One amusing aspect of Stanley Cup coverage each year is the race to become the marketable media darling for the playoffs - the player who can put a face on the game for time being and sell it to anyone who might think of watching.
Previous playoffs we've seen Jarome Iginla and Martin St. Louis get tapped on the shoulder to carry the weight into the soon-to-bury-the-league lockout. Last season you had Doug Weight, a late-season acquisition and never-won-it-before veteran as well as then rookie netminder Cam Ward carry the banner for Carolina while Chris Pronger was again being lauded for being Mr. Everything and in this case, Mr. Edmonton - genetic populator of the Great White North.
Now that we're in the Final Four stage (perhaps Final Three after tonight) the faces have come forward from all the teams.
Let's take a brief look at one of the guys we're sure we'll see a lot more from in the next week or two. In Ottawa you have enigmatic goaltender Ray Emery. The last time you saw him get headlines it was also against Buffalo but it was after laying waste to now exiled to Philadelphia goalie Martin Biron in a light scuffle and then tangoing with Sabres hired goon Andrew Peters, all while laughing the whole way.
Seriously, I think this guy is The Joker because he feeds off this kind of stuff. After all, he did have Mike Tyson on his mask for a day - that is until politically correct gurus stepped in and made him change it. Luckily for the P.C. Patrol, Emery lost the game he started with that mask and didn't feel bad about ditching it. Besides, he's got Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Jack Johnson (the boxer, kids, not the singer or L.A. Kings defenseman) on his helmet as it is, I still wouldn't mess with the guy.
All of that stuff aside, Ray Emery is proof that the league knows nothing about how to market their personality-ladened players.
Let's face it, generally, hockey players are pretty bland interviews unless you're dealing with someone like Sean Avery, Matthew Barnaby or Brett Hull and getting to see the real personalities of most players is difficult. Hockey players are a rather insulated breed really only showing off to their teammates or close friends and coaches.
However, when you've got a guy like Ray Emery who takes bets from his teammates about whether he'll eat a cockroach or have him arriving on game days to the arena looking like he does in this video...well, really, how do you NOT push this guy to the front more often? Perhaps with Ottawa's and ultimately Emery's success we'll see that change.
Don't expect me to hold my breath on that one though. That said, I'll be pulling for Buffalo tonight so that we can at least get a full weekend of hockey on NBC. If Ottawa finishes things off tonight, NBC will be left with Detroit and Anaheim's Game 5 on Sunday. Let's face it, the league could use the extra exposure on American national television. Perhaps we can get Bill McCreary and Kerry "V05" Fraser put on the orange armbands tonight and then fight each other over who gets to hog camera time and help Buffalo as much as possible.