More than ever, the professional sports world focuses on personality to help sell their products. In the hockey business, that’s been tougher to do thanks to a culture that discourages individualism in the name of team success. But the NHL still has a number of vibrant personas who’ll be worth keeping an eye (and an ear) on in 2014-15. Here are the top 10 hockey personalities this season:
10. Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils. The veteran winger has filled notepads and digital recorders all across North America because he’s an intelligent guy with a healthy sense of humor and good head on his shoulders, and he understands that having opinions and showing the public he’s more than a hockey automaton won’t affect his on-ice performance. Here he is on the Canadian TV comedy series “Mr. D.”:
Cammalleri deserves kudos for putting himself out there. That said, let’s have a moment of silence for that charm now that he’s signed on with the Devils, who are the Bermuda Triangle of personality.
9. Jaromir Jagr, Devils. Yes, I also can’t believe two Devils are on this list. But Jagr is still one of the game’s great characters. He’s capable of going off on a hilarious tangent at any point, but he can also speak with tremendous insight about the game and his experience playing it:
Soon enough, the 43-year-old will be retired and back in his native Czech Republic. Enjoy him while you can.
8. Paul Bissonnette, UFA. The former Coyotes enforcer has made a name for himself via his exploits on Twitter and social media:
You’ll want to follow him if you enjoy watching athletes smack down internet trolls, because few do it better than Bissonnette. He’s unsigned for the coming season, but people will appreciate him regardless of where he plies his trade.
7. Dustin Penner, UFA. He’s still looking for a new team, but Penner will never lack for personality. As he points out on his Twitter account, the two-time Stanley Cup champion loves his humor and isn’t afraid to engage fans who lip off at him – or his own teammates:
And if you see he’s done an interview, go out of your way to read it. Few NHLers are more descriptive.
6. Brian Burke, Calgary Flames. Burke isn’t Calgary’s GM and won’t be in front of microphones and cameras every day, and the hockey journalism world is poorer for it. Whether or not you agree with him, you have to give Burke credit for his passion and his status as the greatest analogy generator of his generation. And on the irregular occasions he does speak out, we’ll be expecting more pearls like the ones he’s given us over the years:
5. Ilya Bryzgalov, UFA. After his debacle in Philadelphia, it was debatable we’d ever see the eccentric goaltender in the NHL again. But after availing himself well later in the regular season last year with Minnesota, it’s no longer out of the realm of possibility he could play in hockey’s top league again. As long as he’s not officially retired, Bryzgalov has to be included in any discussion of the NHL’s most colorful people. Exhibit A:
4. Joshua Ho-Sang, New York Islanders. It’s not often an NHL rookie makes a list like this, but Ho-Sang is different. He’s exceptionally skilled, but also fearless in speaking his mind. Some in the hockey world clearly think this is to his detriment, but there’s nothing wrong with a young man who has confidence in himself and isn’t willing to melt down his personality as so many organizations demand. Does this type of person look like he’ll hurt a team?
To their credit – and likely, to their on-ice benefit – the Islanders didn’t think so, drafting Ho-Sang 28th overall in this summer’s entry draft. The 18-year-old has a lot of growing to do, but let’s hope it doesn’t come at the expense of his candor.
3. Rich Clune, Nashville Predators. Through his Twitter account and his public appearances, Clune is proving an NHLer’s personality can be used for laughs and for healing: he’s been open about his battle with alcohol abuse and is perfectly prepared to confront empathy-deficient fans:
Clune isn’t going to be a superstar on the ice, but he’s already miles ahead of many of his NHL colleagues simply by having the courage to be himself off of it.
Part of the appeal of Luongo’s account is he still hasn’t got his name on it. Of course, he has acknowledged he's the man behind the magic:
1. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens. Regardless of the obstacles that have come his way in his burgeoning professional hockey career, Subban has maintained his smile, his professionalism, and most importantly, his natural charisma. The contract he signed with Montreal this summer might cause lesser men to turn all their focus inward and shy away from the public eye, but Subban is already seeking out loftier heights with his team and making appearances across the cultural spectrum – including Montreal’s annual comedy festival (featuring some NSFW language from actor Seth Rogen):