Puck Daddy - NHL

"Saw V" was released in theaters today and ... well, the reviews haven't exactly been at "No Country for Old Men" levels.

But the flick, produced once again by Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner Oren Koules, isn't for the reviewers; it's for the horror fans who will be packing theaters tonight to see new and inventive ways of brutally murdering individuals with gruesome traps and games. We can taste that popcorn now ...

As we reported earlier, Koules and the Lightning are using goalies Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig as human billboards for the film, with their "Saw"-inspired goalies masks to be auctioned off for charity. We gave the Bolts a pass on this otherwise shameless promotion because of the charitable angle and the fact that the masks are pretty wicked looking. Other critics? Not so much.

During our weekly visit with Joe and Boomer on XM 204's NHL Home Ice (2:30 p.m. every Wednesday, so check it out), Joe Thistel made the point that the "Saw" movies aren't exactly intended for all audiences.

It's an interesting point: These masks could make it more difficult for a parent in that eternal struggle with young kids who want to see who want to see age-restricted films. Fact is that with the Internet and on-demand cable and a myriad of other media innovations, the parents are on their heels already. Professional athletes endorsing horror flicks probably doesn't help.

But the bigger gripes about the masks are focused on the fact that NHL players have been pimped out for an advertisement -- something we're all sort of worried about in the future -- charitable angle be damned.

Icethetics wonders if "Charlie Sheen wearing a Lightning jersey" is next in the pantheon of cross-promotion. But it was Eric Alt of the Maxim magazine movie blog who really drove the critique home:

For those who think, "So?" Ponder this: A-Rod stepping to the plate with a "Sex and the City" bat. Brett Favre tossing a "Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys" ball into the hands of Laveranues Coles. To put it simply - it's bad enough we get assaulted by endless ads during professional sports telecasts, no need for the players themselves to shill wares (and, at the same time, their dignity).

This is especially true of hockey. The NHL gets blasted for not promoting the personality of its players, and it's even harder for the goalies. Given the amount of equipment they wear, these guys are lucky to be recognized by their own family once they step out of the locker room. Their only means of self-expression are their masks, and now this is being taken away by greedy owners.

Know why Kolzig had Godzilla on his mask back when he tended net for Washington? Because that was his nickname, not because the Caps had a cross-branding deal with Toho. The Toronto Maple Leafs' goalie is called "Cujo" not to promote the recent 20th anniversary DVD, but because his name is CUrtis JOseph.

Are either of these gripes valid? Or, as a few e-mails sent our way have indicated, are critics just being unduly harsh because it's Koules and the Lightning?

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