Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hockey cards, Hair, and Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

This morning was doing a bit of a walk-down memory lane at my parents’ place and came across an old treasure - my hockey card collection. When I was about 3 or 4, I would lay on the floor, line up 5 players on either side, grab two pencils for nets and a marble for a puck, and have a hockey game with the cards. I battered up a lot of cards – some of which are being sold for $500 on eBay (when they are in mint condition). Personally, I’d rather have my “worthless” battered cards with my memories.

Looking at the cards today, there are a few fun anecdotal observations about players that I am going to share today. Be prepared, today’s entry is content lite with a whole lotta of sugar.

1. Players today are a lot younger. Players back then were a lot older. We can all think of reasons why this is (faster game, more games wear out the old guys faster, more injuries etc.) but check out how old some of these guys look. I intentionally took cards from the same season to emphasize the point.

2. Back then, a lot of players had more colourful names. Buzz Bol, Turk Broda, Butch Goring, Chico Maki, Bobby Schmautz, and Dino Ciccarelli. I think the modern NHL and NHLPA marketing has lost something here. Unusual names like these can help with memorability of the individual player, the relevance of the player to the fan (e.g. the “renegade” Butch Goring) and the likeability of the player (e.g. Dino Cicarelli’s name sounds so cute, doesn’t it?) For the last 15 years the NHL has had a lot more players with European names that are tough (if not impossible) to pronounce. But even so, a little marketing acumen could go a long way. Just think of Myroslav Satan who has the phonetical pronunciation “Shat- tan”. I mean really, the guy’s career has been with the New Jersey Devils. Tons of marketing opportunities around this guy that have been left in the dust (or ashes).

3. The hair, moustaches, and sideburns were a lot better back then. This is only partially a joke. Ever since the NHL introduced the helmet requirement (and players starting using visors) each individual player has become a lot less identifiable. Compare this to football where players wear helmets but take them off on the sidelines- or basketball where the full head and face is always exposed. Cameras get a lot better shots of these players. As a result, there is more exposure to each individual- and better quality footage. I’ll argue that bushy-haired Troy Polamalu would not have gotten the Head and Shoulders endorsement had he been wearing his helmet all the time. The NHL players’ association would be well advised to find more opportunities for their players to have more visible hair, moustache, and sideburn time. Check out some classic looks of the past- from Bobby Clarke's toothless smile to Lafleurs flowing and balding locks- from Ramsey's lambchop side burns to Rick Hampten's unibrow.


  1. The old tymers also had more honest player stats. I love watching the junior hockey and hearing how all these 16 year olds are 220 lbs. HA!

  2. Thanks Bob for posting. Refreshing post about hockey and marketing. Concerning your second point, I think some organizations and some players are missing the point. They should capitalize on some players uniqueness. Nice examples include George Parros facial hair with the Anaheim Ducks and Mike Commodore's red hair with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But that's nothing compared to Baseball "closers" like Brian "fear the beard" Wilson, preceded by guys such as Eric Gagné, Dennis Eckersley and Rod Beck. What about Troy Polamalu hairs in football that are now part of a Head and Shoulders campaign?

  3. I never thought about the helmet thing and while it does not feel very good in my gut, I think you are right.