Earlier this NHL season, Don Cherry ripped into the Carolina Hurricanes for elaborately celebrating victories. He quickly dubbed the team “a bunch of jerks” and set off a debate about whether or not the Hurricanes’ actions were fair play.
As much as some of us disagreed with Cherry’s opinions, the comments grew into a sizeable news story. Sure, it’s not likely the type of league publicity that brings a smile to Gary Bettman’s face, but as they say, any press is good press.
This week, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty sparked his own firestorm ahead of a game against the Western Conference powerhouse, Calgary Flames. When asked about Flames agitator and steady point producer Matthew Tkachuk, Doughty responded:
“No respect for him, none. I respect everyone else. I’ll never talk to him off the ice,” said Doughty to Sportsnet reporter Eric Francis.
He continued: “Right when [Tkachuk] came into the league obviously his plan was to try to get me off my game and at times it worked. But I’m used to it and know how to deal with it. He’s entertaining for you guys, but he’s not respected by most of the people in the league, it’s not just me — that’s just a fact.”
In defense of Doughty, Tkachuk viciously elbowed him in the face in 2017, which resulted in a two-game suspension. I guess it’s fair to understand Doughty’s displeasure.
Later during the same pre-game media availability, Doughty was asked his opinion on the Norris Trophy race for top D-man in the league. As he praised Flames captain Mark Giordano, he threw San Jose Sharks rival Brent Burns under the Zamboni.
“Giordano has (72 points) and he plays good defence…Burns get beat three times a game, literally, and everybody has him up for the Norris. I just don’t get it,” offered Doughty.
Of course, like in the case of Cherry’s comments regarding the Hurricanes, Doughty’s opinions became a broad subject of discussion. Some chose this as a moment to determine whether it’s appropriate for players to call out an opponent through the press.
To me, the NHL needs more of these Doughty-esque comments. The hockey season is long, and by the time March rolls around fans have heard enough about “just doing what we do,” “getting the puck in deep,” and “focusing on our own game.” Modern fans should want the type of heat Doughty brought, and so should the NHL.
In an era where digital content and social media is flowing out into the world with tsunami-like force, it’s more important than ever for players to let their personalities shine – even if that means critiquing fellow players.
Look at leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and to a somewhat lesser degree, Major League Baseball (MLB). Throughout their seasons, players are unafraid to offer an individual opinion that may not leave everyone in the room comfortable.
But, these players with very personal opinions help keep their league, team, and brand in the headlines – they create some juice. As long as the criticisms or opinions offered don’t go down an overtly hateful or threatening dark road, have at ‘er.
I know hockey is generally a very conservative sport and players are taught from a young age that it’s all about the team. On the ice, of course everyone should be moving in the same direction.
However, if a player has something outside of the cliché playbook to say, they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and give the public a meaningful perspective to hold on to. It’s time for more players to channel their inner-Doughty.
The Fan Auctions specializes in auctioning authentic sports and entertainment memorabilia.
Join us on April 2, 2019 at 9pm EST for the launch of Auction 42!
Until then, we do encourage you to visit our online Marketplace.