I think the offseason withdrawal has hit me particularly hard this summer. Can't say I know why.
You may or may not have noticed that no one on the Chronicle staff has yet talked about Patrick Kane's greedy and demented attack on a Buffalo cab driver. Not sure why this is, either. If the cabbie's account is true then Kane is a douchewizard, but then again who really knows? Even the cab driver's lawyer says things have been blown out of proportion. Whatever the truth of the Kane-kills-cabbie incident, this is a good time to wonder about one of hockey's central myths: that hockey players are "better" people than the scary blinged out hippity-hop thugs of other sports.
James Mirtle wrote a fine post about it a few days ago in which he confessed that he still likes to think of hockey players as somehow less horrible than other athletes, however contrary to reality this view might be. I'd say hockey players probably aren't as intolerable in their personalities as many of the more famous football, baseball, and basketball players, much nicer and more pleasant and such. But any notion that they're somehow more moral than players of other sports seems pretty delusional. Plenty of hockey players are good people who don't assault aged cab-drivers, of course, but the NHL isn't anywhere near as squeaky-clean as it presents itself, or as its fans imagine.*
Which can sometimes be just dandy. The "hockey players are different" myth is a close cousin of the "hockey players are boring" fact, so in too many cases we get the worst of both worlds: players that do obnoxious and sometimes horrible stuff off the ice with mind-numbingly bland personalities. Patrick Kane certainly isn't bland, of course; as SamFels at Second City Hockey says, "Another [myth] is the portrayal of Kane as some sort of sweetheart. Please. If you've paid any attention over these two years, it was obvious that Kane was a cocky little twat (and I loved it). He's not out to take your daughter to prom."
Part of Jeremy Roenick's quixotic mission was to make the NHL a bit edgier and more interesting, and sometimes that entailed being a cocky twat**. Not sure if he succeeded in his quest, but there are plenty of players these days who I enjoy quite a bit because they can be obnoxious and arrogant. Ovechkin is one (remember this?), though he doesn't seem like a dick as a human being. Kane is another, even though he's clearly a dick. Kovalchuk isn't as blatantly cocky as he once was, but he's still massively arrogant. He simply controls his pride's more juvenile manifestations better now. Still comes out in his violent outbursts though; the guy's extremely touchy, and he has a serious temper on the ice.
From everything I know about him off the ice, though, he's (amazingly) not only not a dick but actually kind of a decent and admirable human. But then again, who knows? For all I really know he keeps a private gulag in his backyard.
What exactly am I trying to tell you here? To go read the posts at Mirtle and at Second City Hockey about how hockey players are really all murderous ice demons, no matter what those terrible Lord Stanley's Summer documentaries on the NHL Network try to tell us. Seriously, have you ever seen one of those? They're a real vision of hell: nothing but lakes, autograph-signing, very flat land, and "Well it was a team effort."
Happy Friday, everyone.
*The element of race can't be ignored here. It's just a fact that (in the US at least) lots of hockey fans think hockey players are white-as-snow because they're literally white-as-snow.
**Ever noticed that the expression "cocky twat" SOUNDS great as a description of a disagreeable person, but is in fact the perfect verbal picture of the hermaphrodite?