NHL wins and sins: Gritty, Tom Wilson's brain, fashion shoots and Fortnite bans
Hockey season is here and things are very weird already
With a new NHL season upon us, we're debuting a new weekly installment highlighting what's right and what's wrong with the NHL during every week throughout the season. For all the things there are to love about the NHL and its product, there's also plenty to hate and plenty to criticize.
With that in mind, let's hash it out together ... right here ... every single Wednesday.
What's right: Hockey's back
There's nothing quite like the start of the NHL season. There's so much promise and potential in the air with a full season's schedule ahead of us. Everybody's tied for first place with at least a little bit of hope (except the Senators), nobody wants to jump in front of a bus due to a inconsequential offside ruling,
Tom Wilson hasn't tried to murder anyone yet and everyone is united in their excitement for the sport. It's a wonderful 15 minutes.
What's wrong: 'Fortnite' bans
'Fortnite' somehow became a dirty word in NHL circles over the summer. There's apparently so much fear that the popular video game is a tool of distraction that junior league teams are warning prospects to not post about it on social media and, as of this week, it has been officially banned by at least one NHL club.
The "Fortnite" craze is real, but gaming isn't really a new hobby or trend among athletes, including hockey players. Many current NHL players are upfront with their love of gaming and it doesn't seem to be hurting them too much. I'm seems rather much that it's being blacklisted in a league of adult men.
But I guess I can see where the Canucks are coming from. It's time for this generation's younger players to turn off their consoles, step out of their hotel rooms and follow the path paved by footsteps of former NHL superstars. Booze and drug-fueled benders are a much healthier and safer alternative than a late-night Fortnite sesh on the road.
What's right: Gritty
Obviously. No hockey mascot has ever captivated and stunned an audience quite like Gritty, at least not since Scorch killed a first responder and literally danced on his grave.
But Gritty ---- had a far better and less murdery debut week. The horrific 7-foot tall walking nightmare became an instant superstar on the NHL circuit.
Not only did Gritty spend his first week presumably robbing thousands of youth hockey fans of their innocence, he also became the NHL's most-followed mascot with over 100,000 Twitter followers (thanks in large part to masterpieces such as this), was the subject of national headlines (including a segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver) and even got in his honor.
In fact, Gritty might actually be the NHL's biggest star as the new season kicks off. That's not even a joke. I actually think the league's current poster child is a 7-foot tall Flaming Hot Cheeto from Hell. Starting to rethink the idea that this is a positive.
What's wrong: Tom Wilson
Or, more specifically, Tom Wilson's brain. The season hasn't even started yet and the controversial Capitals forward is thanks to an ugly hit he thew during Washington's final preseason game. Wilson injured St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist with a high hit in open ice and was tossed from the game.
As a result of that dangerous hit, Wilson was. It's Wilson's fourth suspension in 105 games (including preseason and playoffs), which the league called "an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the league's Department of Player Safety." Like, that's an exact quote from his official suspension video. Not great!
It's frustrating that Wilson keeps putting himself in this situation because he's a decent player who plays with an old-school edge; he loves to hit, be physical and dole out punishment. Those traits that still have value in today's NHL, as evidenced by Washington's run (and Wilson's role in it) during last year's playoffs. But this isn't the same league that let Scott Stevens skate around nearly beheading players on a regular basis.
With all the concerns of CTE and the lasting effects of brain injuries that have been raised recently, the league is (supposedly) trying to crack down on dangerous hits, especially ones that are delivered high. Too many of Wilson's hits (like the one on Sundqvist, and) have ventured too close to the "dangerous" and "predatory" classifications and, despite the frequent punishments, he doesn't seem to be getting the message.
Nobody is trying to tell Wilson he can't play physical, but he needs to be smarter about picking his spots and better about being in control. The reckless abandon that he plays with is not only jeopardizing his own standing in the league, but more importantly it's jeopardizing the wellbeing of the guys who he shares the ice with. He needs to learn how to reel it in before it's too late.
What's right: Fashion!
The NHL may not be the most fashion-forward league (there are reportedly multiple grown-ass men who have established a habit of pulling fully buttoned dress shirts over their head) but it appears they're at least trying. Both Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews were the subject of GQ stories last week, and the photoshoots were pretty great and/or hilarious.
People seemed to particularly love this outfit from Matthews, which was best described as "Bill Cosby meshed with Carmen San Diego chiq.".
Whether or not you swipe the fashion stylings of these young stars, it's nice that they're getting some exposure and scoring culture points for the league.
What's wrong: Beardless Joe Thornton
Over the past couple of years, Joe Thornton's "lifestyle beard" has become the stuff of legend in the NHL. That legend is no more, though, as Sharks came together as a team to shave it off at a season kickoff party this week.. To be more specific, the
As a result, Thornton is heading into the new season looking like this.
I can understand why Jumbo wanted to get rid of it. It's a lot of work to maintain a beard that glorious, and it doesn't come without its hazards --. Thornton's also endured knee surgeries in back-to-back years, so he's probably trying to do anything he can to rediscover a bit of youth and start fresh. Plus, his wife wanted him to shave.
But I don't care what Thornton or his wife want. I care what I want, and it's not this. This is weird and I hate it.
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