All Stars embracing entertainment side
NASHVILLE — The stigma around hockey players among the sports world surrounds their reserve personalities. That also what makes hockey players down to earth and some of the most humble athletes around.
Lately, however, there have been a few players that have embraced the entertainment side in this social media day and age. From P.K. Subban stylin and profilin like Ric Flair — minus the trademark robe — to Brent Burns’ wild side and even Brad Marchand, a few of hockey’s best have brought a unique side to their outgoing and humbling personalities.
The fun, entertaining and humble trademarks were front and center in Saturday’s Skills Competition. Beginning with the red carpet and continuing through the breakaway challenge some of hockey’s best, notably Burns and Subban, took center stage and showed their light-hearted personas.
From Subban dressing like Jaromir Jagr to James Neal feeding country star Dierks Bently on a 2-on-1 to Burns putting on the Chewbacca mask and Burns’ 4-year old son putting a smile on everyone’s face, there was something for everyone in the 17,006 in attendance at Bridgestone Arena to enjoy.
It also helps the players take a breather of the grind that is the 82-game NHL regular season.
“I think it’s great. I think, you know, social media now taking off it’s crazy,” said Burns.
“I think with the grind of the year, it kind of wears you down, and it’s tough. It’s important to have fun and get back to just the passion of the game. All of these players in here have unique stories in their own right, so it’s important to see that side of that, and, you know, a couple of years ago, guys wanted to keep quiet and stay out of that light. But it’s good [now], I think it’s only helping everybody. It’s good for the fans to get into that and see guys and feel that they know guys a little better [off the ice].”
The All-Star game is a great platform to showcase the players’ lighter side and give the fans something to cheer about. It also showcases that the game has come a long way in the social media era.
Fan interactions have never been higher. Players, while still keeping their family and other factors of their lives behind the scene, have never been more approachable. They are also appreciative of the feedback and support that they receive from the outside world.
“We do participate in what we call sports entertainment,” Subban said. “There is that side of it. By entertainment, if you mean engaging with the fans and being someone that isn’t afraid to do that, then yeah, I’m that guy for sure, because I was a fan.”
At times, embracing their role as entertainments take players back to their days as a kid. Looking up to idols like Ray Bourque, Wayne Gretzky, Niklas Lidstrom, Steve Yzerman, Bobby Orr and countless others brings back joy and other positive emotions.
Giving back, like All Stars that came before them, are equally important to today’s crop of elite players.
“Before I played in the NHL, I was a fan of players like Steve Yzerman, Niklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, these type of players who had long careers. So, for me, from a fan standpoint that they want to feel like they know you and want to interact with you,” Subban noted. “And I think that’s what we try to encourage as players and what the league is trying to do is encourage players to not be afraid to interact with fans, and, you know, be in the fans comfort zone.”