With the overwhelming success of the “Next Generation Game” collaboration between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Superfan Justin Bieber’s clothing brand Drewhouse, we here at BD Sports thought it would be an interesting idea to run down some NHL teams who could potentially partner with a local celebrity to help bridge the gap between the two brands.
This list is not to be mistaken with who is the biggest celebrity fan of an NHL team, if that was the case you would surely see Jon Hamm and his love for the St. Louis Blues, Mike Myers and Will Arnett’s Maple Leaf super fandom or even Pat Sajak’s love for the Washington Capitals with his nearly two decade long season seat tickets.
In a purely hypothetical world we would love to see all of these collaborations to come about in the near future, but even if just one of these could happen that would be a miracle, especially with the poor way the NHL markets itself.
Maple Leafs: Drake or The Weeknd
Toronto has no shortage of high profile celebrities especially with the emergence of two of music’s biggest acts in recent times with the likes of Justin Bieber and Aubrey “Drake” Graham going on to become some of the most high profile celebrities of the 21st century so far.
While we have already seen a a fantastic collaboration with Bieber and the Leafs, someone like the “6 God” himself could only surely be the next logical collaboration with the Buds.
Drake is a notable Toronto Raptors fan and can be seen sitting courtside at many Raptors games, and was a notable presence during the team’s run to the 2019 NBA Finals. His antics courtside drew comparisons to the likes of Knicks Superfan Spike Lee and Lakers courtside legend Jack Nicholson.
It might not be out of the realm of possibility that Drake partnership with the Maple Leafs could honestly become a reality. Apart from the fact that Drake has been in collaboration with the Raptors since 2013 with his OVO brand, and has helped in designing numerous alternate jerseys for the Raps since, he has also been spotted sporting a Maple Leaf sweater while at a playoff game.
Toronto is pretty blessed to have these two global celebrities calling their city home, but one other name that seems to go unmentioned when discussing celebrities coming out of the Six, Abel Tesfaye is a name that doesn’t get thrown around much.
Many people know Abel by his stage name “The Weeknd”, his monumental rise in the R&B/Rap scene since 2015 release Beauty Behind The Madness has seen him win countless Grammy awards and multiple songs charting on Billboard’s Hot 100 lists year after year. Most notably Tesfaye was the headline performer at the Super Bowl LV Halftime show, which is an honour he beat the other two Torontonian’s to.
While The Weeknd isn’t known to be a well known Leaf fan, or if he is a hockey fan at all, it might be wise for the Maple Leafs to get to their younger generation of potential fans by partnering with one or both of Toronto’s adopted sons.
Carolina Hurricanes: J. Cole
With the Carolina Hurricanes near the top of the standings in the NHL this season, and in the past few seasons, while playing some high octane hockey, they can only benefit by adding a local Carolina celebrity to the mix as they push for their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since they last won the Cup back in ’07.
Carolina could have quite prominent celebrities to lend a hand to their Storm Surge celebrations with the likes of NBA legend Michael Jordan and rapper Dababy springing to mind.
Potentially one of Carolina’s biggest collaborations however could come from Fayetteville, N.C native Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known by his stage name, “J. Cole”. Cole was born on a military base in Frankfurt, Germany but moved to Fayetteville when he was a very young age, writing and producing his music around the city.
Cole has slowly been rising the ranks of becoming one of the best rappers of his generation, with many considering him to be in the pantheon of greats alongside the likes of The Notorious B.I.G, 2Pac, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.
J.Cole is the owner of Dreamville Records, which has boasted some of the biggest upcoming artists with the likes of Bas and J.I.D appearing alongside the Carolina rapper.
The 2014 Forest Hills Drive rapper is a noted fan of the Charlotte Hornets, appearing at multiple games, so maybe the Canes can lure him to Raleigh for a “Dreamville” night with Cole as the main attraction.
L.A Kings: Snoop Dogg/Dr. Dre
West Coast REPRESENT when Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are in the House!
Ever since the Los Angeles Kings won Stanley Cup’s in 2012 and 2014, plenty of celebrities in the Metro Los Angeles Area flocked to the than Staples Center to catch a glimpse of the hottest show in town.
Since those glory years where the Kings finally got over the hump where the likes of Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille and Wayne Gretzky were unable to achieve the Kings have slowly regressed back down to a bottom tier NHL team, like many teams who need to rebuild and retool before making another deep playoff run.
Luckily for those in L.A area who are tired of basketball mediocrity with the Lakers and Clippers, the Kings are a team that are on the up.
Boasting the likes of young talented stars in Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield, while also fielding the talent that won them two Cups with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick still on the roster, the Kings are a team building their foundations from the bottom up once again and it will be no time for them to be in the playoff hunt once again.
While the other fair-weather celebrities might not appear at many game days like they used to, one rapper has been there constantly over the years and that man is Snoop Dogg.
Snoop has been invited by the Kings multiple times over the past few seasons to join in the commentary booth, and I would be lying if I said listening to a full game with Snoop on commentary wouldn’t be hilarious.
The rapper is one of the few celebrities who can bring eyes and ears to anything he does just because of his loose and relaxed personality, something that many NHL teams could sorely use.
Perhaps having a rapper, who’s vocabulary is laced with profanity might not be the wisest solution to have on a full commentary block, but to dedicate a night to the West Coast Classics of Hip-Hop would be a massive collaboration, just like how the NFL designed their Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2022.
Speaking of halftime shows, partnering Snoop Dogg with long-time collaborator Dr. Dre for an event like the NHL All-Star Game in L.A, might work its magic once again, similar to how its magic worked in the NFL.
Florida Panthers: Ariana Grande
The Florida Panthers have been an afterthought for most of their NHL existence, to put it bluntly, their only time of relevance came back in the late 90’s when they made a couple of deep playoff runs which culminated in being swept during the 1996 Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.
During the 2021-2022 season, the Panthers have put the NHL on notice as they have been one of the most explosive teams this season as they currently sit first in the Atlantic Division and second overall in the league.
As they continue to try and bring new fans in Sunrise to their stadium, which has seen poor attendance numbers over the past decade, one potential step to bring more fans to Panthers game would be to partner with a local Floridian in Pop Mega-Star Ariana Grande.
Grande’s actually a bigger hockey fan than most people think, and her ties to the organization run deeper than meets the eye.
When she was young she attended a Panthers game with her family and during warmups she was struck with an errant puck twice. Due to this incident she was given a free jersey, a puck and ride around the rink on the zamboni, while also getting her picture taking for a local newspaper.
Ariana’s stayed loyal to the Panthers over the year, rocking her jersey on multiple occasions and also attending multiple games with her grandmother, who is a lifelong fan.
The pop-star might be the only other celebrity on this list that can match the likes of Bieber in terms of worldwide appeal, she is easily one of the most marketable celebrities and creating a collaboration of a themed jersey with her branding, and themed events throughout the game.
Her performing at an All-Star Game halftime show, or even maybe at an outdoor event featuring the Panthers could be another route the NHL could take to bridge the gap with celebrity fans.