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Vulgar Opinions: Richard Sherman And Hockey

01/20/14

@FriedgeHNIC In the world of @NHL we have measures that force someone like to behave with class!” – NHLer Krys Barch

That is an unfortunate and somewhat ironic choice of words from someone who was disciplined by the NHL for making racially charged comments to P.K. Subban (which were, if you believe him, made ignorant of their racial context).  And if you’re one of those hockey fans that stays the hell away from football (and I don’t blame you), here:

When approached with a little more time to cool down after making what may be the best play of his NFL career (and certainly is to date), Sharman was understandably more collected:

And Sherman was even better in his weekly column for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback portion of Sports Illustrated, as you would expect an articulate communications graduate pursuing a Masters from Stanford to be.  The question, now that we’ve come this far, is what does this have to do with hockey?

I can’t honestly remember a post-game hockey interview I enjoyed that didn’t involve John Scott dancing half naked in a fur coat, a golden helmet, or a pigeon.  I can’t remember many memorable hockey interviews at all, and maybe this NFL interview will become lost to time, but mention Dennis Green, Herm Edwards, Jim Mora(!), or Mike Gundy to any football fan and see if their memories are jogged.

Hockey fans will tell you that the game itself is entertaining enough to not need any extracurriculars, but they’re liars (and surely not Devils or Rangers fans).  And while it is true that hockey, with it’s almost constant action, really doesn’t need sideshows like cheerleaders or bizarre turkey trophies, it does benefit from the personalities being allowed to shine.  Unfortunately it exists in an “old school” mentality that any semblance of personality takes away from the team as a whole and you get interviews from players like Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews or Jason Pominville that are so bland they might as well be broadcast in black and white on a TV that weighs 200 pounds and is the size of a fridge.

I think it was Jerry Seinfeld that remarked with the constant roster-changing that occurs these days, all you’re really rooting for as a sports fan is clothes.  And while the fact that a player might be here today, gone tomorrow would seem to work against me, I would argue that it’s doubly important to know and appreciate the faces under the helmets when they might so soon be gone.  This isn’t the 70s, 80s, or even early 90s where information was funneled to us from few sources and where staying in your hometown was more of a thing.  We need a better reason to become connected to a team than “I was born near there.”

Hockey doesn’t need a culture that censors a Richard Sherman, it needs a Richard Sherman, someone who is all at once brilliant, and willing to talk, and hey, also really, really good.  (Fittingly enough, the closest thing we might have to that is Ryan Miller.  Suck it Canada.)  Hockey likes to put itself on a pedestal, but since when are self-censorship and conformity and dishonesty pedestal-worthy qualities?  Are we to believe that you can’t use your confidence, your brashness, your willingness to speak, your personality, and yes your very famous face to better a locker room?  I call bullshit.


That’s the sort of thing that has been previously thought to divide locker rooms.  What else has a deep desire to not rock the boat gotten us?  Willie O’Ree debuting in 1957, a full and embarrassing 10 years after Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field in America’s other “preserve tradition at all costs” sport.  It’s gotten the NHL zero current LGBT athletes.  Outside the locker rooms, the NHL has had three European Conn Smythe winners and one European referee.  That’s embarrassing.

More to the direct point, players like Alexander Ovechkin and Linus Omark and Tomas Hertl and Artem Anisimov are essentially told to be less fun to watch.  Jesus Christ NHL, you’re not here to proselytize whatever you think are virtuous qualities and you’re not here to produce role models, you’re here to entertain us.  Let your players be role models if they want, and if they want to be loudmouthed jerks (note: highly subjective anyway), then let them be that too.

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