Hockey has a problem when it comes to advertising their players. Despite the action on the ice and the game developing and evolving to become more spectacular, there is little or no reason to follow the players off the ice. However, the younger generation looks like it has something not even the older generation has, personality. Anaheim Ducks star Trevor Zegras looks to lead the next generation in making the NHL have more personality.
Trevor Zegras, the star.
Zegras is not a player you can easily just ignore. He’s an artist and an entertainer with the rink has his canvas and his skill as a stage. When he plays there is a level of creativity that no other player thinks of trying. It doesn’t matter if you like him or dislike him, he is a player that is in the conversation.
Sports usually rely on some sort of moment. The Golden Goal, Miracle on Ice, etc. These moments help tell a story and build bonds with a player or team. Earlier this year Zegras had his moment when he creatively passed the puck over the net and into the Buffalo Sabres goal. The goal itself has millions of views on social media and even had actor Jordan B. Michael share the goal on his Instagram stories.
He has continued to impress in his rookie year by putting a show at the NHL All-Star Game and doing a Michigan against the Arizona Coyotes at the end of the year. Despite all his big moves, he is just a fun player to watch and it’s evident that he puts a lot of emotion into his game. It’s hard to see his game and not feel some sort of emotion whether it be interest or unpleasantness because of what he is doing against your team.
Off the ice as well Zegras has shown more than others. Usually, in scrums with the players, they give out robotic answers. “Get the pucks in deep,” or “Have to play a full 60 minutes.” It’s so robotic that most casual fans can probably recite the answers before they happen.
Zegras has given those types of answers as well but one interview, in particular, showcased why he is interesting. In a post-match scrum, he voiced his opinion on where the Coyotes’ Jay Beagle hit Duck’s Troy Terry after the whistle was sounded. In the post-game scrum, he was angry but poised. You didn’t get a typical answer from him, you got what was on his mind and he was angry at Beagle but it never felt like he was unhinged.
He is a player that knows how to articulate himself without media training involved and in a league without a lot of personalities, it goes a long way.
Despite his moves gaining traction for the league, there has been pushback. Hockey is still dominated by old heads that are still coming to terms with what hockey is turning into. It went from a tough sport where fights were the norm to a sport that rewards skilled, creative and talented players.
That is not to say that the sport isn’t still physical, but the focal point has changed a lot at the top level.
When Zegras’ big move against the Sabres had been criticized by former NHL coach and current ESPN host, John Tortorella and said that moves like his weren’t good for hockey. Even recently Coyotes colour commentator Tyson Nash said that Zegras deserved to be hit if he, “skilled it up.”
Zegras is doing something that Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews don’t do a lot. He is pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable in the NHL. In a league that punishes individualism and follows a strict culture that needs to be approved by older heads, he is challenging those standards every time he gets on the ice.
As such those older heads get uncomfortable when he does anything new. They don’t know how to react and as such respond by trying to push it out. What they don’t see is that the league that catered to their opinions and styles of play is dying out. A new league with much more talented and creative players are starting to take a hold of the sport and thus will bring a new age that the league desperately needs.
The need for better advertising.
The sport is changing and it needs to develop alongside today’s culture. The NBA is a great example of a league that has grown and advertised itself and the players well.
Even if you don’t know basketball that well there is a great chance you know Lebron James. Like him or dislike him there is a fact that you probably have an opinion on him. The NBA has marketed as their superstar and has reaped the success of doing so.
If you ask the opinion on McDavid, usually what will come up is that he is the best player. The conversation starts and stops at his game. He never dances around controversy; he never says anything that moves the needle. He does what older heads around the Edmonton Oilers say and that is a disconnect for a lot of people.
I am not saying McDavid needs to be a personable person, but there seems to be an awkward conversation with hockey fans that think just because he plays the best, means that he is the best person to advertise the sport.
Anaheim isn’t a big market, and because of that Zegras doesn’t get as much attention from Canadian media. Canadian media has a lot of older heads that will pick apart him. He has the freedom to do as he pleases, unlike McDavid or Matthews who have some of the strictest media around.
Zegras isn’t the most skilled player in the NHL but he doesn’t have to be. He has done things not a lot of players can say they have. His highlights get watched a lot and he creates a buzz that no other player has done. It’s crazy to think that even with so much to talk about, we are only in his rookie season.
He has a lot more seasons and hopefully, the NHL will pick up that he could easily be the next face the league needs.
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