“There’s no I in hockey. There is an I in period, and there are periods in hockey, and there are teams in periods. But there is no I in team. Period.”
Actor David Huband admits he didn’t know what the reaction would be when he was asked two years ago to write some commercials for the NHL Network featuring a double-talking, slightly befuddled hockey coach.
“My writing partner and I came up with 10 (commercials) and we shot them all in one day in late November,” Huband recalled. “We didn’t really know what would happen.”
What happened was that Huband created one of the most popular characters in sports advertising, and certainly in the NHL. In fact, two years later and with a new batch of commercials recently shot, Huband’s hockey coach is a regular on the NHL Network and is a hit on YouTube.
Huband, who played the ring announcer in the movie ‘Cinderella Man,’ and a gas station attendant in ‘Tommy Boy,’ said the feedback from the commercials “has been incredible.”
“They’ve been very popular,” said Huband, a native of Winnipeg who lives in Toronto and has been a member of the comedy groups The Second City Mainstage Company and The Illustrated Men. “Glen Sather watched and loved them. Brian Burke thought they were good. We’ve had a lot of good comments from people checking them out on YouTube. It’s turned into a great campaign.” “Guys, 100 percent means giving everything you got. Giving 110 percent means giving 10 percent more than humanly possible. If we’re going to win as a team, we need 100 percent of you guys giving 110 percent a 100 percent of the time. If only 50 percent of you guys give 110 percent and 50 percent give 100 percent, I guarantee you 100 percent we’d only win 50 percent of our games.
Suppose 75 percent of 110 percent give only 50 percent? And 50 percent of 100 percent give 25 percent? And 75 percent of 110 percent we’re not feeling 100 percent? Then we’d be in a heap of trouble.”
Huband said the commercials came about through his association with John Shannon, the NHL’s Senior VP of Broadcasting and former executive at Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment.
“I wanted to originally be a broadcaster for the network,” Huband said. “John said I didn’t have the background but he loved my work and he’d love us to work together on something combining sports and comedy.”
Huband came up with some basketball spots for the Toronto Raptors. A few years later Shannon called again, this time for some commercials featuring a hockey coach.
“We talked about an inexpensive approach to the (NHL Network),” said Shannon, who said the commercials are, for the most, only shown on the NHL Network in the U.S. “I wouldn’t say it was a campaign, but quality use of our promotional time.”
Huband said the character of the coach came because “we decided athletes tend to talk in cliches.”
“You know, like ‘One game at a time,’ ” Huband, 51, said. “So we made a list of all the stupid cliches and made fun of them. Sports takes itself too seriously. When Shannon said sports and comedy were a good marriage, I agreed. In the world of sports, you should poke fun at yourself. That’s why (the commercials) are so unique. The NHL took a gamble.”“Why did we lose? Well, I thought we shot the lights out in the first two periods. In the third period we just couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. We just couldn’t put the stuffing in the turkey. We couldn’t even put the turkey in the oven. We couldn’t put the rod in the water, the lightning in the bottle, the cat in the hat.
That’s really why we lost tonight. We couldn’t put the cat in the hat."
Huband admits that basketball is really his passion. But he grew up in Canada, rooting for the Canadiens and still doing so. “Old habits die hard,” he said.
But he has come to appreciate the hockey coach he’s created, who he describes as a “tough guy with a heart of gold who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and gets lost in his own words.”
“There comes a point (in the commercials) where you can see him going, ‘Oh, I don’t know what I just said.”“The best defense is an offense and the best offense is a defense. The reason why offense is the best defense is because in hockey the team that scores the most wins. And if our offense outscores their offense, they’ll be defenseless. Their defense might be able to stop our offense, but it can’t stop our defense because when we’re on defense they have to be on offense and if we have an offensive-minded defense there’s no way they can defend us.
“Now, I don’t mean to be defensive but some of you might find this offensive. We’re going to call our defense our offense and our offense our defense. That way we’ll remember to use our defense as an offense and our offense as a defense against they’re offense. And that will totally confuse them."
Huband said the coach has become so popular that he’s in negotiations to expand the character on the web in conjunction with the NHL.
“We’d like to develop the character a little more…take him outside hockey,” Huband said.
That would include. “A crazy brother who messes things up,” he said. “And he’s been married for 30 years and his wife can’t stand him.”“OK…let’s go out and play some hockey.”