Endorsing products has been a part of being a top talent in the NHL for nearly as long as the league has been in existence. Advertisers want the star power of hockey players, even if the low-key personalities of those players don’t make them natural public pitchmen.
Although some players do well in the role, more often than not, NHL players hawking products on TV is an exercise in embarrassment. In reverse order, here are the five most embarrassing TV ads featuring NHLers of the modern era:
5. Adam Oates goes dating for the NHL. When he was a member of the Boston Bruins, Oates inexplicably said yes to this commercial, which paints him as a lovelorn hockey star wearing his equipment in a restaurant, as as lovelorn hockey stars are wont to do. From the unfortunately-phrased “loose rebounds” comment to Oates’ weirdly shame-ridden “It wouldn’t be the first time” answer to getting shot down, this ad doesn’t make you want to buy an NHL ticket. It makes you want to sign him up for eharmony.com.
4. Lanny McDonald loves fur – and his wife does (a little too much), too. Whether you like fur coats or not, you have to be uncomfortably amused by this 1983 ad, which features McDonald and his wife Ardell promoting a Calgary fur company. The high point (or the low point, depending on your perspective) comes at the end, when Ardell McDonald tells her husband he’s been replaced by a fur coat. Lanny’s pained reaction is the same reaction we all have.
3. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, phone weirdos. It’s tough to pinpoint the most disturbing part of this smartphone ad. Is it the opening scene, where Toews gives a young woman a creepy side glance, then takes a picture of her food (!) to send to his friend and teammate Kane for evaluation? Is it when Toews tells the woman, “Wow, I have one really funny friend!”, and then “proves” it by showing her a Kane selfie pic? Is it the fact they’re having a back-and-forth conversation on their phones, only to later surprise the world, M. Night Shayamalan style, by revealing they’ve both been in the same restaurant all along? Is it the unnerving leer Kane ends the commercial with? Let’s call it a four-way, unnerving tie.
2. The New York Rangers: tight jean models, male Rockettes and abysmal singers. I don’t care what the rationale was for making Ron Duguay, Phil Esposito, Anders Hedberg and Dave Maloney part of this ad for Sassoon jeans that came out in 1979. Whoever gave them the advice to sing, skate, swivel their hips and dance like this should never be allowed to advise athletes again.
1. Hey Mario? Please put down that kid. The Penguins had the best intentions when they trotted out young superstar Mario Lemieux for this 1984 ad promoting a life-sized Lemieux poster night against the Canadiens. But I can’t tell you how disconcerting it is to watch a smiling, non-verbal Lemieux pick up a young boy at the 17-second mark and then do nothing but hold him at eye level while the two gaze into each other’s eyes for the next 13 seconds. By the end, I was screaming, “Mario! Personal space intrusion alert, Mario!” All kids want to meet their idols, but not like this.