An article was written yesterday on Bloomberg Businessweek’s website titled “The NHL’s identity crisis,” that discussed their yearly “Power 100″ list which uses the following criteria for determining an athlete’s “power”:

In addition to 2011 on-field metrics, total earnings, and social media presence, the ranking incorporates such off-field metrics as  athletes’ name and face awareness, appeal, influence, and  trustworthiness using Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score data from Encino,  Calif.-based research company E-Poll Market Research.  The ranking comprises only professional athletes playing in the United  States.

Trustworthiness!

On that list, hockey had only three names, which is apparently why we have an “identity” crisis. The other sports have many more identifiable guys, you see.

The good news: we’re just fine with that. Also, we’re used to it.

The three names on the list kill me – Jonathan Toews (69th), Daniel Sedin (76th), and Tim Thomas (86th).

First off, how is it feasibly possibly to have one Sedin on the list? They are The Sedins, inseparable, and if my memory serves me, identical twins with consistently identical stats. And to pick the one that hasn’t won the Hart Trophy as League MVP…I’m confused.

Next: no offense here, but Jonathan Toews is just about the least interesting players in the League (though one of the more awesome dudes on-ice, so it’s cool he got a mention).

And Thomas…yeah. He should be on there.

But this is the thing about the NHL’s “identity crisis” that people outside of the hockey community often don’t seem to get - our identity is that “nobody is bigger than the game.” We’re a “we,” all of us. Personally, I take some pride in the fact that we succeed without names on that list.

The article does go on to note:

The league generated a record $2.9 billion in revenue last season, a 7.4 percent increase from 2010, and expects to set records for both sales and attendance this season. The jump is attributed to new sponsorship deals—including 25 companies represented at the Jan. 25 All-Star Game—and growth within the league’s merchandising and licensing divisions. “More national business partners than ever are activating NHL-themed ads,” league spokesman Frank Brown wrote in an e-mail.

As much as the NHL used to love having Crosby and Ovechkin to push (neither of whom made the list), we really don’t need them to be successful. And that’s not to say we don’t want them at their best, it’s just…the game is as good as it’s ever been. We don’t rely on stars the way other sports do.

We don’t need a team to be the Lakers, Yankees or Cowboys either.

We just need hockey. That’s our identity.

Comments (6)

  1. Hear, hear! Well said.

  2. “We just need hockey. That’s our identity.”

    Good post but, whilst agreeing with the above captioned, I disagree with the premise that there is no identity issue though I wouldn’t, perhaps, call it a crisis. The question is, “What IS hockey?” One school of thought has it that hockey needs brutal physicality above and in addition to the base hockey skills. Another school of thought values speed and manual dexterity as the core physical attributes of the game. The former feels that to accept the position of the latter would eliminate the physicality that defines the game for them and thereby alter the game unacceptably. No hit hockey, they call it. The latter believes that removing the option of a player to target an opponents head or to drive a defenseless opponent into the boards and to outlaw the bare knuckle fighting so beloved of the other school of thought, would not mean an absence of all physicality but would increase the safety of the players on the ice and reduce the risk of serious injury to an acceptable level. (In physical games an element of risk will always exist. Accidents happen.) Until the question of what the game is going to look like going forward is resolved there does, and will, exist a query about the identity of the game.

  3. “The rankings comprises only professional athletes playing in the United States”

    I’m confused, when was daniel sedin traded to a US franchise??

  4. While I agree with the general sentiment, that type of thinking led the NHL to plummet in the overall consciousness (or, more accurately, stagnate while the NBA soared) during the 80s.

    At the end of the day, only the NFL can get away with the league being more about the uniforms than the players in them. And even then… Tim Tebow sure didn’t hurt.

  5. What? The NHL being about the uniform? I disagree with that premise entirely. I can name almost as many quarterbacks than players on my home team and I don’t pay more than a passing interest in football, especially at the NFL level. The NFL brass wish individual players didn’t garner so much attention but thats only because the names only come up in criminal reports and major unsportsman/behavior fines.

  6. Our identity is that “nobody is bigger than the game.”

    EXACTLY. It’s better this way, in my opinion. Not that it’s terrible to have a couple incredible players high above the rest, ala Gretzky or Lemieux. But this way, you don’t have marketers shoving the same few guys down your throat, year after year. And it forces people to look at the teams, and to appreciate the teams, more than they might otherwise.
    Hockey players are just different anyways. Would a guy like Giroux get any attention in the NBA? He’s appreciated and praised in the NHL for his talent….he doesn’t need to be a larger than life personality and talent. The Sedins, Crosby, Stamkos, Datsyuk, Thornton etc…all ‘stars’ but they don’t court attention. They’re not flashy.

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