How Anthony Duclair Can Change Hockey

Image Credit: Anthony J. Causi;

What a crazy headline. Perhaps I’m baiting you to read this, because talk about hyping up a guy who hasn’t even played one second in the NHL yet. Over the course of sports history, there have been more Ryan Leaf’s than Peyton Manning’s. The emotion of being excited in sheer ecstasy, while cheering our favorite teams and athletes on, is why we are fans. If things work out right, Anthony Duclair is about to gain a huge fanbase soon.

If you’re not familiar, Anthony Duclair is a 19 year old kid out of Montreal, Canada that was drafted 80th overall in the 2013 NHL draft by an original 6 team, the New York Rangers. I can spare you the several paragraphs of what it means to play in NY, the sports capital of the world & where the media is at its most intense.

Duclair, playing for the Rangers affiliate, the Quebec Remparts, of the QMJHL, scored a hefty 50 goals last year and was named a First Team All-Star at only 18 years old. To put it in perspective, Duclair was born when Derek Jeter was taking his first at bat, in August of 1995.

Duclair has excited Ranger fans this preseason, scoring a goal in nearly every game he played and bringing a sense of vigor, unbridled enthusiasm and energy, to what has been an elder statesmen team.

Will Duclair be the next Rangers mega-star, akin to Henrik Lundqvist, Brian Leetch, Rod Gilbert, Andy Bathgate, Frank Boucher, etc? Only time will tell. However, if he can be as good as the hype and if his play carries over from what Ranger fans have seen already from his junior hockey & preseason games, the NHL may be on the receiving end of a huge financial & exposure boom.

It is no secret that the NHL is considered the fourth most major sport, and in some places the fifth. (NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA Football, NHL.) Many sports media outlets barely give it a byline. It took the Rangers to make the Stanley Cup for New York’s number 1 sports media figure & the icon of all sports radio, Mike Francesa to even talk hockey. Hockey has done itself no favors with the lockouts & a poor commissioner, but I have addressed that already in a previous article, here at

So why do I think a 19 year old kid from Canada can become the sports number 1 megastar? It’s not because he’s another Canadian player in the league. It’s not even because he’s a French-Canadian. Simply, he’s a black French-Canadian. For the NHL, this black kid from Canada can become green real fast.

Image Credit: Bruce Bennett;

The NHL is predominately a white mans sport, full of Europeans, Canadians and Russians. It has a miniscule black fan base scattered across the country. Hockey just lends itself better to Caucasians because in some countries, it is the only sport they have. In America, we have many options and for parents trying to make ends meet, hockey is a very expensive sport to have your child play, with the costs of equipment, rink time, traveling, etc. Anyone can pick up a basketball, football or a glove. It’s not the same for hockey.

Hockey has had black stars over the years, but never has there been a black superstar playing in a major market in America. For the NHL to have a potential one in New York City, this can be the time to get African-Americans into the sport.

Nationality & supporting your own has always been a huge and important issue to people. I mean, just look at the Olympics, that’s what it’s all about, people competing and cheering on their own. There is a reason why blacks voted more in the history of the country when Obama ran. They voted for Obama in record numbers, just because he was black and not because of any political party devotion. I mean, do you know any black people who cared about golf until Tiger Woods took over? It is the same principle of Dominicans supporting their Dominican players in the MLB. Japanese people flocking to the MLB over players like Matsui, Ichiro, Tanaka, Nomo, etc. Remember Linsanity? And before him Yao Ming? Linsanity took over the NBA and was all over the media for a month until the Knicks foolishly let him go. Yao Ming generated the NBA billions of dollars in China with TV deals, marketing, etc. If Duclair can be as good in the NHL as he has been everywhere else, he can possibly create a surge of a whole new fan base, the African American market.

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When Sidney Crosby was about to enter the NHL draft, the hype was all over the place. Except for injuries and choking in the playoffs, he has lived up to expectations. The NHL even protects their golden goose through officiating. Rules were changed to help increase scoring to help Crosby. However, Crosby, while a league star, never was able to brand himself and the sport in a way a Derek Jeter, a Michael Jordan or a Peyton Manning did, despite being the best. However, Duclair doesn’t have to be the best. He just needs to perform at a high level.

The NHL needs to try to increase scoring. If a 19 year old kid, can take the league by fire & he’s black, the NHL will get new eyeballs watching them. Especially in NY. With the baseball teams done & not great to be begin with, the Same Old Jets, the terrible Knicks, all NY fans have left are the NY Giants. But what about day-to-day? That is where Duclair can make his case.

I am putting way too much pressure on Duclair. We’ve had the Great White Hope in the NBA, but can the Fresh Prince of Duclair be the black jeebus of the NHL? For hockey’s sake, I hope so. For the Ranger fan in me, I fucking hope so! I am not trying to overhype the guy and saying he’ll be the next Gretzky, but there is a ton of potential in the kid and he can potentially draw the NHL tons of money. Sure it means that means the NHL can raise ticket prices even more, but it’s good for the sports overall exposure.

Black or white, Duclair is a good hockey player. I hope he becomes a megastar with that blueshirt on. Facing facts and reality, if Duclair surpasses expectations, we might see more hockey jerseys in the streets. The NBA has cornered the African-American market, changed their marketing to embrace it and has made billions off of it. They might have to start sharing the pie one day.

Anthony Duclair, being already affectionately named The Duke by Ranger fans, (Shirts are already being made by, soon to be copied by knockoff WeBleedBlue.comscab sites), can always wind up being chronically injured, involved in an NFL type scandal, or just being a bust. I’m excited as a Ranger fan. He hasn’t even played one game yet, and I already have him as the black Gordie Howe. I do not mean to cast insane pressure or speak in hyperbole. I am pointing out that we may not be too far off from a black-golden period for the NHL.

I bid good luck to Anthony Duclair. Playing in the biggest sports market, for an original 6 team fresh off a Cup run at only 19 years old is a rough & difficult task. As a Rangers fan, I hope he kicks ass and takes not only the Calder award, but the Hart award too.

Keep your eyes open people, we might not be too far off from young people & black people trading in their Lebron James & Kevin Durant jerseys for the Rangers #63 jersey.

The old joke used to be, “Do you know why black people hate hockey? Because the only thing black in hockey is the puck & that gets slapped around.” Hopefully the new joke will be, “You don’t watch hockey, why, because you need your athletes to have rap sheets?”

Sign me up for the Duclair fan train. First stop, right above Penn Station, the next, only time will tell.


Sean McCaffrey

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