The NHL has never been considered a hub for progressive thinking, but on Tuesday it reportedly reached a new level of obtuse.
Rick Westhead of TSN reports that a number of OHL prospects have been advised to remove all references to Fortnite because of concerns at the NHL level.
Now, digging too deeply into this, it’s worth remembering that this is just one report and it refers to “some” teams. So, we’re not talking about everyone here.
That said, the fact that this notion exists at all among any top-level NHL decision makers is baffling, and, frankly, idiotic for a number of reasons. Those reasons include, but are likely not limited to, the following:
1. This is nothing new
Fortnite is a smashing success, and a true cultural sensation, but it’s nothing new. It’s the most popular “battle royale” game, but far from the only one, and in more general terms online shooters have been popular for years.
There are no characteristics of Fortnite that make it significantly different than what’s come before, except that it’s probably gotten more mainstream media attention.
2. There’s no difference between gaming and other hobbies
Really the other thing differentiating playing video games from another leisure activity is that it’s more particular to a younger generation. Even that’s probably an unfair stereotype at this point.
No one is going to be concerned about players reading, watching Netflix, or practising the mandolin. Instead, Fortnite and gaming has been singled out by people who do not understand it because they have not participated and hold a negative opinion borne out of ignorance.
In theory, any activity that takes time away from playing hockey could be a concern to NHL teams, but it’s not realistic to expect young players to dedicate every waking hour to honing their craft. They are going to have other interests, and what form those interests take doesn’t matter (within reason). Even if a team is worried too much time spent with sedentary activities like gaming could affect a player’s fitness, they will have the opportunity to have that player do a variety of tests at the combine.
Here’s a guess: some of the most in-shape prospects in hockey play a lot of video games and some of the one’s that need to improve their conditioning don’t. There really isn’t a one-to-one connection to make.
3. If anything, Fortnite keeps people out of trouble
A more concrete worry NHL teams should have about prospects entering the league is about young players being out-of-control partiers as they are young, potentially immature, and come into a great deal of money early on. Many great athletic careers have been altered or even ruined by substance abuse problems or simply work ethic degraded by other lifestyle priorities.
Even the risk of that is often overstated and misunderstood. However, if there’s one thing teenagers aren’t going to get into any trouble doing, it’s staying inside and playing Fortnite. The next time a young man gets arrested for playing Fortnite, will be the first.
Could Fortnite be a distraction or an obsession? Sure. You know what else could be, though? Literally anything. Fishing. Model trains. Dating. Euchre. The culinary arts. A compulsive need to binge watch “Ancient Aliens.”
Much like all human beings, athletes have interests beyond their profession. Trying to legislate those interests, especially when they pose no injury risk whatsoever, is futile and asinine.
Someone might be telling OHL players to keep Fortnite references off their social media, but they’d probably be wise to do the opposite. They’d be far better off not going to any team daft enough to pass them over because of those posts.
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