Hockey Needs A Scandal

This NHL off-season has been pretty typical. Lots of excitement around the draft and July 1, with the vast majority of the moves being made in a two week span. The lone exception was the Ilya Kovalchuk episode that we have all been strung along by.

Not only did he take the longest of any of the big name free agents to sign, the impending debacle between the league, the Devils and the Players Association has been the only source of excitement for hockey fans this summer. While it has taken a lawyer to figure out the intricacies of what exactly is being disputed between the parties, the most exciting news comes every few days when reports leak that the Devils have submitted a new contract to be approved by the NHL.

This is hardly the kind of excitement that hockey fans are accustomed to, as actual player movement between teams can at least create excitement for two teams, rather than simply between one team, the league and the union.

A few days ago, there was an email that was circulated to NHL media types which alleged that Sidney Crosby was involved in Tiger Woods-like actions. While the source of the story does not even deserve to be mentioned, it created a mini buzz amongst hockey bloggers and members of main stream media were at least made aware of the story going around.

Despite the fact that there was absolutely no evidence that such actions by Sid the Kid actually took place, it created a buzz that hockey is not accustomed to. While those involved in scandals never enjoy how they play out, there is without question a buzz created around all those affected in a way that few headlines can match.

If you check the daily headlines on TSN or ESPN, especially in the summer, they are mostly about injuries, contracts and suspensions. Very little of what happens in the sports world in the summer has to do with action on the ice, or on the field of any sport besides baseball. So while Tiger-esque scandals drag the name of those involved through the mud, it may be exactly what hockey needs.

There is no question that hockey has struggled to grow as a mainstream sport in the United States, with the expansion into the South seen as nothing short of a failure in many non-traditional markets. But there is one thing that a sports scandal never fails to do, and that is creating interest among those who do not typically follow the sport involved. Hockey is rarely the subject of water cooler talk outside of Canada, and amongst women it is discussed even less.

No one ever imagined that the Tiger scandal would reach the level that it did, but when he finally returned to golf, there was an enormous buzz surrounding him, with the most unlikely of fans tuning in. Imagine if Crosby or Ovechkin were involved in something half as scandalous and headline grabbing as Eldrick. This is not something that I would wish upon anyone, but in a weird way, it could save hockey in America.

Hockey players, aside from Mr. Khabibulin, have had much fewer run ins with the law then those in the other major sports, so the likelihood of a player committing a major crime is unlikely. Furthermore, legal scandals lack the excitement that moral scandals do. Everyone had an opinion on what Tiger did, and that differs from the way legal proceedings pan out. When someone breaks the law, it is fairly cut and dry, but with moral issues, it creates discussion and interest.

The reputation of “hockey boys” is well known to most, and it is surprising that more scandals involving hockey players have not bubbled to the surface in years past. But if there ever does come a day when serious allegations are brought forth against a player, with proof to back them up, it could mean big things for the league publicity wise.

We live with a 24/7 new cycle that has become completely digitized, therefore the likes of TMZ and other major tabloid publications would be all over such a story. The closest thing that the league has come to a scandal in recent years was Sean Avery’s reference to his “sloppy seconds”, he was resultantly cut from the Dallas Stars, so it is tough to say what kind of impact this scandal would have on the player(s) involved and the league as a whole.

But it might just be what the league needs in order to become relevant to those who are simply not familiar with the game of hockey. Those who do not follow any sport or aspect of society simply require a touchpoint which they previously lacked in order to familiarize themselves. If someone who does not regularly follow hockey is exposed to such a scandal that they have a strong opinion about, they are more likely to have an interest in the player, team and sport as a whole.

With more players utilizing social media, and with everyone having camera phone, the likelihood of such a situation taking place is on the horizon. It will now be interesting to see how it plays out in the media.

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Filed Under: NHL

About the Author: Student, aspiring writer/journalist, sport enthusiast, Copper and Blue in my veins. Check some of my sports ramblings at http://twitter.com/LD10.

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