McDavid growing into standout role

McDavid growing into standout role

By Ian Thomas, Staff Writer


McDavid with the awards he won last season: the Ted Lindsay Award, the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy.
Connor McDavid
Center, Edmonton Oilers

Jeff Jackson
Partner, Orr Hockey Group

 Following an early morning appearance on the “Today Show” in Manhattan, Connor McDavid was whisked back to NHL headquarters a few blocks away. His afternoon included dozens of interviews with media outlets, a chat with Commissioner Gary Bettman in his office, and having his face scanned by EA Sports for its NHL game (guess who’s on the cover). While he was in New York for a few days, there wasn’t much time to rest, with visits to NBC Sports’ studios in Stamford, Conn., and shooting promotional images with Fanatics and Adidas also on the schedule.

To say the 20-year-old Edmonton Oiler has a chance to be the next face of the NHL is an understatement. He has been viewed as a generational talent since he was 14 growing up in Ontario, was drafted first overall by the Oilers in 2015, and named the youngest captain in NHL history a year later.

While an injury limited him to just 45 games his rookie season, he took the NHL by storm last year, becoming the third-youngest player to lead the league in points — bested only by Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP and the Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player, as voted on by fellow players. In July, he signed an eight-year, $100 million extension with the Oilers, making him the league’s highest-paid player.

Jeff Jackson, McDavid’s longtime agent and a partner at Orr Hockey Group, said that while it’s hard to make comparisons to NHL legends so early in a career, “his quiet burning desire to always want to be the best player on the ice is going to make him a very marketable player for the league and his own portfolio.”

Like most NHL players who are conditioned to tout the name on the front of the jersey as opposed to the back, McDavid is modest when asked about his marketing potential and if he views other young, popular athletes like Odell Beckham Jr. and Kyrie Irving as peers.

“Hockey is in a little bit of a different position because all of the other sports have such great big personalities and they live a little bit more freely and openly, while hockey is a sport where players are a little quieter and reserved. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s the way it is. Big businesses that are looking for faces of their brand, they’re looking for big personalities that are out there all the time, and hockey players really aren’t that,” McDavid said. “The sponsors and the networks are the things that bridge the partnership between the players and the fans so that makes it important and there is a responsibility to do these kinds of things, but at the same time the focus is on being a hockey player and managing that time.”

Jackson said the sponsorship focus with McDavid thus far has been to work with a select number of big partners as opposed to spreading him across a number of deals. He has deals with Canadian bank CIBC, Rogers, CCM and Upper Deck. He also has a multiyear partnership with Adidas, and is the face of the brand’s push into hockey.

Some recent spots have allowed McDavid to show more of his personality, such as a CCM YouTube series that shows him competing in on-ice carnival games and a video promoting “NHL 18” by EA Sports where he argues for being on the cover in a series of disguises.

“I’ve seen a real evolution with him in the last six to eight months as far as taking on more of that responsibility as being one of the players who are becoming the faces of the league,” Jackson said. “Part of that evolution is just being more comfortable with being singled out, and with hockey players in general, they view it as a team sport and that’s the way they think. It’s always a bit of a tug-of-war for guys to go against that.”