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Playing Dress-Up

02/11/2015, 10:30am CST
By John King

Man-of-the-match awards keep things fun while building team identity

The Tour de France has the yellow jersey. The Masters has the green jacket. The Kentucky Derby has the roses. Recently this left me wondering if the great sport of hockey could benefit from more man-of-the-match or girl-of-the-game wearables of its own.

Sure there’s some of it in the game already. Many youth hockey teams have been known to pass the familiar hardhat traveling trophy to the player of the game. In Europe the leading scorer wears a different colored and sponsored jersey and helmet. And a few NHL teams including the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks have raised the stakes playing dress-up with their player of the game awards. Capitals players don an Abe Lincoln beard and top hat and the Blackhawks a WWE-era championship belt in the locker room when they’re deemed best on the ice that night.

Recently I had a good friend ask me for some help coming up with an overall theme for his Peewee team and corresponding man-of-the-match award. We explored a few different approaches including biker gang and Hawaiian.

Ultimately the biker gang theme was deemed to be too aggressive for a Peewee team, but it’s worth sharing. Inspired by the popular cable show Sons of Anarchy, the biker gang theme would have the player of the game presented with a black faux leather vest. While a little pricier at $69.99, the SOA vests can also be adorned with “Men of Mayhem” patches which characters on the TV show get when they’ve “shed blood in the interest of the club.” Hey, I said it was a bit aggressive!

The Peewee team who consulted me eventually settled on a Hawaiian theme. Deciding the surprising combination of ice hockey with tropical island vibes created good energy all around. The player of the game award was dubbed “The Big Kahuna” and that player was given a Hawaiian shirt in the appropriate team colors to wear.

An added benefit of the Hawaiian theme is it allows coaches to channel their inner Brian Wilson on the bench saying beachy but cryptic things like, “Surfs up boys!” and “Aloha, it means hello and goodbye!” Add in some fish taco fundraisers, Jack Johnson pregame tunes, paddleboard off-ice training, and you’re officially on the island! Bonus points if you can get Willie Nelson, Laird Hamilton or Woody Harrelson to be your team manager.

But somewhere in the middle of my victory lap for coming up with the idea for the Big Kahuna I stumbled upon an even more interesting man-of-the-match concept from the Park Cottage Grove high school boys’ hockey team. The player of the game for Park wears a head-to-toe brown sweat suit. Yes, precisely that sort of Tony Soprano jumpsuit that makes you think a hockey bag isn’t the only thing in the trunk of their car.

But here’s where Park breaks new ground and potentially evolves the concept to new and dizzying heights. The Park player of the game not only gets awarded the brown sweat suit, they have to wear it to school the day after the game. After hearing about the sweat suit traveling trophy being worn to school I was immediately reminded of United Parcel Services’ famous tagline, “What can brown do for you?”

After seeing a few pictures of Park players wearing the sweat suit, my answer is a resounding, “A lot! Bravo, Park Cottage Grove! Bravo!”

What’s your team’s man-of-the-match award? Tell us on Twitter at @mnhockeyjournal and on our Facebook page.

Tag(s): Issue Archive  February 2015