It’s opening night in the NHL and there’s a lot to talk about. At least, there will be in about 2 hours when the first two games of the season are over and the Penguins/Canucks game is about to begin. By the way, you should watch that game because they are two of the best teams in hockey. That’s right, I’m advising all you east coasters to stay up past your bedtimes. It will be worth it.
Sure, there are a few things happening around the league: I could talk about naked Ryan Kesler or point out that Sidney Crosby is, y’know, still not playing hockey, but instead I’m going to talk about something else that has been discussed to death: Crosby vs. Ovechkin.
For better or worse, the NHL has hitched its marketing wagon to the thoroughbred pair of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. While Crosby’s concussion last season and long recovery period have illustrated the dangers of this style of marketing, it likely won’t be changing any time soon. The marketing push of this dynamic duo has spilled out into endorsement and commercial deals outside of the hockey rink.
Crosby has an endorsement deal with Reebok and appears in their commercials and has appeared in commercials for Gatorade, Dempster’s Bread, Tim Horton’s, and SportChek. Ovechkin, on the other hand, has a new endorsement deal with Bauer and has appeared in commercials for CCM, Eastern Motors, and Capital One.
What do these commercials tell us about these two players? Who has the better commercials?
Sidney Crosby – Exhibit One
This early Crosby commercial perfectly illustrates the OMGIC Principle: the “Oh My Gosh, It’s Crosby” Principle. Simply put, Crosby shows up somewhere you don’t expect him to be and everyone around is in awe. You’ll quickly see that most of Crosby’s commercials use this principle.
Here, Crosby shows up at a kids’ street hockey game, tosses his stick in, and takes a swig of his frighteningly blue beverage. The kids respond with OMGIC, as does everyone in the neighbourhood or, perhaps, the province, as a multitude show up to toss their sticks in the pile. It doesn’t make me want to buy Gatorade. It makes me feel bad for the kids who had their street hockey game ruined.
Alex Ovechkin – Exhibit One
You will immediately see that Ovechkin’s commercials don’t operate on the same principle as Crosby’s. He doesn’t just show up somewhere and immediately get worshipped: instead, he’s a weird guy who does weird things in weird places.
This low-budget commercial for Eastern Motors doesn’t even bother with a plot or theme: it’s just the outtakes of Ovechkin being weird. And it’s magical. This is, of course, the commercial that entered “Shots Vodka” into the hockey parlance.
Sidney Crosby – Exhibit Two
In this commercial, Crosby tries to shed his white bread image by promoting brown bread. The wide-eyed and impressionable youth of Canada submit to the hypnotic gaze of Crosby and immediately everyone is eating whole grain bread. It’s a little bit weird and creepy, actually.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Crosby commercial without an OMGIC moment, and this commercial provides the most disingenuous one ever: thanks to the use of a body double, there isn’t a chance that Crosby and that kid were ever within 50 miles of each other during the filming of this commercial. Still, the kid’s voice cracks like seeing Crosby just made his balls drop. Today, you are a man.
Alex Ovechkin – Exhibit Two
My favourite part of this commercial is that the kid is not the least bit surprised to see Ovechkin’s disembodied head in his bowling bag. He’s just a little concerned and a bit ashamed. This is because Ovechkin is a weird guy: who knows what he’ll do? It’s not surprising to see his head in a bowling bag, not shocking. It’s almost expected: Ah yes, of course it’s Ovechkin’s disembodied head. Why wouldn’t it be?
Also, if Ovechkin’s disembodied head told me to practice hockey, I’d probably do it. Just saying.
Sidney Crosby – Exhibit Three
Similar to the Gatorade commercial in Exhibit One, Crosby goes to play hockey with some little kids, but this time a bunch of rude Torontonians don’t show up to ruin everything. Hopefully Crosby didn’t pull a Jonathan Toews on any of those kids.
Again, we have the OMGIC moment, except this time it’s in Narnia.
Alex Ovechkin – Exhibit Three
Little known fact: Ovechkin is actually legendary Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin with bizarre magical abilities. In his extraordinarily long life, he has learned that the best conduit for psychic energy is vanilla wafers coated with caramel, peanuts, rice crisps, and chocolate. With this magic wand in hand, he is able to accomplish extraordinary feats.
But really, that’s just a terrible snap. That’s almost as bad as this David Baas atrocity. That said, David Baas got a 5-year, $27.5 million contract from the New York Giants this offseason. So there’s still hope for skinny, young Jonah Hill. Ladies.
Sidney Crosby – Exhibit Four
This is the Platonic form of OMGIC. It is the purest example of OMGIC that I have every seen. The entire concept of the commercial is OMGIC. Crosby is in a place he shouldn’t be – working at Sportchek – and the young lad and his father are completely dumbstruck by his presence.
They probably would have just preferred a signed picture. You can’t disappoint a picture.
Alex Ovechkin – Exhibit Four
This is the closest that Ovechkin gets to the OMGIC principle, but there’s just not enough OMG in the reaction to make it the same. “Late Night Filings” isn’t quite as classic as “Shots Vodka,” but it would make a great title for a highlight reel of Ovechkin goals.
This commercial takes place in a world where the Cold War never ended and ESPN keeps top secret documents in an unlocked filing cabinet in their main office. I think that’s the plot of a Tom Clancy novel, though the book is bogged down with dry, technical descriptions of Ovechkin’s hockey gear and the ESPN filing cabinet.
The most unrealistic part of this commercial is that it’s for ESPN.
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin – Exhibit Five
Finally, here’s proof that the two do their best work together. This is the best NHL commercial ever and should be the blueprint for future collaborations. I want to see Crosby putting a whoopee cushion under Ovechkin’s spot on the bench. Then Ovechkin will retaliate by tying Sid’s laces together. Then Crosby will fill Ovechkin’s hotel room with foam packing peanuts. Then Ovechkin will punch Crosby in the face because he’s unpredictable like that.