There’s no question that the internet has changed the way we watch sports. It’s more interactive now, particularly thanks to blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook; fans can communicate with each other, with media members, with team representatives and even with the players themselves. When used correctly, it can be an asset for the League and those affiliated with it.
It does have its dangers, though. The internet has proven to be a stumbling block for many NHLers, especially the younger ones, and for those hoping to make it to the show. Learning to balance who they are with what the public expects them to be is a tricky course to navigate; add in the fact that privacy is never a guarantee, and those things that would merely be embarrassing for "regular" people can be much more consequential when combined with the star power of a pro athlete. For those who fall victim to the trappings of the internet, it can be a harsh lesson about being in the public eye and what that entails.
Cody Eakin was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a prospect that the organization is incredibly high on and a kid who has made a name for himself in both the WHL and for Team Canada.
He’s also a member, as of February, of a website named Pour It On – a site seemingly devoted to the pursuit of partying, or as they put it, "to get the best out of each and every liquorman by providing the foundation needed to take your partying to the next level". A quick trip through the site reveals pictures of guys (including Ottawa center Zack Smith) enjoying various beverages, a store where you can purchase shirts and hats, and a list of member bios...including one for Eakin in which he is pictured during a Caps' preseason game.
This certainly isn’t meant to pass judgment on Eakin, to preach about the pitfalls of drinking or to ignore the fact that this kind of thing happens all the time. Because on the one hand, this is nothing but a bunch of 19-year-olds acting like a bunch of 19-year-olds. Eakin and his friends are of legal drinking age (in Canada, at least); they’re young, enjoying life and doing so in ways that aren't out of the ordinary for this age group. To think that hockey players should be above such things is to disregard not only society in general but also the culture of the sport with a naïveté that, while convenient at times as a fan, isn’t realistic.
On the other hand, this goes beyond a simple case of "boys being boys" because of who is involved and the way in which it's carried out. Eakin is someone who conceivably wants to get to the NHL, a league where regardless of age you’re considered a "man" so long as you’re wearing a jersey, and where the spotlight is the brightest. He is someone in whom the Caps are investing a great deal of time and money, and as soon as he put pen to paper and signed his contract with the Caps he became a part of the organization – and his actions a reflection on that organization.
And so to not only be a member of such a site but be pictured wearing a Capitals jersey next to his favorite liquor and a quote that reads "Blackout or Backout" reflects poorly on him and on the Caps as a whole. It's one thing to have fun and enjoy parties; it's quite another to affiliate oneself with a group like this whose base of operations is a website one can find with a simple Google search.
That's not to say it's impacting his play or anything about his on-ice performance, and for that reason maybe we shouldn't care; he should enjoy that life now because once he gets to Hershey, Washington or wherever he ends up, it needs to be left behind.
But as a prospect whose reputation is nowhere near solidified and whose future is still undefined, it’s a misstep that simply shows a lack of awareness about public perception in a digital age and perhaps a lack of maturity. Maybe he should know better already...unquestionably, he'll have to know better in the not-too-distant future.
[Ed. Note: After some back-and-forth via email with the folks behind the PIO site, we wanted to give them a chance to respond to us and to all of you - and they were happy to oblige. After the jump, a word from the PIO Crew...]
First of all, thanks to Japers' Rink for driving traffic to PIO all weekend; it has been very entertaining reading the comments posted on the Cody Eakin story.
A few of the posters have hit the nail on the head in saying that we are a group of young men (yes, mostly from Saskatchewan) who have played hockey together, as well as some other childhood friends. We started off with a simple idea for a brand, having no idea how the internet world would take it (pretty seriously we now see), and things really took off. Hockey players and college students alike can relate to our brand and love to support us. Most of you called us stupid, but can you blame us for trying to start something with such a widespread following and large market? We aren't raging alcoholics who get "bombed" everynight; we are, for the most part, weekend warriors. That said, view our website with a grain of salt as we all have a good sense of humor here at PIO.
As for any celebrity members listed on the website (including Cody Eakin), yes they are our friends, and yes we did have permission to post their information. We now see that we made a few errors in posting this information that may have led to some of the public outcry that resulted. With respect to these errors, please consider the following: 1) Pictures of the players in their NHL uniforms next to their profile was, in retrospect, a poorly thought out decision and one we would take back. 2) We clearly should have stated in large bold lettering that THESE PLAYERS TO NOT REPRESENT THEIR RESPECTED NHL CLUB. Perhaps Cody exercised poor judgment in using the phrase, "Blackout or Backout," but rest assured, it was a joke and he certainly wasn't featured on the site for his drinking ability. He was merely a part of PIO to endorse our clothing line that is to be released this summer, and to also help out some buddies with a new company idea by driving some traffic to the website (hence the Twitter handle). In no way does Cody live and die by the code of POUR IT ON, he doesn't embrace the lifestyle, he isnt an alcoholic, and he doesnt let it affect his on-ice play. He simply likes to enjoy a beer or two in the offseason with his friends.
Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, as in all likelihood Cody will be on the big team next season and his profile will no longer be featured in the PIO Crew section of our website. If Cody is associated with us at all, it will be possibly (don't run away with this) be by modeling a PIO T-shirt and a statement that he does not represent his NHL team or the PIO Movement, and simply is supporting some friends. In the meantime, he will wait and see how our company evolves, and let this situation cool down a bit. Cody is our friend and we back him 100%, we at PIO underestimated the power of social media, and the potential of people to micro-analyze many details of the lives of their favorite players.
We have issued this repsonse in attempt to clarify some issues raised by Japers' Rink followers, and we encourage readers to fire us any more questions they may have. Support our movement and support our clothing line this summer (falling on deaf ears?) and remember, POOUURR ITT ONNN!
- PIO CREW
PS - This message is Cody Eakin approved