennis here are some thoughts that ran through my head as I read your article while munching down on my Frosted Flakes. In stead of painting hair and such on the helmets flip that around and have all hockey players wear their helmets all the time so the public can start to recognize them and if the player wants to personalize his helmet then all the better. OR, instead of painting just the player’s hair why not paint his face on the helmet? They could even paint their face on the back of the helmet saying NO or STOP to help reduce the hitting from behind. Of course some players would mistakenly think the player was actually facing them and really smack them into the boards. And finally the NHL could radically redesign the helmets so they looked like astronaut helmets but clear all around then the fans could see exactly what the players look like. To continue with that thought small motion activated fans could be installed to blow the player’s hair a la Guy Lafleur. Maybe in the future these domed helmets could actually rise out of the shoulder pads and also be motion activated then whenever there was a play stoppage, face-off, milling around, or just sitting on the bench the players would be helmetless and the fans could get a better look. I think the possibilities are endless!
    And just on a side note if you haven’t heard the song Helmethead by Great Big Sea you should check it out.

  2. Hey Dennis;I agree that the players are hard to pick out theses days.I still remember watching Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe play when they came to Vancouver in the early seventies,Henri Richard was completely white haired and that was when he was in his late thirties.Guy Lafleur, of course with his blonde hair waving like a flag in the wind an the shiny bald Gary Bergman all stood out in my memories.I liked the way the players used to look,but with all of the careless stick manouvers these days the players..and refs need to wear the helmets.I wonder if in wearing these pieces of armour though, take away the pain threshold once seen in most hockey players.If a player even gets clipped with a stick around the head area they go down writhing in pain ,unlike when a guy would be bleeding from a puck striking into his face and keep playing through it until a stoppage in play

  3. I think the era of the true men of character who would suffer the pain of the game in stoic silence is long gone.
    There is one man who stands head and shoulders above everyone else in that category. Nobody is as tough (some may say crazy) as he was.
    Lorne John “Gump” Worsley when asked about why he chose to go without a protective mask, once told reporters, “My face is my mask.”
    That’s tough.
    And people still remember the Gumper’s face.
    I know I do…

    http://www.beehivehockey.com/images/player_images_group2/gumpworsley2m.jpg

  4. Dennis,

    Im not sure if you knew this or not but apparently the reason Alex Ovechkin wore the darkened visor was so the goalie couldnt see his eyes and where he was looking to shoot. I have heard that from a few different sources but dont know how true it is. I enjoyed this post though because your absolutely right. It is real hard to tell who the players are when they are out in public. Unless your a star or a player who finds themselves in the headlines alot you cant tell them apart from the rest of the public.

  5. We need the mullet to make a return to hockey. Having long hair hanging out the back of the helmet will help differentiate them on the ice. And when they appear in your living room you’ll quickly know they’re hockey players.

  6. One must learn to recognize them ;) Mostly it’s all in the nose, but you can’t miss D’Agostini’s eyebrows.

    I think Hossa wears the darth visor too. I would wear it. I hate light glare.

  7. Okay, so here’s what we’ve got. Wear helmets all the time. Turn them around and paint his face on it. Install little fans to blow the hair. Se-through helmets,. Be tough like Gump and suck it up. Grow mullets. Get to know the Bulldogs first. Concentrate on the noses and eyebrows.
    These are all excellent suggestions and I hope the powers-that-be are listening. And what about this – lose the helmets and use foam sticks?

  8. Hi Dennis,
    I say make them not have their helmets on at the end of the game and pregame so we see what they look like. No helmets during shoot outs too! I want my NHL personalized.

  9. Final idea: take a photo of them, shrink wrap it around their helmet. You can see the player and it’s the shrink wrap with the holes so the player can see. (Like the wrap on buses/trains.)

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