First there was Tebowmania, now we have Linsanity. The sports world has been swept up by these cults of personality in the span of just a few months. But is such a captivating success story possible in the NHL?
First of all, we must differentiate between Tebow and Lin. Both have had enormous success for their respective teams, but the only thing that is really similar about their story is the way in which the media ate it up.
So considering the lack of mainstream coverage of hockey in the United States, is it possible for a player to create the hysteria that Lin is riding upon right now? It seems unlikely, but the lack of coverage may be exactly what is needed for a player’s success to get the legs that it needs to go wild.
What we need first is a player to achieve significant personal success on the ice. It cannot be from a player that we expect it from, as that is quite simply, boring. So we need someone to surprise us with their performance over a sustained period of time.
Sam Gagner came close. He had eight points in one game, even though he didn’t actually. Then he had three straight points in his next game. He popped a few more goals in to make it seem like he was still on fire, but he could not sustain it.
Thinking about it, is it even possible for a player to have as much as an impact in hockey as a basketball or football player is? If you compare all of them, a high-end forward will play upwards of twenty minutes in a game. A point guard in basketball can play ninety percent of a game while a quarterback plays about half a game.
So for one individual player to have the type of impact on a game that Lin and Tebow have had is actually rather difficult. There are the Malkin’s and Giroux’s out there, but they do not surprise anyone with the way that they play. We need a feel good story to come out of the woodwork to become an elite player in the league.
Additionally, personality needs to shine for this player. Something that is not quite tangible but draws people in from walks of life that would normally not be interested in hockey. It cannot simply be a good player that no one has heard of, a la PA Parenteau. We need something else.
Does this need to be religion? Race? Sexual orientation? I imagine that if an openly gay player was in the NHL, no matter how good they were, it would create quite a media circus. It is a matter of time before a major athlete comes out and it is not inconceivable to predict that it could be a hockey player.
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