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.