A Hair-Raising Way to Grow a Legacy

By Jason Menard

José Théodore, congratulations, your potential for public shame has just turned into the potential for a few extra bucks in your wallet! And considering Théodore’s level of pay lately, he may need to start milking that cash cow sooner rather than later.

The Habs netminder’s agent should be on the phone contacting Merck today, if not sooner, to start angling for an ad campaign. With Josés flowing locks, matinee-idol good looks, and general personability, he’d be a natural in the line of Habs Who Schill.

Yes, the Canadiens franchise has spawned a few players who have gone on and benefited from their on-ice exploits to become lucrative off-ice pitchmen. It is a line that started with arguably the greatest Hab of all time – Maurice Richard.

Who of us of a certain age could ever forget the winsome smile of The Rocket as he glided up to the boards, looked into the camera, and said “I leave a touch of grey on the side – my wife likes it.” As a Grecian Formula pitchman, Richard’s visibility grew amongst an entirely new generation of hockey fans.

And it’s that return to relevancy that can take icons to immortal status. Legends are only as legendary as the level of reverence that the current generation holds for the individual. As time passes, subsequent generations are quick to dismiss the exploits of our forebears as evidence of a poorer quality of play, less-athletic competitors, and a lack of technological savvy.

A player like Maurice Richard continues to be relevant in large part due to his on-ice exploits and the oral history passed on from one hockey fan to another. But the impact of the visual representation through these advertisements can’t be diminished. Still not convinced? Two words: Bob Uecker.

Uecker is known more for his Miller Lite acting prowess than anything he did behind the plate. Which brings us to our next Hab to grace the small screen – Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion.

A Hall-of-Famer in his own right, Geoffrion often gets lost in the discussion of great players from his era. Arguably the originator of the slap shot, his accomplishment is frequently overshadowed by Bobby Hull’s proficiency and role in popularizing the shot. But what can’t be forgotten is Geoffrion’s Miller Lite commercials appearing in the late 70s and early ‘80s. His brand of humour and accessibility resonated with an audience that was far too young to consider drinking.

Is it fair to say that Geoffrion’s star shines brighter than even his own father-in-law, Howie Morenz? While Morenz remains an icon to hockey historians and enthusiasts, the average fan is more familiar with Boom Boom than the Stratford Streak (or Mitchell Meteor – we don’t want to engage in any municipal favouritism). Why? The power of advertising, that’s all. For a man who was once known as the Babe Ruth of Hockey to be overshadowed by his formerly beer-shilling son-in-law, accessibility has to be a significant component of the equation. The demographic that grew up watching Bernie and Maurice on the small screen selling product instead of firing pucks at wary goaltenders is now the one that’s defining the direction of hockey. Those between the ages of 25 and 40 are the demographic that the networks cater to – and, in large part, we are the demographic that’s the caretaker of our legends’ statuses.

Obviously, this is not just a hockey issue. Look at the NFL’s John Madden. His fame arguably has exceeded that of the legendary Vince Lombardi, not because of his coaching exploits, but due to the fact that millions of money-earning (and spending) fans grew up and continue to play the video games that bear his name. Media makes superstars – and the savvy athlete knows when to strike while the iron is hot.

Which brings us to Théodore. With a Vézina Trophy behind him, he’s already proven his prowess between the pipes. Although struggling through a tough season now, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t return to his former glory. And, when he does, his legacy can be cemented with a few, tongue-in-cheek, self-referential advertisements, the memories of which will live on long past the time that he hangs up his skates.

Now’s the time Théo – after all, you know what they say, hair today, gone tomorrow.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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