How did the NHL lose touch with my generation? When I was in college, EA’s NHL games were more popular than Madden; they boasted the easiest controls and the most fluid game play. And people were learning new names (Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic and Sergei Fedorov), while playing with established greats (Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman). Hockey was on the verge of a breakthrough.
Fifteen years later, the league is a mess. Sidney Crosby may be the goods, but he hasn’t captivated the imagination of fans outside of Pittsburgh; meanwhile a big market team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since the New Jersey Devils knocked off the (No Longer Mighty) Ducks of Anaheim in 2003. The NHL is in as much jeopardy as any of the four major professional sports leagues have been in my lifetime. Give it ten years, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the league dialed back by half (there’s no way they’ll sustain thirty teams for another couple of years).
Give me the Mike Myers of eight years ago, and I could definitely entertain the notion of him saving professional hockey. But this is 2007. Hockey is lost to the Versus network. That pansy sport soccer is making inroads. Bob Probert is retired. A wacky comedy (i.e. The Love Guru) with Myers playing an American raised on an ashram does not strike me as a viable road back to popularity.
But when you throw Justin Timberlake in as the villain, it’s possible that hockey could benefit. JT will be playing the rival of Romany Malco, whom you know and love from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Timberlake’s character lures away Malco’s wife (as yet uncast, but I’d recommend Kerry Washington), which necessitates the intervention of Myers’s self-help guru. You’re right, this movie could just as soon kill professional hockey as save it.
The Love Guru is set up at Paramount and scheduled for a summer 2008 release. Hopefully, it’ll coincide with another low rated broadcast of the Stanley Cup Finals. Look, I love the sport, but it’s been run aground by a lousy commissioner. Deal.