Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Where's the NHL on SNL?

For my first post, I’d like to reflect on two things that I enjoy watching on a regular basis: Hockey Night in Canada and Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, these two programs usually conflict for my attention as the late HNIC game airs at the same time as SNL. This impasse perhaps explains why I’ve never seen an NHL player host SNL.

In SNL’s history, a total of 35 athletes have hosted. Given America’s greater enthusiasm for football and baseball, I’m not surprised to see that there have been 11 hosts associated with football and 5 associated with baseball (though counting Deon Sanders in the latter category might cause some controversy). Still, hockey players (who have only been represented by Wayne Gretzky’s single hosting gig in 1989) have been outperformed by professional wrestlers (4 hosts with seven appearances thanks to The Rock’s hosting hat trick), Olympians in general (3 hosts) and tennis players (2 hosts). This dearth of NHL hosts is surprising given their knack for acting—Brad Marchand, anyone?
In order to address hockey’s underrepresentation on SNL, I’ve made suggestions for three potential hosts below.

Let’s be honest. We rarely get an athlete who can be as funny as Peyton Manning in the United Way commercial parody or The Rock in the Nicotrel skit. With that in mind, it would be at least more entertaining to get someone who will keep us on edge with what might go wrong at any minute during a sketch.

Hosts that would appeal to New Yorkers

1. If the Rangers win the cup this year, my bet is that either Henrik Lundqvist or Brad Richards would host the following season. Both Rangers fill the stereotypes of the athlete host (a good smile and bland good looks), but Richards also speaks English with greater fluency than Lundqvist. Given that advantage, Richards is probably the safest bet to give an uneventful but pleasant performance.

2. Henrik Lundqvist: My hopes of having another NHL host rose when Lundqvist made a brief surprise appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon right after the 2012-13 work stoppage ended. He and his jam band (with John Mcenroe on guitar) might be better suited to appearing as a surprise musical guest on SNL, but if Lundqvist did get asked to host, he’d at least give some stellar pictures for the still images that bookend commercial breaks. His ability to pose for extended periods of time would also translate into a decent performance as one of the murderous animatronic Merryville Brothers in the amusement park sketches.

3. Martin Brodeur: Over the last few seasons, SNL has shown an interest in joking about New Jersey, and Brodeur would be the best NHLer to deliver some of those jokes tongue-in-cheek.  Maybe he couldn’t carry a full episode, but I bet his commitment to saving poor plays will translate to live television. Plus he could potentially scorpion kick a joke that falls flat.  

Hosts with Star Power

1. Sidney Crosby: He’s an undeniable star who has some acting experience (his Seinfeld pastiche was certainly amusing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp1DMQ-x33k). SNL could pick him as host for the same reason that they picked Gretzky: Crosby is arguably the best player in the NHL and will definitely attract an audience. Maybe he could parody his Dempster’s commercials (concussed by toast?).

2. Alex Ovechkin: While he may not be notching up points on the score sheet every night like he used to do, Ovi undeniably has star power. Like Crosby, Ovechkin has a lot of on-camera experience through advertising. Unlike Crosby, Ovechkin’s commercials tend to be (intentionally) funnier. And Ovechkin can deadpan as well as Walken. Maybe SNL could reboot a Christopher Walken character and cast Ovechkin as the Kontinental (Hockey League player).

Generally Entertaining/Unpredictable Hosts

1. Ilya Bryzgalov: His monologue would likely be the most unpredictable moment in SNL history. Even if he sticks to the script for that portion, there’s no telling if he’ll stray from the cue cards and adlib something that would strain the improvisational abilities of the cast. Potential sketch: Bryzgalov hosts a Brian Fellows-like nature show in which he offers Harry Carey-like non sequiturs on Russian animals (so he basically elaborates on his contributions to NHL 24/7).

2. Tim Thomas: The most available of the players mentioned, Thomas might be the best host to feature in an SNL 24/7. The Monday meeting with the cast and host might be particularly interesting. Okay, to be honest, I’m making this suggestion to pay back NBC for firing Norm Macdonald.

3. Don Cherry: I can face the fact that none of the suggestions in this third section of my list will make it on the air. But Grapes on SNL would be amazing. I’d watch this episode even if it were just a 90 minute Weekend Update segment in which Cherry commented on current events and tried to out-drunk drunk-uncle or traded tirades with the girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much every Coach’s Corner. Bonus cameo: in a parody of Coach’s Corner have Ron play Don and vice versa; it’d be funnier than that time Mick Jagger played Keith Richards.

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