I have a gripe, if I may, with the way NHL players conduct themselves in public. After attending practice last week, the Caps were very loose out on the ice, with players cracking jokes and smiling all practice. This was highlighted by a "brawl" between Alexander Semin, and Olie Kolzig, with Johnson coming over to help his partner out. This of course lead to Alexander Ovechkin coming over to help out. As a result we had a mid-ice scrum between Alexander Ovechkin and Olie Kolzig. Words cannot describe the comedy of seeing Alex trying to pull Olie's jersey up over his goalie mask to block his vision. So it was good to see the players relaxed and happy in front of the fans.
Jump forward 20 minutes, the players are coming out of the locker room to sign autographs. They are cold and distant to the fans. Signing everything politely, but not smiling, not even for photographs, warily suspicious of their own fans. Even jovial characters like Olie Kolzig and Alex Ovechkin remain stoic in the face of their autograph seeking fans, even after these fans have waited over an hour to get their signature.
Now I completely understand why the players are reserved. It's easy for one of these fans to go home, take a quote out of context, post it on a blog or message board, and suddenly someone is very upset. Take the following quote said by an imaginary player: "Teammate Y plays a great game in the open ice, but if there's an area he needs to work on, it's his toughness in the corners and along the boards." Now, suppose some ignorant person goes home and posts on a message board, "OMG! I was just at practice, and Player X said Teammate Y isn't very tough!!!!1 LOL!" I'm sure it's happened before, I'm sure something like that will happen again, and it's unfortunate.
There are certainly fans that the players will open up in front of, those that are able to build a relationship with the players, those that the players can trust, much in the same way reporters have to build their relationship with their contacts, but these fans are few and far between.
I don't like that players are afraid to talk in front of the fans, looking grim and emotionless, but I'm sure they are taught to act that way by someone, be it their agents, veterans on the team, the NHLPA, or even management. It's far too easy for some idiot fan to go home, and post something for the world to see that isn't quite true. And the fact that the players aren't even allowed to be themselves in front of their own fans makes me cry inside.