As per Puck Daddy, Alex Ovechkin has signed on-board with IMG (International Management Group). I see the first question, and to answer it, IMG is simply the largest sports marketing / sports agency in the world. They take athletes that become icons in their respective sports (Tiger, Kobe, Jeter, Federer, MJ, Gretzky, to name a few) and make them world wide icons. Ovechkin, like it or not, has transcended the game in a way that Sidney Crosby never can. Think about it, before the Rangers played the Caps in the playoffs, I loved Ovechkin. He’s electric on the ice, and electric off the ice, and has a great sense of humor.
Most won’t even care to know that Ovechkin has a new marketing company behind him. Alas, you should. Outside of the people who watch hockey, Ovechkin and Crosby are really the only two players that non-hockey fans hear about. Crosby advertisements have saturated mainstream media, and Ovechkin pretty much owns the highlight reels. But, unlike Crosby, and mentioned above, Ovechkin is just having a grand old time, and not caring who criticizes him for having fun. He is, in short, a hilarious superstar, and that is marketable.
So what does this mean for the NHL? Simple, you get the game’s biggest star, someone who can make a casual fan laugh, out into mainstream commercials. This leads to a recognizable face that represents the NHL (each of the aforementioned players represented their respective sport at a particular time. Ovechkin’s on-ice domination and off-ice demeanor draws more fans to the game, at least to see him play. Then a chain reaction occurs. People watch Ovechkin, are entertained by the game, and decide to see a game without Ovechkin. They like it, and become hockey fans. Popularity rises, TV ratings rise. Hockey becomes mainstream again.
Think it’s a tad of an over-reaction? Think one player can’t have that much of an impact on a sport? To that, I have two words: