November 6, 2012

Original Six: Most electable NHL players

By Jesse Connolly

In honor of this month’s presidential election, we’ve decided to have some fun and mix politics with hockey. No, we’re not going off our rockers here and pulling a Tim Thomas. Instead, we’ve hand-picked six NHL players and assessed how they might fare if they ever decided to run for office. Some have what it takes to do great things, while others would likely drive this country straight into the ground. Without further ado, here’s our ballot (falling chads sold separately):

6. War wager:
Zenon Konopka | Minnesota Wild

If Zenon Konopka ever climbs the political ladder, one can safely assume that World War III is in our immediate future. The well-traveled enforcer has placed in the top three in penalty minutes in each of the past three seasons and drops the gloves with just about anyone who makes the mistake of coming within 20 yards of him on the ice.

This guy won’t just get your average bullies like North Korea or Iran riled up. He’ll find a way to start a border war with Canada, make England hate us again and maybe even contemplate conquering the ever-so-neutral country of Switzerland. Konopka’s fists are dangerous enough. Let’s be smart and never give him an army to wreak havoc with.

5. Born to run (for office):
Keaton Ellerby | Florida Panthers

From Millard Fillmore to Rutherford B. Hayes, some politicians are simply born with it. No, we’re not talking about greatness. We’re referring to names tailor-made for a career in politics. A number of NHLers possess this trait but made the unfortunate mistake of becoming pro hockey players, rather than ambassadors or city councilmen.

Keaton Ellerby, a defenseman for the Florida Panthers, takes the cake. The Alberta native’s name evokes thoughts of a hot-shot lawyer in 19th century Tennessee, decked out with a stylish top hat and a silver pocket watch, who relied on his Southern charm to win over the minds of juries and the hearts of the people. Can’t y’all just picture him whistlin’ “Dixie” all the way to Washington?

4. The bumbling bureaucrat:
Ilya Bryzgalov | Philadelphia Flyers

You can slam George W. Bush for his political missteps all you want, but the man at least deserves some semblance of credit for inventing words on a near-daily basis. Shockingly, there’s a goaltender by the name of Ilya Bryzgalov who’s just as gifted when it comes to illogical ramblings that leave the press scratching their heads.

If ever elected, the Flyers’ nutty Russian netminder would likely compare Ann Romney to a Siberian Husky, focus too much on saving tigers from extinction, ask the unemployed masses why they “heff to be mad” and presumably suffer a nervous breakdown during an important meeting — the direct result of letting his mind wander and contemplate just how “humongous big” the universe is.

3. Mr. Mayor:
Shawn Thornton | Boston Bruins

There’s being beloved, and then there’s the mutual adoration between Shawn Thornton and the people of Charlestown. The Boston neighborhood, which has long maintained a strong Irish American population, has proven to be the perfect place to call home for the Bruins winger since he arrived from Anaheim in 2007.

Through and through, Thornton is a man of the people. He mingles with the locals, frequents the town’s businesses and has involved himself with a number of endeavors aimed at improving the community. Unfortunately for No. 22, the position of mayor of Charlestown was axed nearly 150 years ago, but there’s no doubting that Thornton would win in a landslide if the job was ever re-established.

2. The lush legislator:
Patrick Kane | Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago is no stranger to producing controversial political figures. Just visit former governor Rod Blagojevich in prison if you need proof. The city also has seen many of its sports stars land in hot water. The most recent is Patrick Kane, whose drinking exploits have made him a human punch line.

A slew of embarrassing images of the inebriated star surfaced this summer, as the Blackhawks winger again made a fool of himself during a bender in Wisconsin (thankfully no cab drivers were injured). The Buffalo, N.Y., native denied having any alcohol issues. Come on, Patrick. If the first step toward recovery is admitting the problem, how could we ever count on you to help turn this country around?

1. The go-green candidate:
Andrew Ference | Boston Bruins

For our “Hangin’ Out With” feature, I used to ask Bruins players which teammate they’d pick as their running mate if they ran for president. Andrew Ference was the runaway winner in the popular vote.

The eloquent alternate captain is an off-ice innovator who has created a carbon-neutral program for the NHL, shared his ideas as an environmental activist at national conventions, dedicated hours toward bettering communities and become synonymous with an eco-friendly lifestyle that’s earned him the nickname “Captain Planet” among fans. As an Alberta native, Boston’s worldly blueliner wouldn’t be eligible to become U.S. president, but there’s no doubt the widely respected, electric-car-owning rearguard could one day hold office if he wanted to.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Jesse Connolly is the Bruins beat writer for New England Hockey Journal and is the editor of hockeyjournal.com

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com