Should Matthew Tkachuk be face of the NHL?

As two Florida franchises prepare to play for a championship, Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk joined the NBA on TNT panel during the pregame show. Rubbing shoulders with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, Tkachuk looked at ease but can the NHL capitalize and market its stars better?

Video Transcript

JULIAN MCKENZIE: And Matthew Tkachuk appeared on NBA on TNT's "Inside the NBA" show, and it was actually a rare moment where the NHL tried to-- the game was being marketed properly. They were up on a pretty good platform. Matthew Tkachuk looked pretty comfortable with himself. And it was actually entertaining.

He was talking with Chuck. He was talking with Shaq. He was talking with Ernie, Kenny Smith. Let's have a conversation about the marketability of Matthew Tkachuk. Sam, I want to start with you. Is Matthew Tkachuk a face that the NHL should genuinely be marketing?

SAM CHANG: I mean, I think he's about as close to one as they've got. It's not like there's a ton of selection. I think that if you're--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, that's true.

SAM CHANG: And I also don't-- I don't know that it's so much Matthew Tkachuk on his own as like frankly, I think they've underutilized the marketability of Brady and Matthew together. I don't know why that's not more of a thing.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's true. Like, those two together, I mean, the whole brothers thing, you're seeing Brady support. It's two playoffs in a row. He's out here supporting his brother, Matthew. Like, that's actually kind of fun. Those two seem really fun. Those two seem really entertaining. Like, I don't know.

Sam has a point. Like, the selection of players to go through might not be that high and the bar is pretty low to be somewhat entertaining. But like, the Tkachuks seem to be at that bar, and they seem to at least be like a step or two above it.

Like, we're not getting any crazy, no one could-- there's no NHL player who compares to any NBA players, for example. But like, I think there's something there with Matthew. I think there's something there in particular with that Tkachuk.

OMAR: Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you look at the entire story, right, from the beginning of the playoffs to where we are now, Matthew Tkachuk has been spitting bars on the microphone since the playoffs started. Like, no one thought we'd be here. No one thought we would do it. After every series round, he, like, when he beat the Leafs, oh yeah, like, he mentioned the, we want Florida, chants.

When it came to game one, I remember we were talking about on "Zone Time" like, how funny but also a little, like, are you sure you want to do that, when they were doing the whole of the undercats instead of the underdogs or whatever, right? So as far as the whole, like, underdog story and the whole, like, no, we're walking into-- we're walking into every single series knowing that everyone expects us to lose, and we're going to win anyway. Like, Matthew Tkachuk has been the visual and vocal leader of that. So it makes a lot of sense as to why they take the opportunity to give him this platform to be on this panel. Now is he the only one in the history of ever who has done that? No.


OMAR: And so that kind of goes into the NHL's, I guess, the conversation of how good the NHL is at marketing their own players, which they're not. But if you have to start with progress at some point, and this is a good progress. And as you mentioned earlier, even too like in Sam's point, the rivalry and the camaraderie between Matthew and Brady is so funny, and I don't know why the NHL doesn't lean into it a little bit or lean into it more. But like, I don't know, I don't know.

But then again, at the other end, I wonder if the NHL also doesn't like this because they don't like the whole, like, the NHL, they like the whole modesty, and we gave it an effort, and they're a good team over there, and yada, yada yada. Whereas, again, you have Matthew Tkachuk who's saying like, OK, yeah, people don't expect us to be here and we are, we're beating you, so what's up? What do you want to do? How do you want to it?

So I think this should be, this can and should be a positive step forward. So we'll see if they follow it up with it.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Avry. I know you want to tackle this.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: Oh man, the fact that the NBA, again, you had Matthew Tkachuk sitting down with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal. That should wake up somebody at NHL that this has to continue.

With how popular the NBA on TNT panel is, you have an active NHL player sitting down with very relevant figures who move the needle in massive ways in sporting growth. If you go backwards, that is an awful move. Get Tkachuk on the panel during the Cup Final. Bring the NBA and TNT panel down to Sunrise.

You get into the NBA, do one game down from where a Cup Final is. Go full in that cross synergy of mixing that together. How fun would it be to see Charles Barkley and getting those guys out at the Cup Final? Have Shaq on the ice do something. Like, don't go backward with this. You have so many eyeballs now on a hockey player. Don't mess this up, don't screw it up.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I mean, so many eyeballs on a hockey player? Like, I saw like the TNT video on YouTube. It's like over, like, 100-- there's almost 130,000 views on that particular video. I mean, it's pretty good, seen some comments on it. I don't know. I'd like to-- I'd like to see more of Matthew and Keith doing other stuff.

But I also think that's a start on that particular show, which is arguably the best panel in North American sport. We can debate all day with CBS Golazo's panel as well. But I think Chuck, Shaq, all those guys are really good. Omar, are you going to say something?

OMAR: Yeah, yeah. So I think definitely Avry, your point in bringing in, like, a known, and popular, and highly entertaining panel, like, bringing it into the hockey world makes sense, and so it should be something that they do moving forward. Here's my other point, why don't you make your own?

Like, there are so many people who actively mute intermission shows, like, as soon as the period is over, mute or they change the channel. Like, it's like, so many people. That's a problem.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I have counter point after that.

OMAR: So it's like, I don't understand, like, why the NHL can't look at what's-- what the NBA on TNT panel does and then try to mimic that, like, not just on one specific channel, but elsewhere, everywhere. Like, the most entertaining thing that we can do in a hockey-- on hockey panels are like, oh, here are some, like, quizzes. Oh wow, you didn't know that answer? Oh wow, that's so funny. You should know that.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: Tune in to the end of this show for a quiz.

SAM CHANG: I mean, it's because fundamentally they don't understand what broader audiences want from their intermission shows, right? Like, when you think about-- you think about the most notable chirps over the years, and it's things that, for whatever reason, I think the league and the players culturally feel is a distraction.

Like, not that I'm in any way advocating for either of these people to be on air, but like, you're telling me at no point did anyone ever think, maybe we should just put Patrick Roy and Jeremy Roenick on a panel together. Like, I would have loved that.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I'd laugh so much.

SAM CHANG: You think about some of the most viral quotes they've had, like, the biggest rivalries, and they've never tried to capture that. Like, when you watch the ESPN, the "E:360" unrivaled series, like, you've never put Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux on a panel together? Like, why haven't-- why haven't these things happened?

There are so many stories there and bigger personalities there, and I think it's because the panels are all so milquetoast. Like, they approach it the same way they approach media. Whereas, like, someone like Kevin Bieksa is seen as exceptionally entertaining because he's willing to poke fun at things, he's willing to, like, flat out calls Zdeno Chara a liar.

Like, people love that, and he doesn't even go that far. And it's like, there's got to be possibilities here, they just don't-- the only conclusion I have is, they're not really interested in pursuing it. They don't see it as something that's worth doing.