“I’m gonna wiggle it at ‘em Joe. And everyone in the audience with the exception of my wife is gonna be running for the exits.”
So goes the hilarious quote from the hockey classic Slapshot, where a few players from the Charlestown Chiefs are forced to be a part of a fashion show by their cheap GM, Joe McGrath.
While most professional hockey players aren’t asked to do anything quite as ridiculous as that (check that: I once had to wear an apron and serve season ticket holders dinner), the time before the season starts always involves a few semi-embarrassing routines if you’re remotely self-conscious.
The second the roster is finalized, the work begins.
Head shots need to be taken for the programs, video clips need to be recorded for the website, and periodically, you have to do those awkward jumbotron things where you stare at the camera for a prolonged amount of time, because apparently throwing up a picture of you after you score isn’t enough – fans need to see you blink (or so your team public relations guy thinks).
(Complete and total tangent: I can’t carry on without talking about this. Can we all take a moment to check out this terrific Brent Burns headshot, which solicited the following reactions from twitter:
@SuicidePass: “Looks like he just emerged from a shack in the woods wearing overalls and carrying a jug with ‘XXX’ written on it.”
@RattoCSN: “Ahh, the days of liquoring up and cutting your own hair. Good times.”
@KentBaskyMN: “All that pic needs is Goofy’s laugh and some banjo music in the background…”
and the winnner….
@dkowbel9: ”Isn’t that the kind of headshot the league is trying to outlaw?”)
These glamorous photo shoots and video clips always put players in a position where they’re aware they may do or say something that will last for years and become dressing room fodder, such as, oh, I dunno…
…and that freezes some of them up even more. Obviously not Kirill, but the point remains the same.
It’s an odd thing, that if you want to play professional hockey you also have to become part entertainer off the ice, and some guys aren’t comfortable doing it (see: Canadian farm boys).
It’s not like having to do these things would ever deter a guy from trying to play hockey professionally, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get struck with a feeling of dread every time The PR Guy walks into the room.
I’m pretty sure an ex-teammate of mine would’ve stroked out our PR guy out if it wouldn’t have been for, ironically, the bad PR – my friend was balding, and our guy had us individually put our head’s down, then slowly lift them up and look into the camera. It beautifully highlighted his growing bald spot, and made him look slightly less intimidating.
Thankfully, once players take care of the pre-season media requests that are going on around now, things die down so guys can focus on the stuff that really matters, the actual playing of the hockey.
Like all of us, players just want to get to the drop of the puck on that first day, and this stuff is just in the way. They want the rosters set in stone. They want to be done with this crap. They know they’re almost done with training camp, through the gauntlet of awkward moments, and onto the regular season.
We’re almost there, hockey fans. And while we wait and guess at rosters and order our NHL packages, players are being pulled aside one-by-one, put in front of a camera, and asked to do something silly. Not silly enough to make a guy wiggle it at ‘em, Joe, but still – at times, that move isn’t too far away.