The annual poll that the National Hockey League Players’ Association has conducted the past few seasons frequently results in a few raised eyebrows. With nearly 600 players participating in the 2019-20 edition, fans get a peak behind the curtain and into the minds of the world’s top hockey talent. It’s the access into the lives of these individuals that people crave — even more so now that it’s almost been three weeks without NHL regular-season action due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The poll’s results were broken into three sections: On-Ice, Off-Ice and Arenas & Teams. After reviewing the numbers, here are some of the most interesting and amusing things I took away from the collected data.
On-Ice: McDavid king, Price is still right
It should come to the surprise of precisely nobody that has ever watched an Edmonton Oilers game that Connor McDavid — McJesus himself — garnered nearly 69 per cent of the 556 votes cast for ‘Best Forward’. Few categories were won as decisively as this one. Sidney Crosby placed second with just short of 15 per cent of votes.
McDavid also finished fourth in voting when players were asked “of all players past or present, who would you pay to see play?” Considering only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux received more tallies, that’s quite the compliment for the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner to toss in his back pocket.
What surprised me, though, was the respect players still have for Carey Price between the pipes. Don’t get me wrong, the Montreal Canadiens goaltender is still undoubtedly one of the best in the game. However, it’s no secret that the performance of the team in front of him and his numbers have slipped during the past few seasons.
Therefore, the 32-year-old taking the ‘Best Goalie’ crown so convincingly with over 41 per cent of the votes was a bit of a shock. Andrei Vasilevskiy — a man that has been a win factory for the Tampa Bay Lightning — finished second with 17 per cent. More mind-blowing than Price’s dominance, though? Sergei Bobrovsky ending up in fourth place despite posting a 3.23 goals against average and .900 save percentage in his first 50 games as a Florida Panther.
If that category is any indication, players aren’t looking too deeply into the numbers when it comes to the netminders they’re facing.
Brad Marchand being named both the league’s best and worst trash-talker for the second year in a row should bring a smile upon many faces. Drew Doughty finishing second in both categories was also fantastic. This type of snarky, lighthearted behaviour from the voters is what we need more of!
Nick Cousins of the Vegas Golden Knights coming in fourth in the worst trash-talker category was interesting, though. Despite the fact he’s played over 300 regular-season games in his NHL career, the bottom-six forward just isn’t someone that is mentioned very often in hockey circles. Therefore, it must be top priority to get this man mic’d up once play resumes. For Cousins to collect as many votes as he did, something must be up.
Off-Ice: Sooonk and Socially Silent Superstars
I was overjoyed to see Keith Yandle get the love he deserves as he was named the ‘Funniest Player’. When the puck drops, they don’t come much more rugged than the 33-year-old Florida Panthers defencemen. It was only a few months ago that he took a biscuit to the face during a game, lost nine teeth and returned a period later.
That mentality is a big part of the equation when it comes to his current consecutive games played streak. The owner of the longest active iron man streak in the NHL at 866 straight contests, Yandle sits fourth overall in league history and just 99 games away from breaking Doug Jarvis’ record of 964.
He brings the same tenacity and commitment when it comes to the elaborate pranks he pulls on teammates. A frequent guest on Spittin’ Chiclets — a hockey podcast starring former NHLers Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette — Yandle and his older brother Brian always come through with hilarious stories for listeners to enjoy. In fact, it was likely players tuning into the podcast that resulted in Yandle getting nearly 18 per cent of the vote.
As for the individual without social media that players wish to follow, Crosby grabbed nearly a quarter of the nods. There are few superstars in the sports world that lead more private of a life than the man that was also voted the league’s most complete and clutch player. Obviously we all want to see what makes the two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner tick. But, is he really the player not on social media that others want sharing what they’re up to?
Joe Thornton — one of the league’s eldest statesmen — finished second in this category’s voting. While the stories that have emerged about the 40-year-old’s relentless work ethic and passion of the game are legendary, he’s shown plenty of personality in the past — especially during that series of commercials he did alongside teammate Brent Burns.
Once (if) he ever decides to hang his skates up, we can only hope he decides to join Twitter, Instagram and/or TikTok (the future is now, people). There’s something simply fascinating about that man, and I know that something extends beyond his extraordinary beard.
Arenas & Teams: It (Still) Me
One of the few categories won by a bigger landslide than Connor McDavid in ‘Best Forward’ was Gritty in ‘Best Mascot’. The orange beast may be the league’s newest entry, but he continues to raise the bar when it comes to hijinks. A big part of that is his successful presence on social media. Additionally, have you played as Gritty during a game of NHL Ones on NHL 20? He’s a unit out there — an absolute wrecking ball.
It’s no wonder he earned nearly 70 per cent of the votes submitted. To put that number into perspective, Gnash of the Nashville Predators and Howler of the Arizona Coyotes tied for second with 2.8 per cent.
When it came to best visitors dressing room, Rogers Place — home of the Edmonton Oilers — came out on top with almost 40 per cent of the votes. That’s not all that surprising, though. The facilities are gorgeous and the ice was voted second-best in the league. Only the playing surface at the Bell Centre (home of the Montreal Canadiens) scored better.
While trying to shut down both McDavid and Leon Draisaitl would be a nightmare, there would be something calming about walking into a snazzy dressing room knowing you’re going to be firing pucks at either Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith that night.
(Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that those two are playing well this season and that was an unnecessary shot. I’m just curious to see who actually read this far.)
More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports